Christians Divided Over Middle East Crisis

Biblical passages, historical precedents, and international laws are sources used by Christians to support their stance for the Lebanon-Israel conflict – a war that has divided Christians, Americans, heads of state, and even the Arab world.

Lasting peace and rooting out terrorism versus civilian deaths and the Gospel’s message of peace and reconciliation are popular responses to support differing stances in the current Lebanon-Israel clash.

Faith-based aid groups are among those urging an immediate cease-fire, sounding the alarm on the growing humanitarian crisis in Lebanon as the conflict rages on for a third week.

“Right now, this man-made humanitarian crisis is spiraling out of control,” said Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) regional director for the Middle East in a statement released on Thursday. “An eagerly anticipated cease-fire has not happened and no solution to the crisis has been found. Almost one quarter of Lebanon’s four million people are now directly and personally affected by this conflict, either driven from their homes or trapped in them.”

Some 700,000 Lebanese are said to be displaced from their homes with additional civilians isolated in villages near the Israel border. Aid groups such as partners of Action by Churches Together (ACT) and World Vision are rushing to deliver basic food, relief items, and medicine in the face of the challenges of dwindling fuel and lack of safe passageway.

However, other Christian groups have pointed out the danger of allowing terrorists groups to continue to exist and called on President Bush and the U.S. to continue to support Israel in its fight against the Lebanese based Islamic militant group.

American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) is one such group that supports Israel’s offense, viewing it as a fight for lasting peace and democracy.

“As we well know from experience, when terrorists are allowed to thrive in any nation, we are ALL THREATENED,” read the support Israel page on the group’s website. “Any attack on Israel is an attack on freedom – and freedom attacked anywhere is freedom attacked everywhere.”

The group highlighted true freedom and peace can only come after the “terrorist infrastructure has been eliminated.”

In solidarity with Israel and its offense, ACLJ’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, explained that although some call for a cease-fire, he believes “that would be dangerous for global stability.”

Sekulow further wrote in his online trial notebook on Friday, “While we all hope for ultimate peace in the region, it is not realistic to have Israel see the success that it has militarily and then pull back, thereby allowing Hezbollah to rebuild. The terrorist threat must be neutralized once and for all.”

Other Christians have also weighed in on the debate, comparing the current war with World War II and the situation in Iraq.

“Would God have preferred to remove Hitler before he could have gassed 6 million Jews and causing the deaths of millions more?” posed a Christian reader in response to an article titled, “What Would Jesus Bomb?” by John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “It would be naïve to consider only the human right of Hitler, ignoring the rights of all who were oppressed.”

The reader, who supports Israel and U.S. efforts to bring “democracy and freedom” to the region, posted a political cartoon depicting Israel’s difficult position where it must disarm Hezbollah while avoid killing innocent lives. In one panel, the missile target is aimed at Hezbollah who is surrounded by civilians. The other panel illustrates Hezbollah aiming to kill Israeli civilians while soldiers protect the civilians. The cartoon comments on the strong difference in objective of the two sides in the current war and their view of civilian deaths.

“So being Christian does not simply mean to take every wrong that is committed and to not do anything. If someone is being unjustly attacked right next to you, surely it is your duty to step in and intervene,” added the commenter, who calls himself frankie57 on “The struggle for justice to prevail is important, and Jesus overturned the temple at the sight of unrighteousness.

“So rather than taking a straight-line neo-conservative view, I prefer to ask, what is God’s will in this struggle. I do not believe God wants to keep the status quo, as many always falls into complacent wickedness. I believe that as Condoleezza Rice said, the Middle East is going through the birthing pains of a new Middle East – hopefully one more open to receiving the word of the Gospel.”