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World church leaders call for an end to the violence

Saying the world cannot wait for signs of a "new Middle East," leaders of three prominent international groups representing millions of Christians worldwide issued a joint appeal for an end to the violence in the Middle East today.

The leaders included Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Bishop Mark Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation, and Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

The appeal states that a ceasefire is imperative as a first step, adding, "It is time for the leaders of the nations, working through the United Nations, to bring to bear the full force of their influence" for peace.

"We are shocked by the relentless violence, death and devastation occurring in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. We mourn the loss of life.  We abhor the untold human costs of this conflict, especially its impact of innocent people.

"We deplore the destruction of infrastructure and property. In the face of tragedy of such magnitude, we affirm that God calls us to do justice, reconcile with our enemies and live together in peace."

The statement from the church leaders calls on Israel and Hezbullah to end the fighting in Lebanon and for the United States, the European Union and the Arab States to do their part to bring an end to the fighting. It also calls upon Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to end the conflict in Gaza.

"Whatever the reality of the alleged provocations by both sides of the conflict, this spiral of violence serves no end but the devastation of Lebanon and the inflicting of wounds of terror in Israel.

"Neither the terror of Katyusha rockets nor the destruction of Lebanese homes, schools and villages can contribute to a lasting peace in the region. Such acts will lead to even deeper hatred between the parties than that which has fuelled the current violence," the appeal states.