Religious Leaders Call Obama to Take Bold Action for Middle East Peace

Religious leaders from the Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches have called upon President Obama to take “bold action” to establish peace in Israel and Palestine.

In a letter drafted by “Churches for Middle East Peace” this week the president was urged to make a clear and bold stance in advance of the United Nations General Assembly in the fall.

The letter urges Obama to make a statement that “addresses all final status issues, including the need for Jerusalem in the future to be the shared capital of both states, a just resolution on the issue of all refugees, and assured access for all faiths to their holy places.”

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The NCC president, Rev. Peg Chemberlin, and NCC general secretary, Dr. Michael Kinnamon have both signed up to the letter.

In a release by the NCC it says: “The letter to the president comes at a time when the path to peace is strewn with hurdles and both Israeli and Palestinian leaders face unprecedented domestic political challenges.”

The letter tells Obama that “time is not on the side of peace” and calls for the issue to be prioritized by the president.

The letter has been signed by leaders from the Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches.

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech to the Dutch parliament in the Hague that the Palestinian people recognize Israel's right to exist. According to The Jerusalem Post Abbas added that he hoped the Israeli government would respond to his comments by “recognizing the Palestinian state on the borders of the land occupied in 1967.”

WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency reported that Abbas said: “Our primary goal is peace negotiations with the Israeli side and I hope the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation succeed in their efforts to resume peace negotiations.”

Over the past few weeks progress has been made on a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

The NCC has said in a release on its website: “Currently, a humanitarian flotilla is about to head to the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian Authority is considering bringing the question of statehood before the United Nations in the fall. There is a growing recognition of the increasingly desperate situation on the ground and that time is not on the side of peace.”

Jordan Blevins, Advocacy Officer and Ecumenical Peace Coordinator for the NCC and Church of the Brethren said, “All of these events make it even more pertinent for President Obama to take immediate leadership toward a comprehensive peace agreement.”

Those signing up to the letter by Churches for Middle East Peace include:

Father Mark Arey, Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, NCC past president, Armenian Orthodox Church of North America; Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists; and Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Reformed Church in America.

Also, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; and His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church,in the Eastern United States.

Also, the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service; the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, President, Provincial Elders' Conference, Moravian Church in America, Northern Province; Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren; and Dr. Harriett Jane Olson, Deputy General Secretary, the Women’s Division of General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Also, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (USA); the Rev. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary Emeritus, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Radar, Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church; Dr. T. DeWitt Smith Jr., Immediate Former President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and Bishop John F. White, Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church.

To read the letter in full, please click here

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