Baptist leaders questioned why the United Nations’ Security Council took so long to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, as they looked toward the post-war humanitarian crisis and rebuilding of Lebanon.
A month after the fighting began, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the Israel army from southern Lebanon with the accompanying deployment of the Lebanese army and a 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers force into that area.
Although Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he accepted the resolution and that his cabinet would consider it on Sunday, he said Israel would continue to expand the military campaign.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah also agreed with the resolution and said his forces would continue to fight Israel as long as Israel occupied southern Lebanon.
Baptist leaders questioned the slowness with which the international community achieved a ceasefire agreement.
“I still can’t understand how the international community waited for one whole month before calling for a ceasefire while our country [was] being systematically destroyed,” said Elie Haddad, provost of Lebanon’s Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com.
Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, said, “It comes about a month too late! Too many have been killed, maimed, injured and displaced.”
Montacute expressed the hope that all parties would “honor the agreement,” encouraging Baptists to pray that warring factions would keep the ceasefire.
“We pray it works out,” said Lebanese Baptist leader Nabil Costa. “Humanitarian need is urgent.”
An estimated 861 Lebanese and 83 Israeli civilians have been killed in 31 days of fighting, according to CNN. Some 700,000 Lebanese have been displaced from their homes.
“We have already been talking with Baptist partners about the enormous task of rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of those who have suffered so much,” Montacute told EthicsDaily.com.
He urged Baptists to give generously through Baptist World Aid.
“We have had donations from national and state conventions, and we have had donations from individuals,” Montacute said. Such donations help BWAid to entrust, empower and enable indigenous Baptist leaders in the affected areas.
“The greatest need is going to be housing,” said Haddad. “A good portion of the displaced people have already lost their homes. Most of them are living in miserable conditions already. It will get a lot worse with the advent of winter.”
Haddad said ABTS has cancelled its intensive course work in September. He hopes the seminary can open in October.
Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development, identified shelter as a critical need, as well as financial support for those who had lost their employment.
He said many of the seminary students have “lost their homes, and they can’t afford paying any tuitions.”
BWAid said a $27 donation would provide housing and three meals for a refugee at ABTS for one day. A gift of $85 would help Lebanese Baptists supply water each day at the Beirut Baptist School for some 700 displaced persons.
$50,000 was need for on-going relief efforts, according to BWAid.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.