Friday, December 15, 2006

Religious Leaders Urge Renewed Mideast Peace Efforts

December 14, 2006
ELCA Presiding Bishop, 33 Other Leaders Urge Renewed Mideast Peace Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), joined 33 leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim national organizations in calling on U.S. President George W. Bush to make peace in the Middle East a "top priority" for his administration.

The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East released a joint statement Dec. 14, titled "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope" and sent a letter requesting a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "discuss the urgent situation in the Middle East." The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, made up of leaders from more than 25 Jewish, Christian and Muslim national organizations, was formed in December 2003.

"In the aftermath of the war in Lebanon and in light of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, there is a new urgency for achieving aneffective cease-fire and returning to the path of negotiations among Palestinians, Israelis and neighboring Arab states," the group said in their letter to Rice.

Hanson, who is also president of the 66.2-million member Lutheran World Federation, based in Geneva, said, "As we watch the violence escalate, we as people of faith cannot remain silent. The path to peace is not one of military and other forms of violent action. It is one of difficult but necessary dialogue-- a dialogue our leaders can and should cultivate. The work of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders coming together in the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in theMiddle East is a model for peacemaking to be emulated by our political leaders."

"The United States must make peace in the Middle East anurgent priority," the leaders' joint statement said. "Achieving Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace will have positive reverberations in the region and around the world. Our nation and the world will be much safer if peace takes hold in the Middle East."

The statement urged the United States government to take specific actions toward peace in the Middle East:
+ "Work in coordination with the Quartet (U.S., European Union,Russia and United Nations) to create conditions that bring about serious negotiations on a two-state solution following the lines of the Roadmap."
+ "Build upon principles, benchmarks and practical ideas for peace that emerged from earlier initiatives."
+ "Explore bold initiatives for peace such as appointing a special envoy, hosting an international conference and/or forming mutually acceptable security arrangements for a negotiated two-state solution."
+ "Work with Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to guarantee access to the Holy Places and religious liberty for all peoples."
+ "Support full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1559 in relation to Lebanon."
+ "Provide necessary and generous bilateral reconstruction assistance to Lebanon to help rebuild the civilian infrastructure and restore devastated communities, and aid to Israel to help rebuild communities that experienced destruction due to the war."
+ "Undertake diplomatic efforts to restart Israeli-Syrian andIsraeli-Lebanese negotiations for peace."

The religious leaders also encouraged Palestinian, Israeli and Arab leaders to take specific actions toward peace, which were outlined in the statement.

---* Annie Lynsen is director for grassroots advocacy and communication, ELCA Washington Office.

The full statement is at on the ELCA Web site.

The letter to Secretary Rice is at on theELCA Web site.

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