Maronite bishops call for ceasefire, humanitarian corridors in Lebanon

.- Bishops in Lebanon called for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors, over the weekend, seeking the assistance of the United Nations Security Council.

In an eight-point statement issued Friday, the Maronite bishops have expressed their support for the Lebanese government and condemned Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, based on the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah forces, reported AsiaNews.

"The painful incidents which Lebanon is witnessing are unjustified and inconceivable," reads the statement, which was issued after an emergency meeting of bishops, called by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. The patriarch had just returned from on a one-month tour of the United States.

"Does the abduction of two Israeli soldiers deserve cutting all of the country's joints?” the bishops wrote. “The Lebanese people's tragic condition forces us to forget political discords and unite efforts to face the crisis."

The bishops called on humanitarian institutions, notably the Lebanese and international Red Cross, to provide the people with medication and food. Currently, more than 700,000 Lebanese citizens have fled for safety in other parts of the country or in Syria since the violence started July 12, reported Fides.

Caritas, the international Catholic assistance organization, as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, are mobilizing despite the difficulties caused by the current state of war. Caritas Lebanon has been asked by the government to care for 50,000 families mostly sheltering in public buildings, such as schools, in Tyre and Beirut. Caritas reported that water, food, and medicine are needed urgently.

The UNHCR is meeting the immediate needs of some refugees with tents, plastic sheeting and blankets in deposits in Syria and Jordan.

The bishops appealed to people of goodwill to help defenseless citizens who have been forced to flee; they urged all citizens to assist each other, regardless of creed. They also welcomed Pope Benedict’s call to pray for peace in Lebanon on Sunday.  

While U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made a surprise visit to Lebanon over the weekend, an international meeting is still scheduled to be held in Rome, July 26th. Rice will meet with the foreign ministers of Italy, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the Lebanese foreign minister to discuss how a permanent ceasefire can be reached.


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