Methodist leaders call for immediate ceasefire in Lebanon

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

In particular, Church leaders are deeply concerned about theenvironment created by the conflict, in which children and youngpeople are living. In the light of yesterday's bombings in theLebanese village of Qana, which killed 37 children, Steve Pearce,Methodist Secretary for Children's Work, said; 'Children arebearing the brunt of this conflict, while adults fail to negotiatea peaceful resolution. The figures for the dead and injured showthat one in every three deaths is of a child and that half of theinjuries are to children. Children in these areas are exposed tothe violence and hatred that is characteristic of war and couldface serious difficulties in developing an understanding of what itis like to live in peace.' MethodistChildren is encouragingchildren's groups in Britain to lead prayers during this difficultperiod for the Middle East.

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for International Affairs,commented that the current situation is unsustainable; 'Sooner orlater, Israel and Lebanon must negotiate a diplomatic agreement toend this conflict. If Lebanon is crippled by military action thatflies in the face of international law while the internationalcommunity fails to speak out, the grievances of the Lebanese andother in the Middle East are likely to be long lasting. The fearbrought upon Israel by military action from terrorists who arebased in other countries should also be recognised. Clearly thereare no easy solutions, but a first step towards lasting peacerequires a ceasefire by all parties now.'

The Methodist Church in association with the United Reformed Churchhas recently published Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation, whichcalls for the Church to be active in the uncertain and risky taskof peacemaking. The churches believe that peace is more than simplyan absence of war; even before the current conflict, there wereacts of violence on both sides of the Lebanese border. The reportasserts that all Christians are called to be peacemakers on local,national and international levels.