Methodist leaders call for immediate ceasefire in Lebanon

Anthea Cox, Methodist Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, says; 'The Prime Minister has talked of 'getting a UN Security Council resolution, which will give us an opportunity both to have a complete cessation of hostilities and to do so on a sustainable and lasting basis." We call upon the British Government to demand an immediate ceasefire and to distance itself from the US support of the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon. We welcome the Government's call for a UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon and urge the disarming of militias in Lebanon as part of a negotiated settlement.'

In particular, Church leaders are deeply concerned about the environment created by the conflict, in which children and young people are living. In the light of yesterday's bombings in the Lebanese village of Qana, which killed 37 children, Steve Pearce, Methodist Secretary for Children's Work, said; 'Children are bearing the brunt of this conflict, while adults fail to negotiate a peaceful resolution. The figures for the dead and injured show that one in every three deaths is of a child and that half of the injuries are to children. Children in these areas are exposed to the violence and hatred that is characteristic of war and could face serious difficulties in developing an understanding of what it is like to live in peace.' MethodistChildren is encouraging children's groups in Britain to lead prayers during this difficult period for the Middle East.

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for International Affairs, commented that the current situation is unsustainable; 'Sooner or later, Israel and Lebanon must negotiate a diplomatic agreement to end this conflict. If Lebanon is crippled by military action that flies in the face of international law while the international community fails to speak out, the grievances of the Lebanese and other in the Middle East are likely to be long lasting. The fear brought upon Israel by military action from terrorists who are based in other countries should also be recognised. Clearly there are no easy solutions, but a first step towards lasting peace requires a ceasefire by all parties now.'

The Methodist Church in association with the United Reformed Church has recently published Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation, which calls for the Church to be active in the uncertain and risky task of peacemaking. The churches believe that peace is more than simply an absence of war; even before the current conflict, there were acts of violence on both sides of the Lebanese border. The report asserts that all Christians are called to be peacemakers on local, national and international levels.

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