Issued by the Rev. Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, Acting General Secretary, 16 April 1996.
The news of the Israeli aerial and artillery attacks deep in the heart of Lebanon, and the rocket attacks on northern Israel puts into a disastrous spin the spiral of violence in the Middle East.
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are fleeing their homes in southern Lebanon. Refugees, of all confessions, are seeking shelter in schools, public buildings and places of worship in Beirut. Most of the casualties are civilians, including children.
The Israeli action of imposing a naval blockade of Tyre, Sidon and Beirut is tantamount to an act of aggression against the civilian population of Lebanon.
Within days, the attacks have put in serious danger the arduous reconstruction of Lebanon after years of devastating wars.
Such action can only result in spreading further anger, frustration and rancour amongst the people of the region. This does not augur well for the peace process.
The recent events put in jeopardy the painstaking gains made through the ongoing peace process.
The growing lack of will on the part of the parties to the conflict to exercise restraint is indicative of how fragile and vulnerable peacemaking remains.
An end to the bloodshed needs to be reached immediately. Peace in Lebanon cannot be fully restored unless its independence and sovereignty are respected and the UN Security Council Resolution 425, including the guarantee of Israel's security, is implemented.
The ecumenical community shares the pain and the agony of the people of Lebanon and pleads with the international community to stand firm in its commitment against the use of violence and terror as a means to resolve conflicts.
The search for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East has to continue undeterred despite the recent setbacks.
The World Council of Churches assures the churches and the people of Lebanon of its solidarity and continuing prayers at this time of tribulation and suffering.
Condolences to families of victims
Christians throughout the world join with Muslim friends today in their grief and sorrow following the terrifying blaze that killed and wounded so many Muslim pilgrims from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh gathered in Mecca for hadj.
The commitment to God of our Muslim brothers and sisters, so vividly expressed in the pilgrimage of hadj, is in many ways a challenge for all Christians. This is why we are particularly saddened by this tragedy which will cause sorrow among Muslim communities throughout the world. The World Council of Churches expresses deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. They are very much in our thoughts and prayers.
‘Our only comfort is in God, our merciful God, who makes grief depart from us.’
Support for the Bethlehem 2000 Project
Letter to H.E. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestine National Authority, 7 May 1998.
It is with sincere regret that I cannot be present with you on the important occasion of the Participants Conference in support of the Bethlehem 2000 Project. I congratulate you and the important international organizations who have associated themselves with this initiative.
The World Council of Churches and its Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican member churches around the world have a deep spiritual attachment to Bethlehem and commitment to the Palestinian people who call it and its neighboring communities home today. We have long supported these “living stones” in affirmation and in deed. For fifty years we have been engaged in support to refugees and displaced persons, the building of significant educational, medical and social institutions and facilities. We have made important financial contributions to Palestinian cultural, economic and social development programs.
Thus as the end of a century which has brought so much pain and suffering to the Palestinian people draws near we are acutely aware of the urgent, continuing development needs of Palestine. They far outstrip the comparatively meager capacity of the churches.
We therefore warmly endorse and join in the appeal for the Bethlehem 2000 Project. We are grateful to those governments who have already become actively involved in bilateral support of projects related to this initiative, and sincerely hope that others will follow suit. This is undoubtedly the time for the international community to commit itself also through generous multi-lateral support for Palestine, its infrastructure and its people. Development and peace do indeed go hand in hand. The Bethlehem 2000 Project has the potential of being a significant stepping stone to a new millennium and a new era of peace in the Holy Land.
May the God of mercy and peace open the eyes and hearts of the world to this vision and opportunity.
United States of America
Letter to the Rev. Dr. William B. Moorer, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, 27 April 1995.
Dear Dr. Moorer,
On behalf of the World Council of Churches I want to express solidarity with you and the people of Oklahoma in facing the tragic event which occurred on 19 April in Oklahoma City. This outrageous act of violence has shocked and saddened us all and gives new impetus to all efforts to overcome violence. The World Council was challenged during its Central Committee meeting last year in Johannesburg to create a new Program to Overcome Violence as part of the effort to break the vicious cycle of violence and promote a global peace. In the face of a world marked by increasing acts of violence, we as Christians and churches need to say a firm and convincing No to violence in every form and a Yes to the love of Christ and the reconciling justice of God.
We feel especially close to the people of Oklahoma, having recently been together with the churches and those committed so deeply to the hearing on Racism as a Human Rights Violation in Okmulgee. Through the worldwide television coverage we have been able to accompany you during these days; you have been constantly in our thoughts and prayers. The courage and love which has been demonstrated by the people in Oklahoma, and indeed throughout the United States, has been a marvelous witness to the human spirit.
We extend our deepest sympathy to all those who have lost loved ones. We will continue to pray for the healing of the wounds in your community and for strength for you and your colleagues in the ongoing work of your Conference.
May the sure and certain hope of the resurrection comfort you in these days and the power of the risen Christ sustain you.
Fraternally yours in Christ,