24.07.06 16:45 Age: 6 yrs

Pax Christi International : End Escalation of Violence in the Middle East


Statement of Pax Christi International : End Escalation of Violence in the Middle East

Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement, with 95-member organisations active worldwide, is extremely concerned about the vicious spiral of violence in the Middle East over the past weeks. The number of those killed and wounded as well as the number of displaced persons is disturbingly high and continue to increase. Pax Christi International expresses its deep concern in solidarity with its member organisations and partners in the region.


1. The current situation in the Middle East region, already volatile, has become extremely inflammatory, and imprudent actions might light the fuse of a powder keg. All this is happening in full view of the international community, which must curb the violence and bring the escalation to an immediate end.


End Escalation of Violence


2. A conflict that has dragged on for decades, where violence is the order of the day and a number of people live in a permanent war-like situation, has entered slowly but surely escalated further. A series of recent events in Gaza led to Palestinian rocket attacks and the abduction of an Israeli soldier. Israel arrested several Hamas parliamentarians, attacked Palestinian ministerial buildings and later, launched a massive attack on the Gaza Strip. Since the start of the Israeli operation "Summer Rain" on the 28th of June 2006, the civilian population has been deprived of access to electricity, water and humanitarian aid, largely the result of the destruction of bridges and the only power station in the Gaza Strip.


3. A second front was opened when Hezbollah in turn responded by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. Israel attacked Lebanon over ground, air and sea. Hezbollah's attack on Israel with rockets hit cities such as Haifa, Tiberias and Nazareth for the first time. This is the most serious crisis between Israel and Lebanon, since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.


4. Pax Christi International strongly condemns all the attacks targeting civilians and cities as well as the unjustified and disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza.


5. The current escalation, through the actions of the Israeli government, put at risk recent advances into free Lebanon by external powers. It also threatens the fragile democracy of a nation healing from years of sectarian divisions. If Syria and Iran continue their support to Hezbollah, becoming further involved, a regional escalation is not inconceivable.


Respect International Humanitarian Law


6. Pax Christi International recalls international humanitarian law that says that parties have an obligation to exercise precaution and to respect the proportionality principle in all military operations and to minimise civilian victims. Israel, Hezbollah and the Palestinian armed groups should therefore refrain from attacking civilians as well as civilian infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges, airports, train stations, hospitals, schools, etc.).


7. Collective punishment of the civilian population cannot be accepted. The peace movement calls on the United Nations to hold Israel accountable for the purposeful destruction of necessary civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, a clear violation of international humanitarian law. There can be no military solution to this crisis, or to any violent conflict that had affected the Middle East for decades.


8. The humanitarian situation in Lebanon and Gaza is extremely strained. Israel has the responsibility of delivering foodstuffs, water and other essential supplies such as medical supplies, fuel, electricity, etc.


End Diplomatic Vacuum


9. A diplomatic vacuum with regard to the Middle East has developed over the past months. The international community has ripped itself of its political influence in the region by refusing to talk to all key players, especially with those elected democratically. This has given room to further radicalisation and escalation. The situation is too dangerous for that and too many victims are paying the price.


End Occupation and Stop Military Support


10. The increasing acceptance in media and political circles of "framing" the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of the "War on Terror" supported by the USA Administration, neglects the political roots and complexity of the conflict. Israel should end its occupation of the Palestinian territories and allow for a viable and sovereign Palestinian state to be erected. This is the only way to guarantee welfare and security to the peoples of the region.


11. Pax Christi International fully supports Pax Christi USA in its call to the Bush Administration to immediately stop military support, which is being used by Israel in its attacks on civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. Delivery of weapons to all parties in the conflict should be stopped without delay.


12. The mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, should be extended and strengthened in order to restore international peace and security. It should assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring its effective authority in the area.




13. Pax Christi International calls for the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and the start of diplomatic and constructive negotiations with all parties involved in the conflict. The movement presses for the unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers and for negotiations on the Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli prisons.


14. The peace movement exhorts the United Nations, the European Union and the political leaders in the region, to take all possible initiatives to contain this conflict, bring the intensification of violence to a direct halt and engage all parties in a new peace process that will address the root causes of the conflict.


15. The International Conference, which will take place in Rome later this week, should, along with the provision of immediate humanitarian aid, develop an active mediating role to be played by the international community in order to achieve just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Engaging all stakeholders in the process will allow people of the region to live in dignity.


16. Pax Christi International as well as religious leaders can contribute, as has already been done in the past, by supporting mediation and reconciliation initiatives among and between civil society and religious groups.


17. The International Catholic peace movement calls all its members, all Churches and religious leaders worldwide, to pray for all the victims, to speak out against injustices and to act in solidarity with partners for just peace in the region.


Brussels, 24 July 2006




More resources, statements, background information and action suggestions from member organisations and partners are available in:


  • Pax Christi USA: Statement on the recent attacks in the Middle East, 21 July 2006, in English, in ME.66.E.06.


  • Pax Christi Italy: Appeal for Lebanon, 21 July 2006, in Italian, in ME.65.I.06.


  • World Council of Churches: Pastoral Letter on the Violence in the Middle East, 21 July 2006, in English, via www.oikoumene.org/index.php


  • Pax Christi Flanders: Questions and Answers of the Crisis in the Middle East, 20 July 2006, in Dutch, in ME. 63.D.06.


  • Cluster Munitions Coalition, CMC: Israel Should Not Use Cluster Munitions in Lebanon, 20 July 2006, in English, in DIS.42.E.06 and/or www.cmc.org


  • Pax Christi UK: End Violence and Punishment in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, 17 July 2006, in English, in ME.61.E.06.


  • Caritas Internationalis: 14 July 2006, in English, www.caritas.org


  • Pax Christi Germany: No Double Standard in the Middle East Policy of the EU and a Stop to German Weapons Exports, 10 July 2006, in English and German in ME.60.GE.06.


  • Pax Christi Austria: Statement End the Violence, 10 July 2006, in German, in ME.57.G.06.

Some Suggested Actions:

1) Contact UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and implore the United Nations to show leadership and demand an immediate ceasefire: sg (at) un.org and/or fax: (212) 963-1921.

2) Click on one of the links below to join electronic advocacy campaigns calling for an immediate cease- fire:

3) Send this statement to your diocesan and national newspapers. Use the statement to write a letter to the editor in your own name.

4) Organize a prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East in your local community or join with other groups in a public event. Use the statement as a handout or leaflet for the event.