July 17, 2006
I write to you out of my deep sadness and concern regarding the escalating conflict in the Middle East, which has expanded recently into Lebanon. The kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants has caused a severe reaction from Israeli forces. The escalation of the conflict moves the Middle East further away from a just and lasting peace for which we have been praying and working. I continue to call on the international community and the U.S. administration to do everything possible both to negotiate an immediate stop to the violence that has caused the killing and suffering of innocent people and to urge all parties to resolve the conflict through dialogue.
I speak often with Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. In our conversation on July 15, 2006, I heard both his deep concern that, as the war spreads, the future of Christianity among Arab people is at risk and his call for our renewed commitment to praying and working for peace.
The ELCA is providing immediate humanitarian relief through the work of the Middle East Council of Churches. I ask ELCA congregations to continue to pray for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East that will bring an end to the pain and misery experienced by all people in the region.
May the God of peace fill our hearts and our world with peace.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
P.S. Visit www.elca.org/middleeast/lebanon.html on the ELCA Web site to learn how ELCA members and congregations can respond to humanitarian needs in Lebanon through ELCA International Disaster Response; for updates from companions in the region including the Lutheran church in the Holy Land, ELCA missionaries serving there, and Contact Resource Center/Lebanon; and advocacy updates. Congregations interested in issues related to global peace will find the ELCA social statement "For Peace in God's World" (1995) to be a valuable resource for discussion.