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Middle East, Sudan focus of United Methodist advocacy agency

( [email protected] ) Oct 28, 2004 11:49 AM EDT

Members of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society wrote two statements concerning the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in the Middle East and the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the Darfur region of Sudan, during their annual gathering, in Herndon, Va., Oct. 14-18.

“We, the members of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, express our grave concern for the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East as it spirals deeper into the morass of violence and war, with killing and retribution increasing daily,” the statement on the Middle East began.

The gathering attracted the 63 directors serving the United Methodist Church (UMC)’s Board of Church and Society – the social action wing of the 8-million member denomination.

The Sudan statement emphasized the need to “take all necessary steps to end the terror of civil conflict and the violence of hunger, disease and displacement…"

Meanwhile, in other business, the Board elected Bishop Beverly Shamana of the San Francisco Area as its president for the next four years and Bishop William Hutchison of Louisiana as vice president.

The following are the entire statements of the board, as released on Oct. 17, 2004

Ezekiel’s Vision: A Statement By The General Board Of Church And Society On Crises In The Middle East

October 17, 2004

We, the members of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, express our grave concern for the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East as it spirals deeper into the morass of violence and war, with killing and retribution increasing daily. As we mourn this senseless waste of life and resources, we also note with sadness that in this area the church is being persecuted and continues its shocking disappearance from the Holy Land, the home of the Abrahamic faiths, and now Iraq, the home of Abraham and Sarah.

We gather in the name of the Prince of Peace to witness to a better way: "We believe that war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ" (2000 The Book of Discipline, 165c).

Our opposition to violence and war is based on both testaments of the Holy Bible, on theological principles which proclaim the God-given value of every human being, and on the evils of terrorism and combat which aims are to kill and maim other children of our one Creator.

No nation is wise or pure enough to decide unilaterally to terrorize or invade, subdue and occupy another, and even in a multilateral setting such action has been recognized historically as a sad, last step (2000 The Book of Discipline 2000, 164G and 165C).

We recognize there will be no true and lasting peace in the Middle East until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is equitably resolved and both states are safe and secure. We call upon the President of the United States to send a special envoy back to the region to restart negotiations between the parties. We call upon all participants in the conflict to cease military action and violence. We call upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and to tear down the wall it is constructing (an action already determined illegal by the International Court of Justice and denounced by most of the world). We call upon Palestinians to bring an end to terrorist attacks against Israel.

We pray for the safety and well-being of both civilians and combatants affected by the war in Iraq. We recognize the violence there may not improve for years to come. We opposed this war in March 2003, declaring that the United Nations’ weapons inspectors should be allowed to complete their work. Recent reports from respected experts have confirmed the rationales given for invading Iraq have been proven false.

Believing these reports to be true, continuing the current course of action becomes foolhardy and sinful. Instead, we urge a truly united effort to transfer power and sovereignty back to the Iraqi people as soon as possible, the withdrawal of United States and other coalition forces, and their replacement with U.N. forces, and funding coordinated through that international body. We further call upon the international community to support the reconstruction of Iraq and the healing of its people who have been devastated for decades by their own leaders as well as more recently by the occupying forces.

Finally, we implore persons of faith throughout God’s world to be in constant prayer for the people of the entire Middle Eastern region and for the implementation of serious and effective plans of peaceful resolution of the region’s crises. We also recognize the United States has significant power to influence the course of events, and we urge it to use this power to work toward lasting peace in the region. Our prayer is that Ezekiel’s vision of peace, where all of us "shall no more be a prey to the nations… and none shall make them afraid" (34:28), will prevail.

To Live Life In All Its Fullness: Responding to the Crisis In Darfur

October 17, 2004

We, the members of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, note with concern the evolving humanitarian catastrophe and security crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan. We are deeply concerned about the gravity of the atrocities committed against the local population of Darfur, which according to the World Health Organization have now claimed the lives of at least 70,000 and displaced more than a million persons from their abodes, villages and livelihoods, all acts of which are at genocidal proportions.

We strongly urge the international community, led by the United Nations, to take all necessary steps to end the terror of civil conflict and the violence of hunger, disease and displacement, and instead muster from nations and civil, corporate, humanitarian and religious entities every and all financial and moral support to preserve lives, secure livelihoods, and affirm human dignity for all the peoples of Darfur.

We call for full support of the Africa Union’s efforts to deploy a monitoring and protection force to secure the safety of both the peoples of Darfur and all human rights and humanitarian agency workers operating in the region. We join the Africa Union and the international community in urging all parties to the conflict (i.e. the government of the Sudan, the Justice and Equality Movement, and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army) to comply fully to the N’djamena Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement of 8 April 2004 and to work toward a lasting and comprehensive political settlement of the conflict in Darfur.

To these ends, all efforts of the United Nations, the Africa Union, the United States, and the international community must be encouraged, especially toward disarming the Janjaweed militia and other armed outlaw groups and toward setting up the infrastructure for sustainable economic recovery and restoration of Darfur and all the Sudan. In the end, the welfare and security of the people of Darfur and all Sudan lies in the earnest commitment of the Sudanese government to work for peace and justice and be a responsible member of the community of nations.

For us, believing in God who judges among peoples and arbitrates between nations, calling them to "beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks," (Micah 4:3) and in Jesus Christ who wills creation to live life in all its fullness (John 10:10), we will do all we can to encourage our religious communities to pray and exert their moral authority by urging their governments to help resolve this humanitarian tragedy.