Some prominent church leaders voiced support for President Obama Tuesday on his vision for resolving the thorny issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
From mainline church leaders such as the Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to evangelical megapastors like the Rev. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, a diverse group of over 30 religious people – including rabbis and imams – signed the letter that called for a comprehensive Middle East solution.
Signers say they support Israel's right to security and the Palestinians' right to a sovereign and secure state of their own. They also called for bold U.S. leadership to assist both parties in making difficult decisions and to hold each party accountable if they fail to fulfill their commitments.
"At the appropriate time, we will support the administration if it decides to present proposals for a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples," vowed the leaders.
The public letter was released on the same day Obama concluded bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York. The Middle East conflict will be one of the main agendas debated this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where more than 120 heads of state and government have convened.
Obama told the two leaders Tuesday that it was time for them to restart negotiation and move forward, according to CNN.
"It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that is necessary to achieve our goals," Obama said.
The president's envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, who attended the talks, said Obama told the two officials that, "The only reason to hold public office is to get things done," and that everyone "must take risks for peace."
In addition to calling for peace between Palestinians and Israel, the letter by religious leaders also called Israel to work with Syria and Lebanon. The United States should help normalize relations between Israel and Arab countries in the region, the leaders wrote.
The letter was signed by over 30 leaders of churches and religious organizations, and was coordinated by Churches for Middle East Peace. Some of the leaders include: the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla.; the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; and David Neff, editor in chief of Christianity Today, among others.