August 8, 2006  

Lutheran World Leader Joins in Call to End Middle East Violence
     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The leaders of three global church organizations
-- including the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, president of the Lutheran World
Federation, Geneva -- have called for an end to the fighting in Lebanon
and Israel and conflict in Gaza.  The church leaders issued a joint
public statement Aug. 8, saying they were "shocked" by the violence,
death and destruction occurring in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon.
     Hanson, who also serves as presiding bishop of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), based here, joined in the statement
with the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the World Alliance of
Reformed Churches, Geneva, and stated clerk of the General Assembly,
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, Ky.; and the Rev. Samuel
Kobia, general secretary, World Council of Churches, Geneva.
     "As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and as leaders
of the World Council of Churches and the worldwide fellowships of
Lutheran and Reformed churches, we are shocked by the relentless
violence, death and devastation occurring in Lebanon, Israel and
Palestine," the church leaders wrote.
     "We mourn the loss of life.  We abhor the untold human costs of
this conflict, especially its impact on innocent people.  We deplore the
destruction of infrastructure and property.  In the face of tragedy of
such magnitude, we affirm that God calls us to do justice, reconcile
with our enemies and live together in peace," they wrote.
     The church leaders called on Hezbollah and Israel to end the
fighting in Israel and Lebanon, and called for the United States,
European Union and Arab States "to exercise their influence toward this
end."  They also called on Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas
to end the conflict in Gaza.
     To date, the church leaders said the number of Lebanese deaths is
approaching 1,000 people, one-third of them reportedly children under
12.  The number of Israeli deaths is near 100.
     "Whatever the reality of the alleged provocations by both sides of
the conflict, this spiral of violence serves no end but the devastation
of Lebanon and the inflicting of wounds of terror in Israel," the church
leaders wrote.  "Neither the terror of Katyusha rockets nor the
destruction of Lebanese homes, schools and villages can contribute to a
lasting peace in the region.  Such acts will lead to even deeper hatred
between the parties than that which has fueled the current violence."
     The church leaders noted that the Israelis have said they will
continue military operations in Lebanon until there is a "peacekeeping
force"on the ground.  Hezbollah has said it will not stop fighting until
Israel's military presence has left Lebanon.
     "It is time for this intransigence by both parties to end.  Israel
must withdraw speedily from all the Lebanese territory, and Hezbollah,
at the same time, must cease its actions against the Israeli people,"
the church leaders wrote.
     About 175 Palestinians, many civilians, have been killed since
Israel began military operations in the Gaza Strip, the church leaders
said.  The destruction in Gaza "brings added hardship to people who
already have nothing.  The people of Israel know the terror of random
rockets launched day and night," they wrote.
     "While it is true that terms for a lasting peace cannot be reached
in a brief time frame, the world cannot wait for signs of 'a new Middle
East' to stop the killing.  It is time for the leaders of the nations,
working through the United Nations, to bring to bear the full force of
their influence.  A cease-fire is an imperative first step to end the
violence.  As people of faith, we implore all parties, in God's name, to
agree to this, lest violence spread further through a region already
stained with the blood of innocents," the church leaders said.
     When a cease-fire is achieved, the church leaders said political
leaders and other parties should "begin the work for a compassionate
order that will lead to a lasting peace.  Our organizations and our
churches are eager to share in that endeavor."
     "The task is great and the way is hard, for fear must be overcome
with faith, hate with trust, enmity with reconciliation and injustice
with justice.  But it is a task worthy of our efforts and it is the way
that leads to life," the church leaders concluded.
     The full text of the joint statement is at
http://www.ELCA.org/bishop/m_endviolence.html on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact: John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog