Top Religious Leaders Press Rice on Mideast Peace

WASHINGTON – A delegation of top U.S. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday to urge for the United States to take a more vigorous role in promoting a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Six faith leaders belonging to the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East – a coalition of 35 leaders formed in 2003 to advocate for a more comprehensive U.S. approach to Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace – spoke to Rice about two key points: strong, ongoing, and high-level U.S. leadership in the Middle East peace process challenging both sides to be accountable, and the group’s commitment to say “tough things” to their respective communities in the United States and the Middle East to help the peace process.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said Monday’s meeting was “substantive and excellent,” but added that the “real measure of the success” of the meeting can only be seen in the coming weeks, according to the Catholic News Service.

Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, on Monday referred to Rice’s recent trip to the Middle East and commented, “We think the foundation she has laid needs to be built upon” with a sustained U.S. presence in diplomatic initiatives there.”

Monday’s meeting followed a joint statement signed by 35 faith leaders which was sent to Rice in December. The statement included a proposed outline of U.S. action in the Mideast peace process. A letter requesting to meet Rice for further discussion was also sent in December.

Joining McCarrick and Hanson as part of the interfaith delegation were Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S. Episcopal Church; Rabbi Paul Menitoff, former executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Amy Small, past president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; and Sayyid M. Syeed, former secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America.

The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East explains that it draws its unity from the belief that they are “all children of Abraham” and when they come together in prayers, hopes, and work then “peace can come.”

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