Lebanese Maronite bishops plea for UN help

Lebanese bishops have pleaded with the United Nations Security Council to call for an immediate ceasefire and for the opening of humanitarian corridors to enable aid to reach war victims.

The Indian Catholic reports that in an eight-point statement issued Friday, the Maronite bishops have expressed their support for the Lebanese government and condemned Israel's invasion of Lebanon, based on the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah forces.

The statement was made on the eve of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's surprise visit to Lebanon over the weekend.

"The painful incidents which Lebanon is witnessing are unjustified and inconceivable," reads the statement, which was issued after an emergency meeting of bishops, called by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. The patriarch had just returned from on a one-month tour of the US in which he met with the US Vice-President Dick Cheney.

"Does the abduction of two Israeli soldiers deserve cutting all of the country's joints?" the bishops wrote. "The Lebanese people's tragic condition forces us to forget political discords and unite efforts to face the crisis."

The bishops called on humanitarian institutions, notably the Lebanese and international Red Cross, to provide the people with medication and food. Currently, more than 700,000 Lebanese citizens have fled for safety in other parts of the country or in Syria since the violence started 12 July.

Caritas International as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), are mobilising despite the difficulties caused by the current state of war. Caritas Lebanon has been asked by the government to care for 50,000 families mostly sheltering in public buildings, such as schools, in Tyre and Beirut. Caritas reported that water, food, and medicine are needed urgently.

The UNHCR is meeting the immediate needs of some refugees with tents, plastic sheeting and blankets in deposits in Syria and Jordan.

The bishops appealed to people of goodwill to help defenceless civilians who have been forced to flee; they urged all citizens to assist each other, regardless of creed. They also welcomed Pope Benedict's call to pray for peace in Lebanon on Sunday.

An international meeting is scheduled to be held in Rome on 26 July. Ms Rice will meet with the foreign ministers of Italy, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the Lebanese foreign minister to discuss how a permanent ceasefire can be reached.

Meanwhile, warning that "imprudent actions [in the Middle East] might light the fuse of a powder keg," Pax Christi International has called on the Rome conference to "develop an active mediating role to be played by the international community in order to achieve just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

"Engaging all stakeholders in the process will allow people of the region to live in dignity," a Pax Christi statement said.

Maronite bishops call for ceasefire, humanitarian corridors in Lebanon (Indian Catholic 24/7/06)
Caritas Jerusalem: Humanitarian Situation in Gaza Continues to Deteriorate (Palestine News Agency 21/7/06)
End Escalation of Violence in the Middle East (Pax Christi International 24/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bkerke (Maronite Church Lebanon)
Maronite eparchy of St Maroun, Australia
Pax Christi International | Pax Christi Australia

Caritas Lebanon slams milk factory attack (CathNews 21/7/06)
Advertise Lebanon evacuation plans, stranded priest tells Govt (CathNews 20/7/06)

25 Jul 2006