From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC NEWS: Lebanon's minister of culture addresses WCC

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Mon, 04 Sep 2006 12:22:53 +0200

World Council of Churches - News Release

Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 For immediate release - 04/09/2006 11:06:10 AM


Lebanon's minister of culture, Dr Tarek Mitri, on 2 September expressed gratitude to the World Council of Churches (WCC), for its expressions of solidarity following Israel's attacks on Lebanon.

At the same time, he said he expected WCC's solidarity to be expressed not only through humanitarian relief but also in terms of putting pressure on governments to revive the peace process in the region.

Addressing a WCC Central Committee hearing on Lebanon that will be part of a broader public issues discussion on the situation in the Middle East, Dr Mitri said, "All of us Christians and non-Christians draw strength from the solidarity of people around the world.

"WCC and member churches were among the first to respond, to speak a word of wisdom and courage, to launch a humanitarian appeal and to visit us."

Dr Mitri, from the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, was formerly responsible for Christian-Muslim dialogue in the WCC. He referred to an ecumenical pastoral delegation that visited Lebanon on behalf of the WCC, the Conference of European Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

He said the visit of friends from different parts of the world to a besieged city was not just an expression sympathy and solidarity but "a precious gift from God".

Reminded of a similar visit in 1982 when Israel was besieging Beirut, he said, "These are times when visits count."

Dr Mitri described himself to the Central Committee as an old friend of the WCC from a small country whose problems were inversely proportional to its size.

He said since Israel's "collective and disproportionate punishment" of Lebanon began on 12 July, one million people, a quarter of Lebanon's population, had been displaced and 150,000 homes had been destroyed.

He said Israel did not distinguish between offensive, defensive or preemptive attacks. It did not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Speaking at a press conference before the Central Committee hearing, Dr Mitri said there was evidence to accuse Israel of war crimes, including the use of prohibited arms against civilians.

He said, "Lebanon will fight for compensation and justice. Asking for compensation will be important, but the political and juridical battle to uphold principles of justice is also very important."

Dr Mitri told the Central Committee that Lebanon was a country that thought of itself as tolerant and pluralist. "We have known serious tensions and 'uncivil' wars that divided religious communities. During the most recent onslaught, despite serious disagreements, there was an easing of political and communal tensions and a spontaneous solidarity among the Lebanese."

He said the country had managed to recover following eight wars since the mid 1970s and that "Muslims and Christians alike hope and have faith in the ability of the people to rise up again."

Dr Mitri said the two priorities to make sure such wars did not happen again were a return to the peace process for the region and the preservatio n of the integrity of Lebanon rather than "leaving it as a battleground for the wars of others".

For the WCC, the crisis in Lebanon is part of the overall question of the Middle East. As the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia mentioned in his report: "It is not enough to condemn Hezbollah?s military actions without going deeper into the history of Lebanon?s relationship with Israel and other countries in the region. It is not enough to condemn Israel?s invasion of Lebanon without also grappling with the issue of Israel?s fundamental insecurity."

The full texts of recent WCC statements on the Middle East are available in the WCC on-line press room

Other statements by churches and church-related groups appear on the Decade to Overcome Violence website -the-middle-east-crisis.html

More information on the WCC Central Committee meeting is available on the WCC website:

Additional information: Juan Michel, +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

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The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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