Friday, October 5, 2007

ELCA's Bishop Hanson Supports Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference

The ELCA's Bishop Hanson has spoken out in support of an Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference. Advocacy information can be found at the website of Churches for Middle East Peace:

October 4, 2007

ELCA Presiding Bishop Supports Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said he supports an international conference aimed at taking steps toward resolving conflict peacefully between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East, and this week joined in a call for specific steps for a successful conference. The meeting is to be hosted in November by the United States government at a location to be determined.

Hanson is a member of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), an organization of U.S. faith group leaders that has spoken publicly about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. NILI members have challenged the Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. governments each to do more to resolve the conflict. Members have met several times with officials of the Bush Administration, asking that the U.S. government become more involved in negotiations for a just and lasting peace. The religious leaders have also presented ideas to U.S. officials aimed at promoting Middle East peace. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders make up NILI.

This week, the religious leaders, through a message of the NILI steering committee, are asking members of U.S. Congress and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consider specific steps to help make the conference successful. NILI issued a statement, "Steps for a Successful Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference."

"The ELCA is committed to praying and working for a lasting and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians," Hanson said of the message. "Our resolve is to increase awareness and advocacy as we accompany the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land as articulated in the ELCA Peace Not Walls Initiative." []

The NILI message to Congress and the Bush Administration recommended:

+ Inviting all of Israel's Arab neighbors, as well as Israel and the Palestinian Authority: The religious leaders said the United States should invite representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria to the meeting. They also said "all issues" should be on the agenda, including Israeli-Palestinian status issues.

+ Seeking agreement on principles and taking other steps in advance of the conference: The United States must press for concrete steps by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to improve conditions on the ground, including agreement on a cease-fire and principles such as borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem, the religious leaders said.

+ Resolving the split between the West Bank and Gaza: The religious leaders said the split in Palestinian governance could thwart success of the meeting. The United States should"quietly" support efforts to form a united Palestinian government that can represent Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and that is committed to rejecting violence and negotiating a two-state peace agreement with Israel, they said.

The steps called for by NILI "are critical to turning the Middle East from a path of violence and extremism to one of freedom, justice and peace," Hanson said. "The issues are extremely complex and deeply rooted in a history of conflict and distrust. A solution requires broad participation by Arab nations willing to make difficult compromises for the sake of peace. May the November conference be one important step in that process."

NILI members met Aug. 10 with Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns in Washington, D.C. They expressed their support and the support of their communities for the Bush Administration's renewed commitment to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians as a high priority of U.S. policy, according to a NILI news release. They also presented specific ideas in their meeting with Burns related to preparations for the peace conference.


Information about the ELCA's Middle East resources, including the ELCA Peace Not Walls initiative, is at on the ELCA Web site.

John Brooks, Director
(773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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