Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Middle East Christians praise US MidEast stand


Church Leaders Commend Rice's Leadership in Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, Ask for More

Washington,November 16, 2005 -- The State Department received on Monday a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from the national leaders of 21 Christian churches and church-related agencies encouraging her active engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The church leaders, through the coalition Churches for Middle East, signed the letter which was distributed to all members of Congress.

One of the signers, Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary the of National Council of Churches, today commended Secretary Rice for her persistent role in facilitating the negotiations that resulted yesterday in an agreement related to Gaza's border crossings and movement between Gaza and the West Bank. Quoting from the letter, "Hope is difficult to sustain as Israel continues to block movement of Palestinian people and goods," Edgar said he was newly encouraged by Secretary Rice's comment that "this agreement is intended to give the Palestinian people the freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives."

Marie Dennis, who signed the letter as Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, stressed the church leaders' appeal for U.S. leadership toward a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. "We believe that you and the President, working cooperatively with the Quartet, have the power to bring both sides to the negotiating table." She further said, "We cannot emphasize enough the significance of this moment and the imperative of the U.S. leadership."

The letter reflects the long-time interest of the U.S. churches in urging that Jerusalem be shared by the two peoples and the three Abrahamic faiths. The signers asked Secretary Rice to "ensure that Palestinians in East Jerusalem are able to participate fully in Palestinian legislative elections in January." Bishop Vicken Aykazian, signing for the Armenian Orthodox Church, sees it as a good sign that Israel complied with President Bush's insistence that building in the E1 area (near East Jerusalem) cease. "We are grateful that the Administration has continued to demand that settlement activity cease, and disappointed that Israel has ignored that request and other requirements of the Road Map."

Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches and church-related agencies that advocates for U.S. policies that are conducive to peacemaking between Israel and the future state of Palestine. CMEP's Board members and staff meet with Congressional offices and with Administration officials, and provide advocacy guidance to church members and congregations across the country.

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS and GBGM).

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For information, contact: Corinne Whitlatch, 202-543-1222; Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350,