Lebanese refugees are increasing, civilians deaths are climbing and an Arab Baptist is speaking out as Israel and Hezbollah continue fighting.
The Beirut Baptist School sheltered on Tuesday 760 Lebanese fleeing from the Israeli attacks, a sharp increase over the 450 displaced people housed at the school on Saturday.
Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development, reported yesterday that among the newly displaced residents were a pregnant woman and a mother with a six-day-old infant, both of whom needed nourishment.
In his e-mail newsletter, Costa said Lebanese Baptists needed medical care, medication, mattresses, hygiene items and clothing.
Volunteer teams were providing recreational programs for some 50 children, he said.
Costa reported that Elie Haddad, provost at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, contacted a respected Shiite clergyman, about the situation in his neighborhood, which had been viciously bombed.
The clergyman, who has participated in the seminary’s past two forums about pursuing better relationships between Christians and Muslims, “was quite overwhelmed that both ABTS and BBS were lending a hand to displaced Shiite families.”
He told Haddad, “You are different,” according to Costa.
“We’ve been praying that we [would] be able to make a difference through being salt and light in our community,” wrote Costa, “and the events of the day have been little touches of encouragement to each and every one of us.”
On Wednesday, Baptist World Aid announced it was releasing $15,000 in relief funds for Lebanon, while Canadian Baptist Ministries had earlier committed $5,000 in emergency aid for displaced people at BBS and ABTS.
CBM reported there were 60 short-term American volunteers at the seminary.
SAT-7, a Christian TV satellite network, reported its facilities in Beirut were undamaged. Headquartered in Cyprus, SAT-7 receives support from the Baptist General Conference, BMS World Mission, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches-USA.
Terry Ascott, SAT-7 CEO, said the Israeli attacks were “bringing back memories of the sectarian violence that plagued the region for nearly two decades.”
Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reported on Wednesday that at least 55 civilians were killed in Israeli raids across the country, bringing the death toll to 310.
Daily Star earlier reported that 225 civilians and 23 soldiers had died. Over 500 Lebanese have been wounded.
The newspaper said a Christian section of central Beirut had been struck without casualties. Elsewhere gas stations, water pumping facilities, bridges, electrical stations and homes had been destroyed.
The United Nations estimated 500,000 Lebanese had fled their homes.
“It’s a pathetic thing, pitiful,” Faysal Sharif, a Virginia Baptist leader, told EthicsDaily.com. “Where is the clarity of conscience of this world when such killings take place? The question especially applies to followers of Jesus Christ who need to understand the call by Jesus to ‘love your enemy.'”
Sharif, a native of Yemen and a Kingdom Advance ambassador for Muslim Outreach Ministries for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, said the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah were not more valuable than Lebanese lives.
“Because of two people, they have killed over 300 Lebanese,” he said. “I don’t see any justification that we have to kill more.”
“Personally, I think that if the U.S. takes an evenhanded approach the whole problem can be resolved,” he said, lamenting the American policy as one sided. “The U.S. literally gives to Israel the equivalent of $15,000 in per capita support.”
A graduate of American University of Beirut, Sharif said the conflict’s root problem related to the Palestinians and that the problem could be solved by turning over the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.
“U.S. policy is to support blindly Israel,” said Sharif. “Israel has a great influence in this concern. Even many Christian groups support it, especially the dispensationalists and Christian Zionists.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.