Religious Leaders Commend U.S. Leadership in Middle East Peace Process

A group of 37 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders expressed support and cooperative effort for United States leadership in the Road Map to Peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Karen Hughes, leaders expressed their appreciation for their leadership in striving for achieving peace between each side.

“We believe Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible, that active, fair and firm U.S. leadership is essential to achieving this goal, and that achieving peace is vitally important to protecting U.S. national security interests and reducing the threat of global terrorism,” wrote the leaders including the heads of several mainline churches, rabbinical and Islamic associations.

The group highlighted its own efforts in recent years to unite religious leaders via the “Trans National Town Hall Meeting for Peace,” which took place online and gathered 3,000 members from each faith group in 50 cities. It also requested a meeting with both diplomatic leaders to further discuss how the various communities could work together.

It also noted that Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IA) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) had initiated a bi-partisan effort to members of their respective bodies to urge them to support U.S. leadership.

The group stressed the importance of following the Road Map, and keeping to its requirements for bi-lateral action on the part of Israelis and Palestinians, while recognizing that the time was urgent to make progress following Israel’s departure from Gaza earlier this year.

The leaders also expressed solidarity with President George Bush’s commitment to see Israel and Palestine existing as democratic nations co-existing side-by-side. They supported measures to increase security between both peoples to prevent violent attacks. They also thanked both U.S. officials for working to improve security and economic levels to move towards non-violence.

The letter mentioned that as the Palestinian Authority grew in strength through support, it should work to “disarm groups within its borders that act with violence towards Israelis. At the same time the group also called on Israel to “remove unauthorized outposts,” and “stop settlement expansion” or any activities to contradict the Road Map regarding Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

The group said it was committed to obtaining support from each of their respective communities, as well as calling on government to support “firm” U.S. leadership for the Road Map.

The following is the full text of the letter:

Dear Madame Secretary and Ambassador Hughes,

We write on behalf of 37 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. These leaders, including the heads of twenty-five national organizations, are joined together since 2003 in an unprecedentedcooperative effort to support U.S. leadership of the Road Map to Peace. Wewould welcome an opportunity for leaders of the National Interreligious Initiative to meet with you.

We write today to express our deep appreciation to you, Secretary Rice, for the crucial leadership role you played in helping Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach agreement about opening Gaza, while effectively meeting Israeli security concerns. We write also in appreciation to you, Ambassador Hughes for the challenging role you have
taken on as Under Secretary for Diplomacy and Public Affairs and the sense of urgency for achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace we understand you developed in the course of your important trip through the Middle East. We believe Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible, that active, and firm U.S. leadership is essential to achieving this goal, and that achieving peace is vitally important to protecting U.S. nationalsecurity interests and reducing the threat of global terrorism.

Leaders of the Interreligious Initiative are committed to encouraging local interreligious support for your efforts in cities across the country. In January 2005 more than 250 religious leaders in fifteen cities joined in an appeal to the President and Congress in support of the Road Map. In June 3000 Jews, Christians and Muslims gathered in synagogues, churches and mosques in fifty cities to participate in a Trans National Town Hall Meeting for Peace (via the internet) sponsored by A Different Future, with religious and civil society speakers from Jerusalem and Washington, DC. Senator Lugar and Representative Hyde initiated bi-partisan "Dear Colleague" letters in the Senate and House acknowledging the message of urgency from their constituents across the country in support of leadership that only the U.S. can provide to help Israelis and Palestinians resolve the conflict. This Fall A Different Future has initiated a series of Conference Call Briefings for national and local religious leaders.

We believe the Road Map to Peace continues to provide an essential framework for negotiated progress toward peace, including its mandate for reciprocal, simultaneous steps by both parties, monitoring of implementation, and an accepted timetable. We fear that if negotiations to implement the Road Map are not resumed quickly, the opportunity for progress toward peace created by Israel's disengagement from Gaza may
be lost.

Leaders of the Interreligious Initiative strongly support the President's commitment to the goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, and his commitment to restart the Road Map to Peace. Based on provisions in the Road Map, we support the appointment of a successor to General Ward for an "enhanced mission" to strengthen Israeli-Palestinian security coordination to prevent violent attacks on Israelis. Preventing such attacks is essential to restoring Israeli hopes for peace. The recent attacks and counter-attacks give even greater urgency to this mission.

We deeply applaud your work in helping Israel and the Palestinian Authority reach agreement on enabling freer movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza and the West Bank to build positively on Israeli disengagement, while effectively meeting Israeli security concerns. We believe reconstruction of the economy in Gaza, including large scale job creation, is essential for restoring Palestinian hopes for peace and providing further incentive for a nonviolent path to peace.

We support the President in his support for Palestinian democratic elections to form "a functioning government that delivers economic opportunity," his commitment to provide (monitored) economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, and his call on the Palestinian Authority to consolidate security services and take further effective action in "rejecting and fighting terrorism." As the new Palestinian government gains strength, it is essential that the Palestinian Authority act effectively to disarm Palestinian factions and dismantle groups that persist in carrying out acts of violence against Israelis. At the same time, based on its Road Map obligations, we support the President's call on Israel simultaneously to "remove unauthorized outposts, stop settlement expansion," and "not undertake any activity that contravenes its Road Map obligations or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem." We believe U.S insistence on these objective es would be supported by a substantial majority of Americans.

We are committed to mobilizing support from our communities nationwide including urging bi-partisan Congressional support, for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership in pursuing implementation of the Road Map. We would welcome an opportunity for the leaders of the National Interreligious Initiative to meet with you to discuss how we, and our congregations and communities, can best help your efforts at this critical time on this critically important issue.

Respectfully,

Dr. Bruce E. Wexler Co-Coordinator

Ronald J. Young Co-Coordinator

Enc: List of Leaders of the National Interreligious Initiative National
Interreligious Leadership Initiative For Peace in the Middle East

Christian Leaders

His Eminence, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick Archbishop of Washington

His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate Greek Orthodox Church
in America

His Eminence, William Cardinal Keeler Archbishop of Baltimore

His Eminence, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate Armenian Apostolic
Church in America

Most Reverend William Skylstad, President United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold III, Presiding Bishop The Episcopal Church

Bishop Thomas Hoyt, Jr. President National Council of Churches

The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk Presbyterian Church (USA)

Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America

The Reverend John M. Buchanan, Editor and Publisher Christian Century

The Rev. John Thomas, General Minister & President United Church of Christ

Richard J. Mouw, President Fuller Theological Seminary

Bishop Ann B. Sherer, the Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church

The Reverend Leighton Ford, President Leighton Ford Ministries

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Min, President Christian Churches
(Disciples of Christ)

David Neff, Editor and Vice-President Christianity Today

Richard E. Stearns, President World Vision

Jewish Leaders

Rabbi Harry K. Danziger, President Central Conference of American Rabbis
(Reform)

Rabbi Peter S. Knobel, Member of the Council Parliament of World Religions

Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President (ret) Central Conference
of American Rabbis (Reform)

Rabbi Janet Marder, Past President Central Conference of American Rabbis
(Reform)

Rabbi Alvin S. Sugarman, Vice President A Different Future

Rabbi Amy Small, Past President Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Rabbi Brant Rosen, President Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Rabbi David E. Stern Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas (Reform)

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector University of Judaism (Conservative)

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
(Conservative)

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Muslim Leaders

Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, Secretary General Islamic Society of North
America

Dawud Assad, President (ret) Council of Mosques, USA

Naeem Baig, General Secretary Islamic Circle of North America

Nahid Angha, Ph. D., Co-Director International Association of Sufism (IAS)

Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, Leader The Mosque Cares

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Director American Sufi Muslim Association

Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director United Muslims of America

Imam Yahya Hendi, Chaplain Georgetown University

Imam Hassan Qazwini Islamic Center of America