Ecumenical delegation reports on visit to Jerusalem and Beirut

 — Aug. 16, 200616 aoüt 2006

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“Why such awful destruction?” was the question heard over and over again by members of an ecumenical pastoral delegation in relation to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon.

Entrusted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) with the mission of expressing global ecumenical solidarity with churches and people affected by the conflict in the Middle East, the delegation returned with the task of transmitting the hopes and expectations of the churches in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel to the international ecumenical family.

Reporting on their 10-15 August visit to Beirut and Jerusalem, the three members of the delegation – CEC President Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tours (France) Mgr. Bernard Aubertin, and WCC programme executive on racism, Ms Marilia Alves-Schüller – emphasized that the representatives of Lebanon’s various communities with whom they met had all agreed that the answer to that question is that the destruction was both deliberate and planned.

In support of that analysis, community leaders mentioned their concern at the growing influence of neo-conservative forces in the US on Israel’s political leadership. In particular they questioned US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice’s comment that “The suffering of Lebanon is the labour pains of the new Middle East.”

The delegation also wished to strongly affirm all that representatives of Lebanon’s different communities had shared with them about the over-riding value of the multi-cultural and multi-confessional nature of their society. For the community leaders, this represents a guarantee for peace. They noted that Lebanese of all religious faiths – Christians and Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’ia – had remained firmly unified despite the enormously divisive pressures of the war.

The second message members of the delegation brought back was that it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not the role and actions of Hezbollah that is at the heart of the present crisis. Nevertheless, the delegation reported that all religious leaders with whom they spoke condemned all use of indiscriminate violence from whatever source, including Hezbollah.

Welcoming the delegation to the Ecumenical Centre on behalf of the four Geneva-based sponsoring ecumenical organizations, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia concurred that “It is only by addressing the Israel-Palestine issue, and only a comprehensive and just settlement of that issue that can bring peace and security in the Middle East.”

In Jerusalem, the delegation heard both the chief rabbi and the chief judge of the Islamic court separately voicing the same negative perceptions of each other’s communities. “They have no compassion for their children,” both men had declared. Another view the delegation also heard expressed was that the idea of permanent warfare seems to dominate thinking in the Middle East, and that there is a need for all thinking in the region to be demilitarized.

Although perceptions of “the other” bode ill for the ability to return together to the negotiating table and overcome mutual distrust and grief, members of the delegation said that they had also heard many church leaders voicing concern about how people can remove the hatred from their hearts and learn to live together as neighbours.

As “a tangible and concrete expression of the ecumenical family’s solidarity and a way of sharing their grief,” the visit from the ecumenical delegation was a sign of the World Council’s intention to broaden its coordination of the ecumenical response to the Middle East crisis, and for more concerted efforts in this direction, Kobia explained.

“The situation in the Middle East is changing,” he said. “A new political, economic and moral landscape requires new elements to be brought into the equation for a just peace in the Middle East.” New WCC programmes mandated by the WCC’s recent (February 2006) Assembly will lay the groundwork for that, Kobia said.

A 16 August message signed by the general secretaries of the WCC, CEC, LWF, and WARC and distributed at a press conference with the ecumenical delegation concludes: “In the light of all that they tell us, we shall during the next weeks reflect prayerfully and urgently together on the contribution which the churches can make in furthering the cause of peace in the Middle East.”


This release is being jointly issued by the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 125 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world representing 66.2 million Christians.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is a fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 218 churches in 107 countries. Its member churches are Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox and others. WARC has a small secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.

Posted: Aug. 16, 2006 • Permanent link:
Categories: WCC NewsIn this article: Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestine, peace, violence, WCC
Transmis : 16 aoüt 2006 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : WCC NewsDans cet article : Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestine, peace, violence, WCC

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