Students taking lead for Middle East peace

A Catholic student group has joined with Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i students in calling for an interfaith "prayer chain for peace" in the Middle East.

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the Muslim Students Association of Australia, the Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA) and the National Baha'i Youth Committee have reached across religious and political differences to acknowledge that the time has come to take positive steps forward, to unite in prayer and hope for peace.

According to a statement yesterday, the student groups are calling on Australians "to pray together in unity for peace in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon and Israel, that we may encounter one another in harmony, having deep concern for the victims of violence, and for all those who suffer."

Greg Weinstein, President of Jewish student group, said, "Here in Australia we are fortunate to live in a country which embraces cultural differences. I applaud ... the countless other community leaders who share in the view that we all desire a peaceful and speedy outcome to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East."

Kaled El-Hassan, President of the Muslim student organisation, was on holiday in Beirut when the violence erupted.

"I, along with millions of other people in the region, was taken by surprise by the sudden escalation of hostilities in Lebanon. One could smell fear and anxiety in the air. It saddens me to hear of the hundreds of innocent lives being lost - Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli. As people of conscience we must work and pray for a peaceful and just solution."

"Prayer is such an important and effective expression of our hope and faith," said Aaron Russell, President of ACSA. "To pray together for peace in lands ravaged by violence is a beautiful sign of unity, and of our potential for cooperation and harmony."

Elsewhere, the International Young Catholic Students (IYCS) have expressed disgust at the failure of the G8 to apply effective diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire.

"Our members in the region have made us aware of the tragic situation that has brought fear, death and displacement of civilians, and the destruction of their homes and civil infrastructure," the IYCS International Secretariat said.

Calling on their membership to sign an online petition, IYCS leaders insisted, "that peace in the Middle East region is vital for global security".

Meanwhile, Caritas Australia has announced it will increase its funding to those affected by the current Middle East crisis to $100,000. Today $50 000 was dedicated to the urgent work of Caritas Lebanon to add to the $50,000 previously donated to Caritas Jerusalem.

In Sydney yesterday President of Caritas Internationalis, Mr Denis Vienot, called for better access for humanitarian agencies and protection for aid agencies and civilians.

"The situation in the Middle East is an enormous humanitarian emergency. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, drinking water is cut off in many places, supplies of fuel and food are running very low. We need urgent access to those civilians to deliver basic amenities - and we need guaranteed protection for civillians", said Mr Veinot.

Australian Catholic Students Association (Media Release, 24/7/06)
International Young Christian Students statement (21/7/06)
Caritas Australia (Media Release, 25/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Students Association
International Young Christian Students
Australasian Union of Jewish Students
Muslim Students Association of QUT
National Baha'i Youth Committee
Caritas Australia

Lebanese Maronite bishops plea for UN help (CathNews, 25/7/06)
Caritas Lebanon slams milk factory attack (CathNews, 21/7/06)
Advertise Lebanon evacuation plans, stranded priest tells Govt (CathNews, 20/7/06)

26 Jul 2006