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May It Stop
August 4, 2006

Dear Friends,
As the two of us bask in the blessings of a new baby, new home, and close family, images and stories of bombs and death are unwelcome. The dissonance between our comfort here and the terror in the Middle East is jarring.  Yet, as much as we would like to turn off the radio, tear up the paper, just tune out the news, we know it would be unfaithful. As disciples, we follow Jesus’ example as he always opened himself to suffering and need, made time to listen and heal. A first and agonizing step for us would be to listen, as well.

Our ministry has centered on amplifying the voices of Middle Eastern Christians, voices which are so often drowned out in the loud debates and vitriolic rhetoric. In this current crisis, we have heard a few such voices that we’d like to share with you: at the end of this email, you’ll find pieces from Israeli and Lebanese Christian leaders addressing the situation.

And, as always, we are called to pray. We find ourselves asking God for it to stop, stop, stop, praying thus:

We see Hezbollah move to consolidate their regional influence by inciting Israel, and manipulating the resulting death and destruction for their anti-Israel, religious extremist agenda.
Lord God, may it stop.
We see Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate military actions, meting out devastation without regard for civilian life or civilian infrastructure.
Lord God, may it stop.

We see our own government’s failure to mediate, refusing to speak to enemies, enemies whom Christ calls us to love and pray for.
Lord God, may it stop.

We see Iran supplying Hezbollah with weapons, and our own nation supplying Israel, making us deeply complicit in it all.
Lord God, may it stop.

We see the situation in Gaza deteriorate as all eyes are looking to the north.
Lord God, may it stop.

We see Israelis and Palestinians and Lebanese living and fleeing in fear, anger, hatred, terror, hunger, loss, anguish.
Lord God, may it stop.

We see families grieving and burying their dead – 548 Lebanese, 68 Israelis, and 111 Palestinians in the last 23 days.
Lord God, may it stop.

We see your peace and grace in other places, other communities, other parts of our own lives. In the Middle East, help us begin to feel the assurance of these things, which remain unseen. Help us begin to live into that assurance, becoming agents of your transformative power.
Lord God, may we begin.
In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Below please find three pieces. The first is from Fr. Elias Chacour, Archbishop of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee. The other two are by Martin Accad, academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. Accad’s pieces were originally published by Christianity Today ( in a series of commentaries and conversation regarding the situation, and are reproduced here with permission. To read more of the series, visit Christianity Today’s online Lebanon page at

Minor edits made for clarity.

Dear Beloved Friends,

We used to write Newsletters about hope and development but this time the circumstance have changed drastically. We used to think that Galilee was very safe even the safest in the Middle East. This is true with regard to the past; presently for the 10 past days we have the experience that we live and survive. It is because of mere luck; nobody is safe from the rockets and the katyushas which rain everyday on the city of Haifa.  They also fell in Nazareth, Akko, Nahariyah and almost all the cities, villages and settlements in the Galilee region. These rockets fall indiscriminately on anyone who happens to be at the place of their falling. Exactly as on the other side in Lebanon, no one is protected.

We find ourselves between the fires of hatred on both sides: the occupation and resistance. Both use the language of hate and revenge and uncontrolled threats. They use the language of total destruction of the enemy. The result is the systematic destruction of the civil infrastructure in Lebanon with thousands of people sacrificed in an absurd way. On the other side equally absurd but a smaller destruction inside Israel and destabilization of everything in the country; add to that the tragedy and free hand to destroy whatever exists in Gaza and the West Bank. Billions of dollars have been wasted on the altar of war, pride and arrogance. All sides are angry, all sides are bitter, every side has its own claims; everyone is repeating with a modern dimension the first crime we witnessed in the Bible: one brother was angry, he called his brother outside the house and killed him thinking that his anger will be eased. What happened is that the earth saturated with Abel's blood was crying to God for vengeance while God was asking: "Where is your brother? What have you done to your brother?" The same answer comes out: a denial of responsibility; at the same time, a justification of the violence of killing. Today is the same situation.  In their anger, the political leaders fear for their pride; they bring out their armies and the machines of destruction, this time also in the Galilee. No one is sheltered; the first rocket fell short 200 meters away from where I was while traveling to Haifa.

Our message to you is a distressed one, many lives has been lost, much property and real estate destroyed, many hopes were shattered. Again the Arab community in Galilee and very specially the Christian community on the border with Lebanon finds itself with no job, with no livelihood and no shelter, unlike the neighboring Jewish settlements. Many among our community members were directly hit; mainly in the villages of: Jish, Rama, Eilaboun, Fasuta, Miilya and Tarsheeha; besides the several rockets that hit the heart of Nazareth and Haifa not to exclude Ibillin. Thank God that the students are at home on their summer holidays.

The reason for that conflagration is the conflict between the Lebanese resistant movement Hezbollah and the Israeli government. Israel withdrew from South Lebanon keeping a piece of territory which Israel claims is Syrian.  But for Lebanon and Syria, it is  Lebanese territory. One more reason is the thousands of Lebanese prisoners inside the Israeli jails. There is no way to get them free. Hezbollah kidnapped three Israeli soldiers hoping to negotiate and exchange prisoners but the pride of Israel on one side and the stereotyped image of Hezbollah as being a terrorist movement blinded the authorities from negotiating. Some say there was a pre-set agenda to find an excuse to invade Lebanon and destroy all the Hezbollah people; it appears that the Israelis were badly informed and the Hezbollah is stronger than they thought and enjoys the sympathy of the major part of the Lebanese population and the Arab Muslims whom they have trained for guerrilla warfare and it seems that Israel has been humiliated since Hezbollah’s creation. Instead of negotiating, they used all the weapons they received from overseas to destroy and create havoc in Lebanon. The outcome is contrary to what they expected; the Lebanese population is more determined to help the resistance, the re-destruction of Beirut creates a stronger rebirth of violence. Would it not have been better, instead of an instantaneous reaction, to wait some time, to negotiate the liberation of the Israeli soldiers, and to save the population on both sides from that immense trouble and wide-spread destruction, overwhelming fear, and immense economic waste?

We have now more reasons as Christians to speak our minds and call for moderation and appeal to all sides to give up weapons and start negotiating.  We feel it is our prime responsibility to get away from the pre-historic attitude and from the awkward belief of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  In fact, no one has any more teeth to exchange or eyes to offer. We are blinded because we got deaf from the noise of explosions on both sides. No one hears anymore the whispers of children, frightened, scared to death before they are massacred!

Indeed we are not afraid for our lives, because sooner or later our life will come to an end; we are rather concerned for our children and grandchildren who need life whether they are Jewish, Palestinian or Lebanese. Would they come to term with military opinions and practice God's commandments? Or, God forbid, will they implement the old Roman saying: "Man to Man is a Wolf"? This is not what Christ lived for nor taught His disciples. This is not what he believed and this is far from what he invited us to do.  Instead, he said, “Love your enemy,”  “bless those who curse you,” and “do not return evil for evil but good for evil".

Allow me to thank you for your concern, your prayers and those who send us some money to help affected families. Your friendship makes a difference in our life and you continue giving us hope that there is so much goodness in human beings. Please keep in touch and be sure we shall be representing you in the building of justice and integrity with the hope to obtain peace and security for all sides here in the Middle East.

Be assured bombs shall stop, jet fighters shall be crippled. Children shall be able to play once again on the streets of our villages; they shall go to school to learn that "Together and only together they are stronger than the storm".

Yours sincerely with tears and hope,
Abuna Elias Chacour
† Archbishop of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee

Mar Elias Educational Institutions

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Reproduced here as originally published in Christianity Today, and available (along with other commentaries and conversation about the situation) at

Another Point of View: Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon
The academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary is angry at evangelical Christians, Israel, Hezbollah, the U.S., and the international community.
by Martin Accad | posted 07/20/2006 09:30 a.m.

Note: When covering international crises, such as the current fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, Christianity Today takes care to listen to evangelical Christian leaders in the places most affected. We may find their views corrective, provocative, or even abhorrent at times, but in each case we learn about areas where we stand together and areas where we disagree. In the case of this submission from Martin Accad, academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, there are many areas where we strongly agree, and there are some areas (particularly his characterization of Israel's history and U.S. diplomacy) where we strongly disagree. We present it here to illuminate at least one Lebanese Christian leader's perspective. —Eds.

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It is normally easy enough for me to dismiss with a smirk some of the simplistic comments that I constantly read or hear from Christians around the world as pertains to events that are going on in the Middle East. These comments hit much deeper at a time when my country is once again hurting beyond pain, under the murderous aggression of Israeli armed forces for the past five days.
It is striking how normally highly reasonable and spiritually aware people can suddenly lose any sense of ethical, let alone Christian, balance when it comes to Middle East conflicts involving modern political Israel.

"Great. All we need is a nuclear-armed Iran led by a messianic president who hates Israel and believes that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation," writes David P. Gushee in a recent Christianity Today online column, in reference to Iran's president Ahmadinejad. On the whole, Gushee's article is fairly balanced from a certain point of view, and I suppose within the limits necessary to avoid being attacked and branded by those in our churches who have but disdain for Arabs.

But how is it that he, like so many others, fails to notice that world events in the last few years—even decades—have had as their main catalyst tens of thousands of evangelical Christians with a "messianic" mentality who believe that apocalyptic destruction of all but their beloved Israel will be "a precursor to global salvation"?

"Nuclear-armed Iran"? How about the Israeli jet planes that are bombing, as I write, my country and its population, my sisters, my brothers, my fathers and mothers and grandfathers, my children and nieces and nephews? According to the Lebanese health minister, Israel is even using phosphoric bombs, which are forbidden under international conventions! Are my people to consider Iran more dangerous than this? Are we safely in good hands with such actions? Come with me to Beirut and see how inoffensive Israel is. Ask the thousands of Western nationals that are presently being evacuated by the shipload. Ask the hundreds of U.S. and other Western missionaries that are running for their lives from Lebanon as you read this, through the most dangerous routes. Ask them whether weapons of any kind are in safe hands in any bloodthirsty human hands. And if they were not bloodthirsty, why would they have them? Why would anyone have them?

In the past, tit for tat has been the only way for any Arab country or armed group to get anything from Israel. So once more last Wednesday, Lebanon's Hezbollah ventured into kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in order to force the hand of Israel into a prisoner exchange. "The actual result," Gushee wrote, "is predictable. Israel responds with massive (sometimes disproportionate) force; civilians get killed accidentally along with intended militants."

"Sometimes disproportionate"?! Talk about an understatement to describe a one-week—and still going—machine of annihilation that has destroyed in days what had taken 15 years of reconstruction. Civilians "killed accidentally"?! Explain that to the young mother squatting right now at my parents' home in Lebanon, having just heard her husband was torn into pieces by an Israeli bomb as he was carrying out civil relief in villages of South Lebanon! But of course these civilians were at fault, since they had been warned by Israeli flyers to evacuate their villages the previous night. But to go where? To my father's living room?! They are welcome, but it's getting really full. Tonight I had my finger hovering over my computer's "send" button for at least one long minute before I was able to bring myself to sending to a few friends who might care to receive them, some of the gruesome images of war, of torn infant flesh from my bleeding country.

And then this wish: that "our own government will undertake policies to help foster a reduction of tensions in the region." Oh what wishful thinking! When did it ever?! When did the U.S. ever use anything other than its veto power at the United Nations, precisely in order to prevent policies and resolutions that might potentially have been helpful to my people?

Please, Christians! Let's grow up and get over our childish wishes. If, like me, you had lived through the 17 years of Lebanese civil strife from 1975 to 1991 and were presently facing the real and gruesome prospect of another extended conflict, you'd be far from hoping and believing in any benevolent and sincere peace efforts of any external broker, supposedly neutral.

I'll tell you, if you care, what I think those governments will help foster. I think that some pseudo-biblically motivated Christians with decision power, who believe "that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation," are presently working toward provoking a Middle Eastern conflict of regional significance in order finally to settle accounts with Hezbollah- and Hamas-supporting Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine, who have committed the crime, as Gushee put it, of making their hatred for Israel "crystal clear." And how dare they, since the said state has only been acting as an aggressor and racist colonial state with neighbor-exterminating tendencies from the moment of its inception?

(Of course, I will be accused of being an anti-Semite because of such words. But I will just shrug and sneer at that accusation and say: "What makes you a Semite anyway?" Having just read the holocaust account of Elie Wiesel's Night with tears and deep empathy, having Jewish relatives on my Swiss mother's side who fled Germany to Switzerland during the period of the rise of Nazism, being an Arab Christian with Lebanese paternal ancestry, I have more Semitic DNA in me than most who will be reading this. My ethnic heritage may be a mess, but I can still recognize ethical wrong when I see it!)
As an academic with a Ph.D. from Oxford University and specialist in Christian-Muslim and East-West relations, constantly seeking creative models of conflict resolution and better understanding, all of what I have just written is written in a manner far from what I would normally write or say with a cool head, far from what my Swiss-blood-flowing veins would normally permit me to utter. But then, perhaps academics sometimes owe their readers more genuine feelings, skin-level emotions gushing out of a deeply hurting, frustrated, desperate, and hopeless soul that has had enough of human arrogance and injustice.

Having come to the U.S. at the wrong time to teach a course for two weeks, I find myself at the wrong place at the wrong time, stranded after my country's airport was sent up in flames by Israeli jets. There are two Israeli soldiers imprisoned by Hezbollah hands, 10,000 Arabs in Israeli jails, and one poor soul imprisoned in the U.S. by human madness and bloodthirsty governments.
I am angry at self-centered Hezbollah, which has done the inadmissible of taking a unilateral war decision without consulting the Lebanese government of which it is part, never giving a second thought to the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Lebanese who will perish as a result of its selfish decision. I am angry that citizens of a nation like Israel, who have so suffered at the hands of others, would allow themselves such an out-of-proportion reaction, oh-so-far from the "eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth" principle that we might have forgiven them. I am just as angry at—I have lost hope in—the international community that is keeping silent and not even budging with an official condemnation of this senseless instinct of extermination. By both sides, I would be lynched for what I have just said, if they had the chance. But what have I got to lose anymore?

Martin Accad is the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. He was teaching at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, last week and is now unable to return home.
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Reproduced here as originally published in Christianity Today, and available (along with other commentaries and conversation about the situation) at

'Who Is My Neighbor' in the Lebanon-Israel Conflict?
Further reflections from the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon.
by Martin Accad | posted 07/25/2006 09:30 a.m.

"And who is my neighbor?" an expert of the law asks in fury, annoyed with Jesus' message and behavior that frustrates every notion of conventional "righteousness" (Luke 10:29). Jesus embarks on one of his breathtaking stories about a man, a "righteous" man, apparently the hero of the narrative, suddenly transformed into the "enemy," replaced by a new hero, a Samaritan, an "unrighteous" man. New Testament scholars have pointed out that in this story, the man called to love his enemy is not the Samaritan, but actually the man who lay wounded, stripped of his clothes, half dead. For he, rather than the Samaritan, is the character in the story with whom Jesus' audience would have been able to identify. By inviting the wounded to accept to be helped by his conventional enemy, Jesus calls every one of us to accept to be helped by God, the "outcast," whom we have rejected.

I was overwhelmingly surprised by the responses I got the last two days from people who had read my Christianity Today article. Most were grateful for an alternative voice to what they usually read and hear. I write this text at the closing of a weekend spent responding individually to most of nearly a hundred emails that I got.

David Gushee's gracious response also, in his "Open Letter to Dr. Martin Accad" that Christianity Today published, gives me the desire to be picked up from the roadside despite my wounds. At the end of this weekend I have more hope, because I have discovered life in a part of the church's heart that I had thought dead. Thanks, David, and thank you to the new friends I have made.

If so many in the church in the U.S. actually care enough to listen and respond to a Middle Eastern Arab Christian cry, then perhaps there is enough hope, will and faith in this church to lean over the wounded "enemy" in the Middle East so that the universal church can address injustice and somehow bring to a halt this deliberate targeting of faith communities.

Setting the Record Straight on a Few Points
Through the responses that I received, it became clear to me that there are many misunderstandings about certain realities in the Middle East. The first has to do with the use of the term "terrorist." The term has been so grossly misused for political rhetoric in the past few years that only those who are willing to question deeply-rooted conventions will be able to hear me. "Terrorist" cannot—should not—be used as a noun or in the substantive. It can only be an adjective to describe an act. The fact is that the "terrorists" of one group are the "heroes" of another. The French resistance that used terrorist methods in their resistance to Nazi occupation would have retained their 'terrorist' label had their enemies eventually won World War II. Anti-apartheid units that used terrorist methods in their fight against racism in South Africa also only became heroes after they achieved victory. Examples are endless, but the point is that whenever an armed force carries out military operations so indiscriminate that they repeatedly result in the killing of non-combatant civilians, these should be called "terrorist" acts. On the Lebanese front, the media says that about 35 Israeli and more than 350 Lebanese non-combatants have been killed, with hundreds more injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. Ms. Ansari, Middle East and North Africa program director of Save the Children, U.K., said her "contacts in Lebanon reckoned that up to 45 percent of the casualties were youths." That is about 150 children, up to one hundred families left childless. All of these are acts of terror, and they are still going on, and the international community has been unable (or rather unwilling) to take a decisive stance by calling for a ceasefire.

As for the "real" profile of your so-called "terrorist," come with me to the Beirut suburbs or to the villages of South Lebanon or to some parts of the Bekaa Valley. I will introduce you to many of my friends who eat the same food you do, watch the same movies, share your humanity, and yet happen to be staunch adherents to a group called Hezbollah. Contrary to many corrupt and double-faced political entities and ideologies in the Middle East, Hezbollah have been active in their social and educational programs, coherent in their message, and uncompromising in their political and militant stance. Whatever one's opinion is of the group—and I, for one, am not a fan—in a country where war and occupation have often left a vacuum in entire regions of government, it is these characteristics of Hezbollah that have made it so popular to a majority of the most underprivileged, who happen also to be the most sizeable community in the Lebanese population: Shiites. The reality is that practically every man in almost every family in these regions belongs to the militant group that was first born in an effort to resist Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon in 1982. After having breakfast with them in Beirut, you and I would then sip on a strong black coffee on the plastic chairs of a sidewalk café in the Beirut suburbs and reflect on the tragedy that when Israel and some Western nations promised to get rid of Hezbollah, they effectively vowed the extermination of about a third of the Lebanese population! About 700,000 have been displaced from the South, the Bekaa Valley in East Lebanon, and the Beirut suburbs, and have taken refuge north and east of Beirut. Seven hundred thousand out of a total Lebanese population of 3.5 million, 20 percent of the population, mostly Shiites, are now being cared for and given refuge by mostly Christian schools, churches, and other humanitarian organizations. This is the story of the Good Samaritan at a mega scale! And to think that this is the outcome of a strategy that meant to rouse anti-Hezbollah feelings among the Lebanese population and government. Talk about a failed strategy! Of course, this has happened so many times before that any thoughtful tactician would have learned the lesson by now, but military muscle is always too hedonistic and narcissistic to listen to the voice of reason and history.

The Meeting of Two Radical—Christian and Muslim—Eschatologies
Let me get apocalyptic for a few lines. Last week, David Gushee noted the "disturbing," yet apparently "reliable," reports that Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, adhered to "an apocalyptic form of Islam that envisions such massive destruction as a prelude to the return of the hidden Imam who will then guide all humanity." As a matter of fact, mainstream Islamic eschatology can be read in numerous classical Islamic works. Aall agree that at the end times the "hidden Imam" or "expected Mahdi" will return, accompanied by Prophet 'Issa (the Qur'anic name for Jesus), and standing over Jerusalem, together they will establish the "true religion," punish unbelievers, and rule over God's "faithful." So the fact that Ahmadinejad would believe this is not surprising. What is frightening, however, is that, as Gushee points out in his "Open Letter" of July 21, the "apocalyptic messianism" of an astounding number of evangelical Christians also involves "elaborate end-times scenarios that conveniently involve apocalyptic warfare in the Middle East," and these scenarios are playing right into the hands of Israeli politics (to use a neutral term). Looking at these two currents in parallel, we actually get the impression that we are watching two screenwriters attempting to outwit one another, by giving free play to their imagination in developing the gloomiest scenario possible. Unfortunately for those of us living in the Middle East, the part we are given is to be mere props in this massive nightmare production.

The Jesus Vision
But leaving the big children to play with their toys and end-time scenarios, what can we do, those of us who—as Gushee so graciously puts it—still hold on to "the hope of contributing to the edification of Christ's body and the healing of our suffering world"? I suggest that we set off on a different walk, this time not through the Beirut suburbs, but through the streets of Jerusalem and in the company of our Lord Jesus. As his disciples walked along with him and pointed out to him the greatness of the temple stones, Jesus answered: "Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down" (Matt 24:2). In another place, Jesus, addressing the crowds, made the shocking statement: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). John, the Gospel writer, indicates that by these words "he was speaking of the temple of his body" (John 2:21). We then learn from the Gospel of Mark that this statement eventually cost Jesus his life, as witnesses accused him in front of the high priest's Council: "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands'" (Mark 14:58).

Not until their encounter with the resurrected Christ did Jesus' disciples understand that their hearts were to be attached to him, to his life-giving Cross and Resurrection, to his heavenly kingdom, and not to land and holy places. How much time will it take us? How many more times will we crucify Jesus for his blasphemous words against our petty thinking?

So then, who is your neighbor? Or rather, in Jesus' terms: "Who are my enemies?"

My deepest admiration goes to my Christian friends and co-workers in Lebanon. They have overcome years of civil strife that built walls of fear between different religious communities in Lebanon and have become "innkeepers," opening their hearts to the needy and displaced, regardless of community affiliation. Are we, as Christians everywhere, willing to do the unthinkable and lean over those whom our conventional leaders are calling "our enemies"? Could it be that the Gospel actually calls us to put down our guns and take up instead a passion for justice and care for human life?

When the latest conflict broke out in Lebanon, 70 Western nationals (among them many Americans) got stranded at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, where they were holding a regional conference. For the next few days before their evacuation, they supported the suffering and displaced with prayer, humanitarian relief, and human touch.

Here is how you can be involved as well:
1) Pray for the displaced, injured, and mourning who are living in areas that are being subjected daily to heavy shelling.
2) Pray that the Church in Lebanon will be "salt and light" to the community, that God would be glorified in all that is said and done.
3) Go to the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary website and ask them for their regular updates on the relief efforts.
4) Find out which other organizations are doing relief work in Lebanon and get involved in moral and financial support.

Today is the twelfth day that Lebanon is under siege. How long will it take for us to reach out?