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African clerics warn Middle East crisis a danger for their continent

An African church leader has added his voice to those calling on Israel and Hezbollah to agree to mediation, and urging the international community to intensify the search for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, while a Ghanaian cleric has warned the Middle East conflict could have a negative impact in African countries.

"It is disturbing that again military intervention and military conflict seems to be the only language that today’s world seems to understand as the way to resolve conflicts," the All Africa Conference of Churches general secretary, the Rev. Mvume Dandala, told Ecumenical News International.

Dandala’s call came as Muslims around the world continued to protest against Israel’s military action against its neighbour Lebanon. But the African church leader said it was also important for the world to remember Christianity had roots and a strong heritage in the Middle East.

"What happens in the Middle East affects the way people think about their own heritage and what their own heritage should be contributing to the matter of peace," said Dandala.

Dandala noted that the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches was sending a delegation to the Middle East to assess the situation and offer pastoral support.

"They will also meet as many leaders as possible and try to impress on them the need to restrain military action, and intensify diplomatic activity," he said.

The Rev. Johnson Mbillah, a Ghanaian heading the Nairobi-based Project on Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa, said the conflict could lead to bad relations on the continent. "For most Muslims in Africa, Israel is targeting, neither Lebanon nor Hezbollah, but their religion. For them Israel is targeting what they call the Muslim Ummah, that is, the Muslims’ universal community," said Mbillah.

Meanwhile, South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described the Middle East conflict as a recipe for creating suicide bombers.

"Whatever the provocation, there can never be a justification for targeting civilians," the former leader of South African Anglicans told the South African Press Association in Cape Town. "I feel so deeply distressed. Aren’t the leaders of faiths on both sides, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, saying please, please, please, whatever else you do, stop this destruction, mutual destruction? Although worse has happened in Lebanon than in Israel. But it is still that they are shelling there as well, and this is how you recruit suicide bombers."

The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims on 4 August demanded that Kenya cut ties with Israel as sign of condemnation of its onslaught on Lebanon.

(c) Ecumenical News International