Mission Executive Condemns Bombing of Lebanese
Village and Recalls Similar Incident in 1996
New York, New York, July 31, 2006—The chief mission executive of The United Methodist Church today condemned the Israeli bombing of civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana on July 30 and the earlier bombing of a United Nations observation post on the Israel-Lebanon border.
“The killing of civilians, for whatever reasons and by all sides, must end, now!” said the Rev. R. Randy Day of the General Board of Global Ministries, the international mission unit of the denomination. He repeated a call for a total ceasefire brokered by the United Nations.
The clergyman said that the “time has come for all the conflicted parties in the Middle East to stand still and consider what they are doing. In the name of God, stop the killing,” he said, speaking to both Israel and the opposing Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon.
Day recalled that Israel bombed the same village and a UN shelter there ten years ago during the 1996 meeting of the United Methodist General Conference in Denver. The statement decrying the massacre was delivered to the White House by a United Methodist delegation. Day said it was an action that United Methodists should repeat in 2006.
More than 60 civilians were killed when the building in which they had taken shelter was bombed on July 30. Four UN observers were killed in the bombing a few days earlier. A million Lebanese, or 25 percent of the population, has been displaced by the Israeli bombing. Hezbollah missiles have killed Israelis in Haifa and other northern parts of the country.
Day joined his voice with that of UN chief Kofi Annan in condemning the bombing of the UN personnel. A memorial service for the four people was held in the chapel of the United Methodist Church Center for the United Nations on July 30.
Day also called upon religious supporters of Israel to speak out against violence in the Middle East. He expressed the hope that those on the political and religious right in the US will reconsider their automatic sanction of any action by Israel.
“I realize,” Day stated, “that some Christians approach this region of the globe with theological preconceptions, but there are times when humanitarian concern must override contemporary ideology based on selective biblical interpretation. Peace is more important than visions of Armageddon.
“We see too many dead and wounded people, including children, in the Holy Lands today. God weeps with us and requires us to act on behalf of the generations of tomorrow.”
The full text of the statement follows:
In the Name of God, Stop the Killing in the Middle East
I strongly urge the State of Israel to suspend all bombing in Lebanon and for Israel and the Hezbollah forces to observe a total ceasefire, assisted by the United Nations. The world can no longer tolerate the behavior of either side in the renewed Middle East fighting, including the despicable Israeli bombings of civilians in Qana. Suspicion that a village may be “militant” is no justification for bombing and killing 60 people who have taken refuge in a building. Such thinking is political and morally unacceptable.
I also strongly call into moral and political question the earlier Israeli bombing of a United Nations observation post on the Israeli-Lebanese border, with the resulting deaths of four UN officers. I stand with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan in condemning this action, as the bombing of Qana must be condemned by the world community.
The killing of civilians, for whatever reasons and by all sides, must end, now! Neither Hezbollah provocations and attacks nor Israeli overreaction can be allowed to continue any longer. The protection of civilians, especially women and children, must be the highest priority of all the parties.
The United States must join with the United Nations and major powers in acting quickly to bring about a permanent, enforceable ceasefire. Any other course of action is an abdication of moral responsibility. The use of air strikes by planes or missiles must come to an end. More than a million people, some 25 percent of the Lebanese population, have been displaced and towns in northern Israel are in jeopardy from Hezbollah missiles.
The time has come for all the conflicted parties in the Middle East to stand still and consider what they are doing. In the name of God, stop the killing. The warring groups must see the folly of violence and promote and practice goals summarized by the Prophet Micah: justice, mercy, and humility. A ceasefire will not establish peace but it will provide the opportunity to pursue once again steps toward a just peace.
The incident at Qana is not without precedent. Ten years ago, on April 18, 1996, the same village and a UN compound sheltering refugees were bombed by Israel. It was during a session of the United Methodist General Conference, meeting in Denver. A statement on the “Crisis in Lebanon and Occupation of Palestine” was adopted. In decrying the massacre in Qana, the General Conference called for the protection of children, youth, and civilians; better treatment for refugees; full religious freedom, and measures to assure the geographic, economic, and political security necessary for Israelis, Palestinians, and Lebanese to coexist. The General Conference dispatched a delegation to deliver the statement to the White House, and this is an action we as United Methodists need to reaffirm and repeat.
We join with other religious groups today in a service of remembrance and thanksgiving for the four UN peacekeepers killed in the Israeli attack. We are pleased to host such a service in our Church Center for the United Nations. Let us remember the four people—Du Zhaoyu, Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, Hans-Peter Lang, and Jarno Makinen—as victims of violence and stalwarts for the dream of a better tomorrow.
Let me also appeal to Christian groups to bring their full influence to bear on behalf of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I want especially to call upon my brothers and sisters on the political and religious right in the United States to rethink their automatic endorsement of anything Israel does. It does the cause of eschatology no harm to condemn acts of terror and military excess. I realize that some Christians approach this region of the globe with theological preconceptions, but there are times when humanitarian concern must override contemporary ideology based on selective biblical interpretation. Peace is more important than visions of Armageddon.
We see too many dead and wounded people, including children, in the Holy Lands today. God weeps with us and requires us to act on behalf of the generations of tomorrow.
R. Randy Day
Date posted: Jul 31, 2006