An Initiative delegation led by His Eminence, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, met with Under Secretary for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, on May 17. Following up, the Episcopal Church noted the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war last week. Here is news coverage from Episcopal Life Online - http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_86641_ENG_HTM.htm
Peace in Israel/Palestine reaffirmed as Church marks 40th anniversary of 1967 war --
June 06, 2007 [Episcopal News Service]
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war between Israel and the Arab States, after which the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem), Gaza, and the Golan Heights began.
Throughout the last 40 years, the Episcopal Church has joined the call to end the occupation and the ensuing conflict which has brought pain and suffering to all who live in the region.
Bishop Christopher Epting, Ecumenical and Interfaith deputy for the Episcopal Church, highlighted a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbis of Israel made last year, which noted: "The Holy Land and its people, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, continue to suffer all forms of violence and its consequences. Terrorism remains rife. Governments and political and religious movements deny the very right to existence of the State of Israel. There is no agreement on the rights of the Palestinian people and the means to mutual wellbeing and flourishing."
The Episcopal Church has strongly supported the rightful existence and recognition of both the State of Israel and a future Palestinian State.
The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice Ministries for the Episcopal Church, told Episcopal News Service that the anniversary of the six-day war and the beginning of the occupation "affords us the chance to reiterate the Episcopal Church's long-term advocacy for a two-State solution, with Jerusalem serving as the capital of both, each secure and sovereign. This would afford the best chance for peace in the region, and make not just a more secure Middle East, but a more secure world."
Grieves noted the Episcopal Church's support of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace (NILI) in the Middle East.
Following up on a January meeting (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_82642_ENG_HTM.htm) when Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders from NILI in a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an Initiative delegation led by His Eminence, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, met with Under Secretary for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, on May 17. They expressed strong support for Secretary Rice's commitment to making Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority for the remaining two years of the Administration.
The delegation stated their belief that active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for peace, in coordination with the Quartet (EU, Russia, U.N. and U.S.), is essential at this time, not only for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians, but also because progress toward peace in Jerusalem would help restore U.S. credibility, encourage regional stability and reduce support for extremism. (A full copy of the letter follows.)
The U.S. religious leaders told Burns that the current, "very dangerous" situation on the ground, makes it all the more important that the United States work urgently for a comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank to halt both intra-Palestinian and Palestinian-Israeli violence.
The inter-religious delegation urged direct U.S. talks with Syria and Israel to help restart Syrian-Israeli negotiations for peace.
Maureen Shea, director of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church and chair of the Churches for Middle East Peace board, reiterated the Episcopal Church's position. "Two things are clear. In order for there to be peace in the Middle East, the U.S. must fully and consistently engage in final status negotiations and the end result must be a secure Israel living alongside a viable and contiguous Palestinian state with both sharing the city of Jerusalem."
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Full text of Cardinal McCarrick's letter to Burns:
May 31, 2007
The Honorable R. Nicholas Burns
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
U.S. Department of State2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Under Secretary Burns,
I am writing on behalf of leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace to thank you for meeting with our delegation on Thursday, May 17. (A list of the participants who represented our delegation at that meeting is enclosed together with the list of the total membership for your ready access.) We look forward to our next meeting to continue the dialogue begun in our January meeting with Secretary of State Rice concerning the U.S. role in pursuit of Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace and how we can be helpful.
As we have said in our meetings with Secretary Rice and with you, the thirty-five leaders of the National Interreligious Initiative, including heads of twenty-five national organizations, are united in support of the decision by the United States to make Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace an urgent, top priority of U.S. policy in the Middle East. We believe active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for peace, in coordination with the Quartet, is essential not only for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians, but also because progress toward peace in Jerusalem would help
restore U.S. credibility, encourage regional stability and reduce support for extremism.
Believing that U.S. leadership is essential for progress toward peace and appreciating the opportunity for this ongoing dialogue with Secretary Rice and you, we wish to reiterate the concerns that we raised in our meeting on May 17.
We are deeply troubled by the current deterioration in the situation on the ground, including renewed intra-Palestinian violence, continued Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, and Israeli counter attacks. While these developments pose new challenges, we believe this very dangerous situation makes it all the more important that the United States work urgently for an effective, comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank. A comprehensive ceasefire would require halting both intra-Palestinian and Palestinian-Israeli violence. A ceasefire would relieve suffering and reduce fears of people on all sides, and would help create a context in which other essential steps, including more effective security coordination, release of Corporal Shalit and Palestinian prisoners, a halt to expansion of settlements and a reduction in military checkpoints would be more possible.
We share your view that the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative represents a very important positive development. We believe that the United States should engage actively in encouraging concrete steps by the Arab states and by Israel to help the Arab Initiative become a bridge to building an effective peace process for comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. In this context and appreciating that Secretary Rice recently met with the Syrian Foreign Minister about Iraq, we urge U.S. diplomatic efforts with Syria and Israel concerning the possibility of restarting Syrian-Israeli negotiations for peace.
We appreciate and support Secretary Rice's pledge to travel to the region regularly to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as a tangible expression of her personal commitment and priority to help restart negotiations for a two-state solution. At some point, as we discussed with you, in addition to Secretary Rice's regular visits and General Dayton's role as "Security Coordinator," we believe it would be helpful for a fulltime special envoy to be appointed to focus on the pursuit of comprehensive peace and represent the Secretary and the President on the ground continuously to press for and monitor commitments by both sides.
As American religious leaders committed to supporting U.S. efforts for peace, we also are aware that religious leaders on the ground in the region have a compelling faith-based interest to help support and sustain an effective peace process. Many of these leaders are participants in the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land. We hope Secretary Rice would be willing to meet with members of the Council on a future trip to the region and/or when members of the Council plan to visit Washington, DC the week of
In our meeting with Secretary Rice in January she shared her view that there should be informal talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders about principles and ideas, such as those in the unofficial Geneva Accord, for possible compromise solutions that could resolve final status issues, including borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. We hope, despite the current negative developments, that this process of informal talks about ideas for resolving final status issues is being pursued, and we commit ourselves to building public awareness and support for these ideas in our communities.
Again, we wish to thank you and Secretary Rice for your commitment to pursue Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace as a top, urgent priority and for your invitation to leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative to participate in ongoing dialogue. Dr. Stephen Colecchi will be in touch with your office about a possible date in July or August.
With every good wish, I am
Very cordially yours,
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
National Interreligious Leadership Delegation
May 17, 2007
His Eminence Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Archbishop Aykazian Vicken, Director, Ecumenical Office
Armenian Apostolic Church in America
Maureen Shea, Director of Government Relations
The Episcopal Church
(for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori)
Dennis W. Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(for Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson)
Catherine Gordon, Associate for International Policy
Presbyterian Church (USA)
(for Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk)
Rabbi David S. Saperstein, Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Dr. Richard Lederman, Director, Public Policy
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
(for Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President)
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director
Islamic Society of North America
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain
Dr. Stephen Colecchi, Director, International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ronald J. Young, Consultant
National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East