LWF Urges Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to 'Urgently Pursue' Peace Treaty

The Lutheran World Federation has appealed to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to "urgently pursue" the successful conclusion of a peace treaty between their nations, as agreed at the recent Middle East peace conference in the United States.

After a full day of meetings in Annapolis, Md., Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders announced last month that they had agreed to negotiate a peace treaty to establish a Palestinian state, with the goal of concluding the treaty by the end of 2008 – before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office.

The LWF general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, pressed home the need for the two sides to continue where they left off in a letter sent to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

In his letter, Lutheran leader stressed that the LWF and its member churches around the world welcomed "wholeheartedly ... the revival of the fresh hopes for peace in the Holy Land" following Annapolis.

Noko quoted an open letter from Palestinian Lutheran bishop Dr. Munib A Younan to world leaders ahead of the Annapolis conference that said churches were "called to be a people of hope and choose not only to see the cup as half full but to commit ourselves to whatever it takes to make the cup overflow."

The LWF general secretary admitted that the 2008 deadline for a conclusion to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations was "incredibly ambitious." He noted, however, that it was "entirely necessary," stressing the need for the leaders to drive forward with measures that would restore trust between the two sides "in order to create an environment in which peace can flower."

Noko assured the Israeli and Palestinian leaders of the "constant and fervent prayers" of the LWF community throughout the next round of negotiations due to start on Dec. 12.

He added, however, that the leaders also needed to do everything they could to agree a peace treaty, "resolving all outstanding issues and resulting in two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security – and the establishment of peace with justice in the Holy Land."

Noko assured that the LWF would keep up its ongoing work with other faith communities in the region to "counter despair and desperation."

He also referred to a statement from the Council for Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in November in which Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the region affirmed their "responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one another."

Following the Annapolis conference, Younan also challenged world leaders to turn their goodwill gestures and peace-speak into a reality.

"So far it's just a signature; now they have to walk the talk," said Munib Younan, the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, according to the World Council of Churches.

He added, "I do hope this is a serious attempt to achieve a lasting peace."

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