Largest Presbyterian Denomination in US Demands Obama Push for Israeli-Hamas Ceasefire

Palestinians walk past the ruins of a mosque, which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City July 22, 2014. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and United Nations diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives. Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said. | (Photo: Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States released a statement Tuesday demanding that President Barack Obama push Israel and Hamas towards negotiating a ceasefire immediately.

"The situation is escalating beyond control. The bloodshed and wielding of power in the contested land is unconscionable,"  reads the statement from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of the General Assembly."Just as the United States has moved swiftly to provide $47 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza, America also must lead the way in insisting on a ceasefire and enabling negotiations."

The statement also said that the PCUSA leaders "urge President Obama to use all the diplomatic weight afforded the highest office of this nation to end this conflict, and support all steps toward lasting peace in the Middle East."

"Likewise, we urge U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, working in collaboration with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to take all necessary steps to facilitate both an immediate ceasefire and resumed peace negotiations," continued the statement.

The statement was signed by the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly; Ruling Elder Heath K. Rada, moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014); and Ruling Elder Linda Bryant Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Earlier this month, violence once again broke out between the nation of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.

Multiple factors contributed to the latest outbreak of violence, including the murders of three Israeli citizens and the murder of a Palestinian youth.

Hamas has fired over a thousand missiles into Israeli territory while Israel has launched numerous airstrikes. Hundreds have been killed, the vast majority being Palestinians.

Israeli Defense Forces have recently launched a ground offensive into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with efforts being made to knock out tunnels that Hamas has built to strengthen its network and attempt to attack Israel Proper.

The statement comes not long after PCUSA voted at its latest General Assembly, held in Detroit, to divest from three companies that do business in Israel.

In late June, the 221st PCUSA General Assembly voted 310-303 to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, two years after rejecting a similar proposal by only two votes.

"We as a church cannot profit from the destruction of homes and lives," said the Rev. Gradye Parsons in a statement last month. "We continue to invest in many businesses involved in peaceful pursuits in Israel."

The decision angered many Jewish and pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, that called the decision out of step with the views of the majority of Presbyterians in the pews and sends a painful message to American Jews.

"Over the past ten years, PC(USA) leaders have fomented an atmosphere of open hostility to Israel within the church, promoted a one-sided presentation of the complex realities of the Middle East, and permitted the presentation of a grossly distorted image of the views of the Jewish community," stated ADL.

PCUSA is not the only Christian body to call for a ceasefire. The World Council of Churches also pleaded for a ceasefire on Wednesday.

"Hostilities must cease. Israel, Palestine and the surrounding region must be offered the hope of peace: a peace based in justice, a lasting peace that may lead toward reconciliation," stated WCC general secretary the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

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