Methodists join pleas for end to Middle East violence
July 17, 2006
Bishop Janice Huie
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
United Methodists are joining other religious leaders in deploring the recent
explosion of violence in the Middle East and calling for an international
“We join others who deplore the escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and
Lebanon and urge parties to mediate the conflict and end the mounting casualties
among the innocent,” said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Houston, president of the
United Methodist Council of Bishops.
“We also join those who urge President Bush to use the strength and authority
of his office, with the support of other leaders, to bring the parties together
Fighting between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon was ongoing July 17,
six days after the conflict was sparked by the abduction of two Israeli soldiers
by Hezbollah. On July 16, Israeli air attacks continued on Beirut and southern
Lebanon, while a missile struck a railway maintenance hangar in Haifa, Israel.
Civilian deaths have occurred in both countries.
The Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive, United Methodist Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, was concerned about the escalation
of violence and the need for the international community to help bring about a
The Rev. R. Randy Day
“I particularly call on the leadership of the United States government and
the Security Council of the United Nations to play constructive roles in
bringing an end to the developing crisis in the region,” he said in a July 14
Noting the denomination’s commitment to “promoting peace in the context of
interfaith community,” Pickens added that such peace must be achieved through
justice and dignity.
“The death and destruction that is presently being played out in Lebanon and
Gaza is an offense to human dignity,” he said. But he also affirmed “the right
of the people of Israel to live in peace.”
Pickens encouraged United Methodist clergy and laity to reflect and pray
about the situation in the Middle East and sponsor dialogues on the local level
with Muslims and Jews. He stressed the denomination’s “long history of bringing
people together in community.”
The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, called on all parties to end their military operations and proposed
the consideration of a large international peacekeeping operation to shield the
combatants from one another.
“Neither the attacks of Hezbollah on Israel or the Israeli military actions
in Gaza and Lebanon can be justified from the perspective of international law
or sound political policy,” he said in a July 14 statement.
Day made a special appeal for the warring parties to respect civilians. “The
Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese people deserve the right to live in peace and
security,” he declared. “Only vigorous action by the United Nations and the
major powers of North America and Europe can point toward a better future for
the Middle East.”
Against God’s will
At a July 17 press conference following the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg,
Russia, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan said the U.N. Security Council should address practical actions to stem
the violence, along with the possibility of a new stabilization force for the
region. Blair backed the idea of an international force in Lebanon.
The Rev. Larry Pickens
Day called for prayers for all the people affected, and voiced particular
concern for United Methodist missionaries and mission partners in the region.
A statement released July 17 by the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society noted that the “dangerous escalation of hostilities greatly impedes
diplomatic efforts to work for peace in the region. The latest outbreak of
fighting in the land we know as holy is against the will of God.
“All outside states and forces must halt sending arms and military supplies
to groups and states involved in the conflict,” the board declared. “The Israeli
military response to the capture of its soldiers has been grossly
disproportionate, leading to the deaths of hundreds of civilians ? including
children ? in Gaza and Lebanon. The attack on the power plant and infrastructure
in Gaza has caused a humanitarian crisis there as access to water, food, and
medical care has been severely restricted.”
Serious and effective plans for a peaceful resolution are needed, the
statement said. “We support a safe and secure Israel, which will only be
possible with a safe, secure, viable and contiguous Palestinian state. We
recognize that the United States government has significant power to influence
the course of events, and we urge it to use this power on behalf of all people
for a just, lasting and durable peace in the region.”
In a July 14 statement, the U.S. National Council of Churches and Church
World Service raised the question: “Is there ever to be an end to violence in
the land we call holy?” The chief executives of both agencies — the Rev. Bob
Edgar and the Rev. John McCullough, respectively — are United Methodists.
The Rev. Samuel Kobia
The two ecumenical organizations called upon all parties in the Middle East
to end hostilities and “work toward a just and sustainable settlement of the
issues that plague the region”; the international community to encourage earnest
negotiations; and the United Nations to “address immediate humanitarian needs
and to resolve the long-term issues underlying the continued violence.”
Religious communities of the region were asked “to pray, teach and lead their
people in the ways of peace” and the faithful throughout the world “to walk with
them in solidarity until peace is achieved.”
Speaking for the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a
Methodist from Kenya and the council’s chief executive, urged “all parties to
immediately stop and reverse the escalation of the conflict and all use of the
rhetoric of war.”
“We insist fully and firmly on the need for all parties to protect civilians
— Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian — in accordance with international law,” he
said in a July 13 statement.
The “essential alternative” to the continual cycle of violence in the Middle
East is the “implementation of international law, including international
humanitarian law and of U.N. resolutions concerning Israel, the occupied
Palestinian territories and Lebanon,” Kobia said.
“Events in Lebanon show the high costs of inaction by the international
community,” he concluded.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
Church's mission personnel avoid latest Mideast danger
U.N. calls for Lebanon peace force
Israel plans Lebanon buffer zone
Bush may send Rice to help calm Mideast
BBC: Middle East Crisis
Board of Global Ministries
National Council of Churches
Church and Society
Commission on Christian Unity
World Council of Churches