Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christian leaders urge Obama to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority

Broad Coalition of Christian Leaders Call on Obama
To Make Israeli-Palestinian Peace an Immediate Priority

CONTACT: Warren Clark/Carolyn Danckaert
Churches for Middle East Peace*

(Washington, DC, December 2, 2008) A broad spectrum of American Christian leaders - from Catholic and Orthodox traditions to mainline Protestant, Evangelical and historic African American churches and institutions - have appealed to President-elect Barack Obama to make Israeli- Palestinian peace an immediate priority during his first year in office.

In a December 1 letter sent to President-elect Obama as well as key members of his transition team and newly unveiled national security team, the leaders urged the incoming Obama Administration to "provide sustained, high-level diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal of a final status agreement" that will establish a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

The letter notes that a durable peace agreement will help "strengthen U.S. security and improve stability and relationships through the Middle East." Without active U.S. engagement, the leaders warned that "political inertia and perpetuation of the unbearable status quo will make achievement of a two-state solution increasingly difficult." The leaders are also concerned about the "negative impact a further delay will have on the Christian community in the Holy Land, whose numbers continue to decline."

Sending the letter during Advent, a season of hope and expectation in the Christian calendar, the leaders expressed their belief that "Jerusalem - home to two peoples and three religions - has the potential to become a powerful symbol of hope and coexistence for people across the region and the world."

The leaders called on all Christians to support "vigorous U.S. diplomatic efforts to secure Middle East peace." The letter is being followed by a broad grassroots campaign aimed at mobilizing American Christian church members nationwide. The final letter signed by both Christian leaders and congregants will be delivered to President Obama during the time of inauguration.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said today, "This letter speaks to the need for the incoming Obama administration to help bring about a peace agreement quickly between Israelis and Palestinians. The opportunity for achieving a two- state solution is narrowing and must be seized now. Further delays will make reaching an agreement much harder and undermine long-term security for both Israelis and Palestinians."

Bishop Howard Hubbard, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "This conflict continues to undermine the social, economic and spiritual fabric of the lives of all persons in the region, including Christians who have lived in the Holy Land since the earliest days of our faith. With majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians supporting a durable peace, it is incumbent on their political leaders and our own to do everything possible to help bring about a just peace."

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland Church said, "Our faith calls on us to work and pray for peace. It's not about taking one side over the other, it's about seeking justice for both parties. The President- elect can be assured that there are many American Christians who stand ready to support his efforts when it comes to seeking a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace."
The full text of the letter and list of signers is available at: http://www.cmep.org/ecumenical-letter.pdf


* Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 22 national church bodies, all of which are represented on the ecumenical letter, and is the point of contact for any press inquiries.

email: info@cmep.org
phone: 202-543-1222
web: http://www.cmep.org