Christians Urge Obama to Make Mideast Peace a Priority

Christian leaders across denominational lines are signing onto an ecumenical letter that urges President-elect Barack Obama to make Israel-Palestinian peace a priority in his incoming administration.

"The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has gone on for too long. It has caused untold suffering for both sides, created economic hardships, and provided a rallying cry for extremists," the letter signed by 40 U.S. Christian leaders read.

"As people of faith and hope, we believe peace is possible," it stated. "Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians continue to support a negotiated solution based on two secure and sovereign states as the best way to end this tragic conflict."

Signers of the letter call on Obama to make lasting Mideast peace a top agenda during his first year in office, and for the administration to "provide sustained, high-level diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal" of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

"Without active U.S. engagement, political inertia and perpetuation of the unbearable status quo will make achievement of a two-state solution increasingly difficult," the 40 U.S. Christian leaders wrote in the letter. "Moreover, we are concerned about the negative impact a further delay will have on the Christian community in the Holy Land, whose numbers continue to decline."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church commented: "We believe the United States has the political ability to keep the parties at the peace table."

"We urge the President-elect to mobilize the will to endure the heat at that table in order to find the light for which the world yearns. The lives of thousands depend on it."

Jefferts Schori was joined by leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Evangelical traditions in calling Obama to pursue a two-state solution.

Signers thus far include the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Florida and a member of the executive committee of the National Association of Evangelicals; Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; Richard Stearns; president of World Vision; John L. McCullough, executive director of Church World Service; Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; and David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today.

The letter is still being circulated around the country and leaders are encouraged to add their names to it. A letter with all the signatures will be delivered to Obama during his inauguration next year.

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