Church Moderator Criticises Blair’s Non-Response to Middle East Letter

|TOP|The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Alan McDonald, has said that he found it “almost unbelievable” that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has not yet responded to his letter sent on 18 July, which called for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

The letter, sent nearly a month ago now, also asked Blair what steps the government was taking to address the deteriorating situation in Lebanon.

Mr McDonald said that the cursory acknowledgement of his letter from Downing Street, indicated that a Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would respond. Twenty-four days later and neither the Prime Minister nor anyone else has responded.

"It is unacceptable that the Prime Minister chose not to respond personally to the concerns of Church of Scotland members but much worse is the apparent decision not to call for a cease fire - which becomes more crucial with every passing day - and to let daily aggression and violence against innocent men, women and children in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza continue," said the Moderator.

|AD|"I have today taken the unusual step of writing to all Church of Scotland members, through their Ministers, to share responses from Middle East Partners and to recommend support for Christian Aid’s Middle East Crisis Appeal."

The latest letter by the Church Moderator has called upon members of the Church to pray, and it also includes a prayer from the Middle East.

The full text of the letter can be read below:

On 18 July I wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to use all means at his disposal to press for an immediate cease fire in the Middle East. At the same time, I wrote to all our partner churches in the region to express our deep concern and solidarity, and they have now shared their experiences with us. For example, Joseph Kassab, the General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, our partner church, wrote:

"The daily aggression and violence against civilians and innocent children brought back the memories of the Lebanese war that we suffered (1975-1990). The severe damage of the houses, factories, infrastructure and trucks, has destroyed the Lebanese dream of prosperity and development. The efforts of sixteen years in rebuilding the country were lost in sixteen days. And what makes it worse is that the Security Council could not even decide to call for a cease fire."

Emergency grants from our World Mission Council and Mission and Renewal Fund have enabled us to send £40,000 to the Synod to assist with their relief work.

However, I am also aware that there will be many in our congregations and parishes who wish to respond to the humanitarian crisis which has enveloped the region in the wake of this heart rending conflict. I therefore commend to you the Middle East Crisis Appeal which has been launched by Christian Aid, our own relief and development agency.

Through its local partners, Christian Aid is able to supply desperately needed relief in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza.

A radical and distinctive action of the Church at such a time of crisis is to pray - for justice, for peace and for healing. I invite you and your congregation to join with me in the prayer printed on the back of this letter. The prayer was written in Bethlehem and Jerusalem yesterday by Rev Dr Mitri Raheb, General Director of the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church and Rev Jane Barron, Minister of St Andrew’s Jerusalem.

A Prayer from Bethlehem and Jerusalem

Lord Jesus Christ, born a little child in Bethlehem
forced to flee with a terrified family.
We pray for the children of this region, that we
leave a legacy of justice with walls and war no more.
In Galilee you calmed a storm, gentling
fear and overcoming nature.
May the northern Lake and hills know peace again.
Lord of beauty who brought lushness to Lebanon, where
trees stood tall and green.
Forgive us for scorching earth and flesh, polluting the sea.
Help us re-build bridges where people meet and new life blossoms.
In Jerusalem you turned power up-side down and overcame death.
May the power-centres of the world
resurrect your powerlessness and new hope. Amen.