Aid agencies call on PM to push for Middle East ceasefire

Caritas Australia has joined World Vision and Muslim Aid in an open letter to Prime Minister John Howard calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon as it launches a special Middle East Peace Sunday slated for 13 August.

ABC AM reports that more than a dozen aid organisations and church groups have signed the letter calling for an immediate and enduring ceasefire in the Middle East.

The groups say they are deeply concerned by the war and are doing to their best to care for up to a million people who have had to abandon their homes.

"Obviously the Australian Government has a good relationship and is held in high regard by the US Government, who are really very strategically important in getting a permanent and enduring ceasefire off the ground," Jack de Groot, Chief Executive Officer of Caritas, told the program.

"But obviously, the Australian Government also has, from a long history, good relationships with the state of Israel and good relationships with the Government of Lebanon, and is well placed to actually bring some of its well respected position to bear in this call for compliance with international humanitarian law and the call for peace," he said.

World Vision director, Tim Costello was also reported as saying that "the insanity of seeing children and civilians dying really has to cease. War has outlived its usefulness.

"Whatever purposes it once achieved, its not achieving those purposes of security for Israel, in this case defeat of Hezbollah, and it's coming at such an awful cost."

Separately, Caritas Australia also announced the holding of Middle East Peace Sunday on 13 August.

Mr de Groot added that "the deteriorating situation in the Middle East is now a massive humanitarian emergency. Whilst millions are affected, our partners in the region are heavily restricted from delivering aid to the most of those affected because of the ongoing violence. We are calling on the Australian Catholic community and all Australians, to join together and pray for peace on 13 August."

The agency also quoted Maronite Bishop Ad Abikram as saying "every single day, we are seeing and hearing with the whole world, what tragic atrocities Lebanon is enduring - hundreds of victims, thousands of displaced people and refugees, sick and elderly without medicines, children who are massacred or who are starving of food."

"The people of Lebanon are living through a horrible catastrophe and call on the conscience of the generous Australian people to help them overcome their suffering", Bishop Abikaram concluded.

"We pray that the conflict will end soon so that we can then begin the long and difficult task of rebuilding not just the infrastructure destroyed but the lives of those who have been so dramatically affected," said Mr de Groot.

Community groups united against war in Middle East (ABC AM, 5/8/06)
Caritas Australia (Media release, 4/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia
Caritas Middle East Crisis Appeal

Unity and hope amid chaos in Lebanon (CathNews, 2/8/06)
Canberra Christian leaders slam Govt over "cowardly" silence on Middle East (CathNews, 1/8/06)
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)

7 Aug 2006