Bishop John Bryson Chane’s pastoral letter on the violence in Israel and Lebanon

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

These past days the morning paper and evening newscast have brought us graphic stories of violence, bloodshed, and warfare. We have lived on a steady diet of such stories since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the violence shows no signs of abating. At times I worry that we, as a nation, will becoming accustomed to this brutality that we will loose our capacity to be outraged by the daily killing and wounding of soldiers, civilians and children caught up in conflicts that convulse our world.

The latest outbreak of violence involves Israel and the Hezbollah movement in southern Lebanon. Once again our efforts to find diplomatic solutions to complex political realities have failed, and once again we are left with the horror of these consequences.

Three weeks ago, I meet with six ambassadors from Middle Eastern countries to explore ways in which inter-faith religious leaders from around the globe might contribute to a diplomatic initiative that might end terror and bloodshed in that region. We were mindful that four years ago, George Carey, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, played a key role in crafting the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land. In that document, more than a dozen senior Christian, Jewish and Moslem leaders in the Middle East pledged to use their religious and moral authority to work for an end to violence and the resumption of the peace process. God willing, we will find a way to resurrect the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation that made their agreement possible, for religion continues to be the primary fault line in the Middle East.

My staff and I have also been in conversation with the Israeli Embassy about the situation unfolding in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. In those conversations we expressed our belief that Israel must have secure borders and our concerns about the impact that the ongoing construction of the Wall is having as it divides Israelis and Palestinians. This impact includes the restriction of access to Christian holy sites.

As Christians, we must possess a passion to work and pray for an end to violent conflicts throughout our world. In Jesus name we must become ambassadors for peace. I ask you to add to your intercessions this Sunday prayers for a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah. Pray for an end to the violence in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, and pray that this nation, as the leader of the free world, will now exercise its moral leadership and political influence to bring such a cease fire on all fronts to fruition.

I also ask you to pray for those Palestinians in Gaza who have suffered immeasurably over these recent months and for Israelis who continue to seek security for themselves and for their state. I ask you to pray for an end to terrorism and hostage taking in all forms.

As your bishop, I continue to seek God’s forgiveness through personal prayer for our inability as a global community to embrace the very word and presence of Peace which so much defines the core of the Holy Books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

If you so choose please feel free to share this Pastoral Letter with your congregation.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane DD

Bishop of Washington

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