Middle East Council of Churches

Unofficial news from the Middle Eastern Christian Ecumenical organization.

Maintained by Tom Scudder

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Saturday, March 22, 2003
Pakistan News Service: UN Revises Iraq Humanitarian Disaster Estimates Upwards
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Mar 21 (PNS) - With the air strikes and land attack mounting on the Iraq people, the United Nations officials express more pessimism with regard to the humanitarian assistance as they over two million people losing shelter and about half of them becoming eligible for refugee status.

The latest UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, prepared for internal purposes only by senior experts, predicts that some 900,000 refugees may seek shelter in bordering states, though it acknowledges that numbers of refugees cannot be predicted with any confidence.

According various relief organisations estimates, the food component alone costs $500 million to $ 600 million a month to run. There remains a lack of clarity as to where the funds would come from to pay for an emergency food relief operation for several million people in the absence of oil revenues.


posted by Tom at 7:09 PM

United Methodist Committee on Relief is also running an emergency appeal for Iraq.
posted by Tom at 7:02 PM

IOM: Amman, Jordan - Sudanese Nationals Fleeing Iraq Begin Journey Home
A first group of 140 Sudanese nationals left a transit camp near the Iraqi border this afternoon aboard a convoy of IOM buses on the first leg of their journey home.

They are scheduled to fly out of Amman to Khartoum on an IOM-chartered Royal Jordanian airways flight at midnight local time this evening. Amman to Khartoum is a 3-hour flight.

Another 160 Sudanese who were also scheduled to leave the Ruweished camp today told IOM officials that they were afraid of persecution if they returned home and wanted to remain in the camp, which is located in the desert 50kms from the Iraqi border and 350 km from Amman.

Negotiations between the group, Sudanese embassy officials, the Jordan authorities and concerned international agencies are ongoing.

Officials supervising the IOM shuttle bus service from the border to the transit camp say that the future of this group needs to be resolved quickly, as more arrivals are expected and the camp has very limited resources and few amenities.

Last night a further 120 people arrived at the camp, which is run by the Jordanian Red Crescent and IOM, and is reserved for third country nationals (TCNs) transiting Jordan.

If Iraqi refugees arrive at the border, IOM buses will transport them to a nearby separate camp run by UNHCR and the Hashemite Charitable Society.

Last night’s arrivals bring the number of TCN arrivals at the border since Wednesday to 470. The majority have been Sudanese, but other nationalities include Egyptians, Yemenis, Somalis, Chadians and Eritreans.

IOM has two doctors and four nurses working in the camp, who report that a number of arrivals are suffering from respiratory infections and exhaustion.

The 140 Sudanese who left the camp this afternoon underwent IOM medical screening this morning to ensure that they were fit to travel.

posted by Tom at 6:53 PM

A bit more on the Chaldean Church

The church mentioned in the message below was the Chaldean Patriarchate (the seat of the Patriarch of the Chaldean church), according to Edmond Addam of MECC.
posted by Tom at 6:22 PM

Checklist of American Religious groups' stance on war
From Beliefnet.com
posted by Tom at 5:44 PM

Journal from a couple of Americans in the West Bank:
Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders
Elizabeth suggested and Fr. Aktham agreed that we say a word to the students at assembly this morning. There was a general murmur when we told them we were going to Cyprus. Some of our students were happy, mostly because it meant they would have extra free periods. Others were in tears - some from thinking this was permanent, others because they, too, thought this meant certain dread for the West Bank in the coming days. Elizabeth spent the next hour visiting with her seventh and eighth graders, writing little notes in their diaries/autography books, taking down their email addresses, and accepting their adorable bright jenini gifts.

posted by Tom at 3:57 PM

Catholic News Service: Chaldean Church slightly damaged in bombing:
ROME (CNS) -- A Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad was slightly damaged during the second night of a U.S.-led missile attack on the Iraqi capital, Catholic humanitarian aid workers said. The church building, located in Baghdad's northern Rashid section, was not directly hit by missiles but sustained some broken windows and other "slight damage," said Karel Zelenka, an official with Caritas Internationalis, the Rome-based international confederation of Catholic aid agencies. Speaking to Catholic News Service after a conference call with local Caritas officials responsible for operations in Iraq, Zelenka said it appeared no one was in the church at the time of the strikes early in the morning of March 21. He said he had no other information, including the church's name, what the strike's intended target might have been or whether there were any casualties in the neighborhood.

posted by Tom at 1:32 PM

Statement from the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East:
22 March 2003


It is with profound sadness that we follow the news of the start of yet another war that plagues the region of the world in which our church lives and ministers.

The Central Committee of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East convened on March 21, 2003, in Beirut for its regular meeting in the midst of a disconcerting influx of details of military action by the USA and its allies in and around Iraq.

    On behalf of our churches and leadership:
  • We affirm the Christian principle of peace and reconciliation that was sacrificially personified by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • We mourn the choice of war as a means to address internal or external problems.
  • We deplore the double standards employed internationally to secure certain governments’ interests over the just treatment of human beings.
  • We join the church the world over in prayer for the resolution of the current crisis, for the innocent victims, and for the healing of the ever-deepening wounds of the peoples of our region.
  • We declare our solidarity with the weak and the defenseless.
  • We commit ourselves to humbly follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus and learn from Him how to be peacemakers in our local and global neighborhoods.
President & Central Committee, UAECNE

The Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East is comprised of churches of fellowships in the following countries: Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Syria, Iran, Australia and Lebanon where it has its headquarters.

posted by Tom at 12:49 PM

Friday, March 21, 2003

Communiqué by the Heads of Churches in the Middle East:

See the official web site for the whole thing:

What we feared and labored to avert has happened. Now, in our responsibility as heads of churches, caretakers of God’s creation and as fellow humans, we have added responsibilities, and as such:
  • We will continue to exert our efforts with all parties concerned and all who may have an effective voice both internationally and regionally so as to limit the temporal and geographical expansion of the war, spare innocent civilians, and bring it to a halt as quickly as possible.
  • We call especially upon those governments that opposed this war and upon international organizations concerned with health, relief, development and human rights to hasten in helping those who have been hit by this war, helping them avert the dangers that threaten their lives, their possessions to live a .
  • We urge the Middle East Council of Churches and all humanitarian organizations to remain on a state of high alert in marshalling, intensifying and directing social and humanitarian services both now and for as long as required in order to help those stricken by this war, especially in Iraq
  • We call on all the members of our churches and all citizens of our countries to strengthen their unity and solidarity with each other, resisting all foreign incursions and self-interested, extremist interferences that seek to undermine our national unity and fraternal coexistence.

Signed by 19 heads of churches
posted by Tom at 3:52 PM

More Crisis Responses:

The Mennonite Central Committee and Lutheran World Relief are both running appeals.
posted by Tom at 12:17 PM

From Church World Service, this update:
The 56-year-old agency is responding through its long-time partner, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), which has addressed its capacities in Iraq and neighboring countries. Some relief supplies were positioned in Iraq and Jordan just prior to the war. CWS has already airlifted 4,500 blankets, valued at $19,170, to MECC in Amman Jordan.

Church World Service also announced today the issuance of a new $1.5 million appeal ($1,552,569) to help fund humanitarian response to Iraq. Appeal funds are designated for use and implementation by the agency’s on the ground partner The Middle East Council of Churches.

This campaign extends CWS’ ongoing fundraising and supply provision efforts. The agency has provided some $3 million in the last five years for humanitarian assistance in Iraq. In addition, CWS recently entered into a multi-agency coalition campaign called All Our Children, created to provide for the medical and health needs of Iraqi children which have been greatly exacerbated by wars and more than a decade of trade sanctions. That appeal for $1 million was expanded in February.

posted by Tom at 11:53 AM

From the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA:
As U.S. hostilities begin against Iraq:

We pray for the men and women of the armed forces of both sides, facing grave dangers in a mission not of their making.

We pray for the innocent civilians of Iraq, especially the children. May they be protected from harm and the multiple injustices of war.

We pray for all the people of the world who will be put at risk by the unintended consequences of this war.

We pray for all those in poverty whose fragile well-being will be sacrificed in the preoccupation with -- and expense of -- this war.

We who have worked so hard to avert a pre-emptive war against Iraq mourn for all the lives now threatened by the failure of their leaders to find alternatives to war.

Finally, we pray for the leaders of the United States, of Iraq, and of the United Nations, that they may learn from the history of failures of heart, mind and will that led to this war.

posted by Tom at 11:50 AM

The Christian Conference of Asia has issued an appeal to Rescue Iraq!:
Dear Co-Workers in Christ:

Today, March 20, the United States and its allies began the brutal and inhuman aggression against Iraq and its innocent people despite all the worldwide activities of mass protests, prayer vigils and candle-lighting for peace. The Christian Conference of Asia strongly condemns this war which is a crime against humanity and a violation of God’s will for fullness of life for all God’s peoples.

We all know the terrible consequences of this war – loss of innocent lives, destruction of their sources of livelihood, reduction of their food and health supplies, among other things.

We therefore call upon our member churches and councils to help RESCUE IRAQ! This is CCA’s appeal for urgent relief for the people and churches in Iraq even as we continue to pray for peace with justice in the country.

They also issued an Open Letter to Kofi Annan

Here is a big collection of statements from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
posted by Tom at 11:47 AM

Thursday, March 20, 2003
Washington Post: Vatican, Other Churches, Deplore War
The Vatican on Thursday lashed out at Washington for interrupting diplomacy as churches around the world stood united in deploring the war in Iraq.

"The Vatican is deeply pained by the latest developments in Iraq," Vatican chief spokesman Jaoquin Navarro-Valls, one of Pope John Paul's closest aides, said in a statement.

"On the one hand it laments the fact that the Iraqi government did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations and the appeal by the pope himself, which asked for the country to disarm.

"On the other hand, it deplores the interruption of the path of negotiations, according to international law, for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi drama."
Pope John Paul has emerged in recent weeks as one of the most powerful anti-war voices.

posted by Tom at 8:46 PM

On Preparations for Humanitarian Aid in Iraq:

Read here and here on the MECC web site, and here on Action by Churches Together's web site for background. Today, ACT released another press release:

ACT International calls on those engaged in military action in Iraq to ensure that as a matter of urgency, humanitarian agencies involved in relief efforts in the country have immediate and unconditional access to those in need following armed intervention. They must also be given the space to work and the right of such agencies to take independent positions and actions must be upheld.

"The plight of the Iraqi people weighs heavily on our hearts," says the director of the coordinating office of ACT International, Thor-Arne Prois. "Under the present circumstances, we affirm the long-standing humanitarian principle of unconditional access to people in need."

Prois said that the long-term cost of war would be extremely serious for the Iraqi people, as decades of war, international sanctions and the actions of its regime have crippled the country's infrastructure, leaving the people of Iraq extremely vulnerable. Extensive human suffering is an inevitable and predictable consequence of military action. The immediate human costs of military action are likely to include civilian casualties, possible displacement of people and the breakdown of state functions.

At least eight major relief centers and 44 smaller centers where people can seek refuge have been established in Iraq by MECC through local churches and mosques. The centers are concentrated around four cities: Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul and Basra. Relief efforts include providing shelter for internally displaced Iraqis and people who have or are fleeing to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Essential household and other non-food items are also being distributed.

All relief efforts of ACT International are being coordinated through the ACT regional coordination office for the Middle East, which is based in Amman, Jordan.

posted by Tom at 8:10 PM

Statements from Sundry Ecumenical Organizations on the War:

The World Council of Churches has issued a Statement and a Press Release:

Reacting with "profound sorrow" to news that a military attack on Iraq has begun, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser has today released a statement calling the attack "immoral, illegal and ill-advised".

In condemning the attack led by the United States, Raiser points out that it began "without the consent of the UN Security Council" and that it ignores "the voice of civil society, churches and other faith communities in those countries and world-wide".

Churches for Middle East Peace writes (no weblink yet):
Churches for Middle East Peace deeply regrets the decision by the United States and other nations to begin military action against Iraq. We are concerned about the injury and loss of life of U.S. personnel who have been deployed to the region and of the Iraqi people who once again suffer the devastating effects of war.

In the midst of these horrific events, our prayers are with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Mindful of God’s will for peace and justice on earth, we pledge our efforts to work actively for peace and to urge the U.S. government to:

  • bring hostilities to a swift end,
  • take measures to protect civilians and non-combatants,
  • abide by the Geneva Conventions and international law in the conduct of war and in its aftermath,
  • support efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis that will result from the war,
  • support multilateral measures under the leadership of the United Nations to rebuild Iraq and protect the Iraqi people,
  • bolster regional arms control measures following the war, and
  • provide concrete and immediate leadership to the process of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

We pray that the leaders of our nation and the nations of the world will have compassion and wisdom. We join the members of our churches in praying for the safety of United States servicemen and women and for the safety of the people of Iraq. We call upon members of our churches to act in a manner consistent with their faith and conscience to foster peace in the Middle East.

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches writes (also not on line yet):
We speak today out of deep sadness and regret: regret that the force of international public opinion did not, in the end, dissuade the United States administration and its few remaining allies from embarking on a war that will bring suffering, misery and death to many thousands in Iraq and, perhaps, elsewhere.

We reiterate our view, stated on February 21 and shared by countless Reformed and other churches throughout the world, that this war, undertaken without even the cover of UN authorization, is immoral and illegal. To use a traditional term, it is sin.

I also received this letter from the program staff at the Urban-Rural Mission:
Dear brothers and sisters,

It is with sadness that we watch events unfold in Iraq and the region of the faith of our fathers. Once more we see peace elude these lands which the rest of the world never seem to want to leave in peace. Once more we watch in helplessness as world powers play their geo-political games of power and self interest, while pretending it is for the common good. Once more we see the ultimate de-humanisation of a hapless and vulnerable people being perpetrated in the name of our long-suffering God, and the name of the Prince of Peace being invoked in sanction of the heartless destruction now being unleashed on this part of His creation.

As these events unfold before all of us, may we, on behalf of the URM family throughout the world, dare to assure those of you caught up in this unfortunate drama that our thoughts and our hearts are with you. Dare, because of our feeling of helplessness, because we can never pretend to be affected the way you are by these events, or feel the pain you must feel in the same degree. Dare, because it is only from the safety of our own places that we pray with you. However, our hope and prayer is that it is the Lord Himself who will sustain you and give you the strength that will see you through these difficult and unfortunate times. May He turn our weakness into your strength and our helplessness into your sustenance and hope.

May I also take this opportunity to commend you and your colleagues in the URM network and in the MECC for the efforts you are making to make an impact on the lives of those who will be affected and for the personal sacrifices that most of you will be making in these times to sustain these efforts. May God be with you and bless these efforts. May I aslo thank you for sharing with us regularly and keeping us informed.

Yes, in times like these we have no choice but to hope that God is with us, that His promises to us are true, that he alone is righteous and in total control of all. So let us lift up our prayer to Him in the words of Psalm 82 and cry out in the words of the last verse of that psalm: "Arise, O God, judge the earth, for to Thee belong all the nations!"

Please remember our weakness in your own prayers.

In Christ,

Kwame A. Labi &

Denise von Arx

Programme Staff

Community & Justice in Mission (URM)

World Council of Churches

posted by Tom at 7:58 PM

This is a temporary, unofficial weblog for the Middle East Council of Churches, whose official page can be found at www.mecchurches.org. The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is an ecumenical council that brings together most of the churches in the Middle East, Catholic, Orthodox (both Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian) and Protestant. In this time of war, this log will focus on ecumenical and other church responses to the war, both in opposing it and in dealing with the humanitarian consequences.
posted by Tom at 2:24 PM