The Arab Spring – Statement by United Methodist GBCS

The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) issued a statement at its Board of Directors meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C., that calls on governments around the world to make fundamental realignment of their policies towards the Middle East and North Africa.

The realignment is necessitated, according to the statement drafted by GBCS’s Peace with Justice and United Nations/International Affairs work areas, by this year’s “Arab Spring” in which people throughout North Africa and the Middle East are rising up against decades of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, gross human rights violations, and economic deprivation.

The statement was approved unanimously by the agency’s Board of Directors.

The statement follows:
The Arab Spring
Dignity, Freedom, Human Rights
and Economic Justice

The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a water garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
(Isaiah 58:11)

Truly, the pious will be amid the Gardens and
springs. [It is said to them]: Enter them in peace,
in security, And We remove whatever bitterness
they have in their breasts [so that they enter]
as brothers, raised aloft on couches.
No weariness afflicts them there, nor will they
be expelled. Declare unto My servants, that verily,
I am the Forgiving, the Merciful.
(Koran 15:45-49)

The Arab people throughout North Africa and the Middle East are rising up against decades of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, gross human rights violations, and economic deprivation. There is a dramatic change taking place in the Arab world. The fear to speak out and demonstrate in the public square is gone. Youths, women, trade unionists, religious leaders and ordinary people are engaged in sustained massive demonstrations, strikes, marches and rallies. They have used social media to contact each other and make known their struggles to the world. This is the Arab Spring. People are standing up for their dignity, freedom, and human rights and for economic justice.

In our United Methodist Social Principles, we affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We also affirm the use of non-violent methods in the resolution of conflict, national or international.

We, the General Board of Church and Society, thus laud non-violent actions that people in the region have taken. We rejoice that Tunisian and Egyptian people have taken important steps toward liberating their countries from dictatorial rule. While it is not clear what type of government will replace them there is hope. Such hope will flourish if their new-found freedom and human dignity allows them to freely fashion and self-determine for themselves the kind of society they want to have.

We are concerned about military force in bringing about change in the region. It is our hope and prayer that the Arab people will maintain their struggle for a just and durable peace and social order.

We are deeply disturbed that regimes in the region — Bahrain, Syria, Jordan and Yemen — defy the demands of their people for change. They have responded with systematic intimidation, violent repression and extrajudicial killing. A lasting peace in the region must not and cannot include the unnecessary death and sacrifice of civilians whose toll is already high.

We join with the Aug. 8, 2011, call of the World Council of Churches for army and government security agencies to cease the indiscriminate use of force and ensure the citizens’ rights to free assembly and expression. All governments have an obligation to protect the lives and dignity of their citizens, and to protect their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Nothing should frustrate or usurp the will of the people for self-determination including any opportunism to profit economically from the new and evolving dispensation in these Arab countries. A true Arab Spring must promote a just, participatory and sustainable development. This, we believe, can be the most durable antidote to Arab discontent in areas of political governance and economic policy.

We call on governments around the world, especially the U.S. government, members of the European Union and the Arab League, to make fundamental realignment of their policies towards the region by:
Ending military aid, arms sales, and political support to regimes violating human rights;
Supporting just, sustainable and genuine change based on the people’s vision of what they want their countries to be; and
Urging the international financial institutions to mobilize resources for sustainable development.

As people in the tradition of John Wesley, we call on United Methodists to pray for the people in the region and support citizens’ movements for freedom, democracy and human rights.

The present-day situation in the Middle East and North Africa gives meaning to United Methodist Council of Bishops’ “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope & Action,” released in 2010:

We are not hemmed into a fallen world. Rather we are part of a divine unfolding process to which we must contribute. God has blessed human beings with the capacity to read the signs of the times and to respond with intelligence and faith. God has inspired human beings to envision new futures and to invent the tools to make them a reality. God is bringing people together to plan and to act upon emerging realities.

I share this with you in the name of the Prince of Peace!

Mark Harrison
Director, Peace with Justice

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