A U.S. Baptist official has added his name to the list of religious leaders calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East.

Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., wrote President Bush Monday asking him “to exercise the power of your office to work towards an immediate cease-fire between Israel and non-state parties in Lebanon.”

“In keeping with longstanding policies of our denomination, I urge you through Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, to work for a lasting peace which fully recognizes the Israel as a state and fully recognizes the right to self-determination by the Palestinian people,” Medley wrote. “We offer our prayers for the efforts of Secretary Rice as she meets with leaders in the Middle East.”

In a letter to his denomination, Medley said American Baptists have a long tradition of working for “those things which make for peace.”

Two years ago Medley visited the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, with Carolyn Predmore, an American Baptist international missionary, who wanted him to see a plaque on the museum’s second floor. Translated into English, it read. “July 1, 1948:  At the Northern Baptist Annual Convention held in Milwaukee, USA, it was decided that August 6 is ‘No More Hiroshimas’ Day.” (The ABC/USA was formerly named the Northern Baptist Convention.)

“This statement so soon after the war so caught the imagination of the designers of the Peace Memorial that they enshrined the statement in the museum,” Medley wrote. “There it stands today as a powerful witness to our vocation for peace.”

“In our time,” Medley continued, “we are called to speak and work for peace in the same way.  The teachings of Jesus give us a richer imagination for the possibilities for life than does the wisdom of the world. That richer imagination prompted the ‘No More Hiroshimas’ Day declaration, just as the Cold War and the policy of mutually assured destruction were gaining preeminence.”

Medley said that same imagination also prompted American Baptists’ General Board to issue a 1980 resolution supporting “a mediating role for our government in the search for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

“The basis for peacemaking as spelled out in the resolution was both the ‘full recognition of the State of Israel as a sovereign state by all parties’ and the ‘recognition by Israel that the Palestinian Arab people have the right to self-determination,'” he said.

Medley said: “The wounds of each side go deep. Worldly wisdom would say there is no hope for peace. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers the basis for hope in the richer imagination spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6).”

He encouraged church members to pray for Secretary of State Rice and that leaders would achieve “a richer imagination for the possibilities of peace open to them.”

Medley also shared with church members the content of a letter sent last Friday to President Bush by Mainline Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Mennonite leaders with the Churches for Middle East Peace that called for an immediate ceasefire.

One of the signatories of that letter was Stan Hastey, executive director of the Alliance of Baptists.

In other news, Reid Trulson, area director for Europe and the Middle East for ABC’s International Ministries, told EthicsDaily.com that missionaries Dan and Sarah Chetti were safe and continued working at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut with displaced Shiites.

“Beirut was quiet for about two days, then about 1 a.m. Sunday erupted with at least three heavy bombs,” Trulson wrote. The bombs were thought to be “‘bunker busters’ intended to destroy underground bunkers.”

An estimated 400 Lebanese have been killed and 500,000 people displaced by the fighting, which started two weeks ago when Israel retaliated against Hezbollah, a Lebanese Islamic resistance group backed by Iran and Syria, for abducting two Israeli soldiers during a raid into Israel.

The Bush administration continues to oppose a cease-fire. The U.S. considers Hezbollah a terrorist group and insists Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel has rejected any cease-fire until soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerillas are released and Hezbollah is pushed back from Israel’s border.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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