Canberra Christian leaders slam Govt over "cowardly" silence on Middle East

In a hard-hitting statement, Canberra Auxiliary Bishop Pat Power and other Christian leaders in the nation's capital have criticised the failure of the leadership of the Government and Opposition to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the Middle East.

Other signatories are Bishop George Browning of the Anglican Church, Rev Peter Walker of the Uniting Church, Dr Kevin Bray of the Churches of Christ, and Professor James Haire, Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

"We find it impossible to remain silent in the face of so much pain and suffering in the Middle East, both in Lebanon and in Israel," the Christian leaders said, "but we have been particularly outraged by the news ... of the deaths in the Lebanese village of Qana, no matter what its cause."

An Israeli air strike on Sunday on a four-storey building in south Lebanon village of Qana killed up to 60 people, mostly women and children - the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 20-day-old war on Hezbollah.

"We are outraged that such unspeakable pain is being unleashed upon civilians, especially women and children, while the world remains largely silent," the Canberra clergymen said.

"Where is the moral courage of our leaders? How can the leadership of the Australian Government and the Opposition not cry out for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire?

"We find it impossible to understand how the leaders of our own nation have remained so cowardly silent in the face of such brutality," they said.

The Christian leaders said while they deplore the violence of both Hezbollah and the State of Israel, they "have had enough of this so called war on terror."

"When will the governments of the world come to understand that peace can only be built on justice and fairness?", the statement asks.

Calling for an immediate end to the violence, they urged governments to invest in the UN's millennium development goals as "the road to peace and to immediately apply them for the peoples of the Middle East."

"We can have no peace while violence is repaid with violence. It is a recipe for eventual annihilation," the statement said.

At least 542 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon in the war, although the Lebanon Health Minister estimated the toll at 750 including unrecovered bodies. Fifty-one Israelis have also been killed.

To the south, Israeli troops have killed 159 Palestinians since they started attacking the Gaza Strip to try to recover a captured Israeli soldier and stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into Israel.

A similar cross-border raid in northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the larger offensive in Lebanon.

If these were silent the Stones would shout out. A Statement on the Middle East by Canberra's Church leaders (Media Release 31/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Pat Power (Canberra Goulburn diocese)
Caritas Lebanon blog (now in English and French)

Benedict calls for miracle as Qana toll reaches 54 (CathNews 31/7/06)
Asian and African migrants "abandoned" in Lebanon, Vatican says (CathNews 27/7/06)
Students taking lead for Middle East peace (CathNews 26/7/06)
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)

Fighting for Israel 'may breach laws' (The Age 1/8/06)
Bombs Silence Catholic Radio in Lebanon (Zenit 30/7/06)

1 Aug 2006