The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a national organization of 850 leaders of communities of Catholic sisters calls for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire by the Israeli army and the Hezbollah militia currently engaged in violent combat in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza.

We condemn Hezbollah’s deliberate invasion of Israeli borders, the abduction of two Israeli soldiers and the targeting of Israeli citizens.  The Hezbollah militia, which does not act in the name of the Lebanese government, has gravely endangered the citizens of Lebanon, the young, fragile democracy of that nation, and the infrastructure that supports the country.

We condemn the disproportionate response of Israel, killing and wounding hundreds of citizens of Lebanon, and inflicting massive damage on the essential infrastructure of that country.  We concur with theVatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano who stated that: “Defense by a state is not exempt from abidance by the norms of international law, especially as regards the safeguarding of civilian populations.”  We also condemn Israel’s continued military actions against the Palestinian civilians of Gaza.

As citizens of the United States we acknowledge with profound regret that our nation’s pre-emptive attack on Iraq, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by US-led forces, carried out with little understanding of the region’s history  or its culture has greatly inflamed hostilities throughout the Middle East and contributed significantly to the present crisis.

We call on President George W. Bush and his administration to stop its obstructionist postures and delaying tactics at the United Nations and within the international community. The deliberate postponement of any efforts to bring the violence to an immediate halt before beginning diplomatic negotiations prolongs the terrible suffering of the Lebanese and Israeli peoples and worsens an already horrific humanitarian crisis.  We call upon the members of congress to act decisively and immediately mandate that the United States join with the international community to end the violence now.  

We commit ourselves and the members of our religious communities to exercise all of our rights and duties as citizens to urge our leaders to act as responsible members of the world community. We join our prayer with religious people of all faiths who long for peace, who believe in a God of peace, and who are working to make God’s dream for a world at peace a reality.