A new statement was released today by top leaders of the United Church of Christ calling for an end to the violence in Lebanon and Israel. UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas and Wider Church Ministries Executive Cally Rogers-Witte wrote:
We call on Hezbollah to release the Israeli soldiers in its hostage and end its provocative attacks and hatred against Israel. Hezbollah's rocket attacks against northern Israel, while effecting little military advantage, have instilled terror in civilian populations, killing and wounding many innocent people, and providing Israel with a pretext for pursuing its own attacks. We call on Israel to release the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians it is holding in administrative detention, and to cease its disproportionate assault on Lebanon. While Israel has the right to defend itself, its retaliation has far exceeded efforts to release the soldiers or incapacitate Hezbollah; it is in fact destroying Lebanon. Beyond bombing intended Hezbollah targets, Israel's military has attacked Lebanese infrastructure and residences, killing hundreds and wounding thousands more. The human catastrophe is enormous. Touring Lebanon, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland declared "It's very bad, and deteriorating by the day... I've seen too many wounded children, and too many desperate civilians fleeing from the fighting." No equation of war can justify firebombed children as acceptable casualties.
Perhaps the most important part of the US-Christian denominational statement was the call made by Thomas and Rogers-Witte for American political and religious leaders to support peace:
We are dismayed at the audacity of both Israel and Hezbollah to commit to continued violence. We are troubled that the U.S. leadership has sent advance-shipments of bombs to re-arm Israel and encouraged Israel to take due time to bomb Hezbollah despite the disproportionate impact on the Lebanese people and landscape. We are troubled by those in the U.S. Congress who call for a wider war with Syria and Iran. We are especially distraught that some in leadership twist the label Christian, and use the name of the Prince of Peace, to assert that this violence is ordained and justified because their biblical lens views Israel in an apocalyptic drama and any criticism as blasphemy. In the Senate debate on the escalating fighting, Virginia Senator John Warner called for balance and diplomacy: "[O]ur support for Israel is very strong, Mr. President, but it cannot be unconditional."
Click here for the full statement and news release.
In related news, the National Council of Churches USA launched a new web site today - www.seasonofprayer.org - that "compiles prayers, litanies, scripture texts, hymns, poems and other prayer aids from many religious traditions, appropriate to the current crisis in the Middle East," according to NCC.