Tuesday, March 4, 2008

ELCA Presiding Bishop Urges Secretary Rice to Resolve Gaza Crisis

So much news is circulating about the tragedy in Gaza, it is hard to know what I can add. For starters, I'll post a news release from my own Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


ELCA Presiding Bishop, Others Urge Secretary Rice to Resolve Gaza Crisis

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In a Feb. 29 letter to U.S. Secretary ofState Condoleezza Rice, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishopof the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), along with18 other religious leaders, urged Rice to take immediate diplomatic action to resolve the crisis in Gaza. The letter anticipated Rice's trip to the Middle East this month amid escalating violence and risk of greater military confrontationt here.

"The continuing violence and suffering experienced byPalestinians and Israelis is hindering progress on the peace process and also creates conditions that pose a particular threat to the small Christian community in Gaza," the church leaders wrote as part of Churches for Middle East Peace -- a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches and organizations. The ELCA participates in the coalition.

In the letter church leaders expressed their concern for civilians caught in the Gaza conflict. The leaders wrote that the blockade of Gaza and frequent rocket attacks against southern Israel cannot be tolerated. The blockade, they wrote, results in power outages, water and food shortages and a lack of adequateaccess to medical supplies, creating a "humanitarian crisis felt by all Gazans."

The religious leaders wrote that rocket attacks against Israel have targeted civilians indiscriminately and made normallife impossible in the areas affected. The religious leaders asked Rice to "work with the international community to achieve a ceasefire, end the blockade and establish real security at Gaza'sborders."

The church leaders raised concern about the recent bombing of the YMCA library in Gaza. They said that although"authorities in Gaza have denounced this action, it follows the killing of a Christian bookseller last fall and is symptomatic ofthe deteriorating social conditions and instability that threaten the safety of all the residents of Gaza."

"A reduction of tensions in Gaza and the easing of daily life will strengthen the tiny Christian community, just as progress on the peace process will help sustain Christian communities elsewhere in the region. Such steps are vital to preserving the cultural and religious pluralism that has long enriched the Middle East," they wrote.

The church leaders concluded their letter by urging Rice to use her visit to resolve the Gaza crisis. "We believe that all the children of Abraham should be able to live in the 'land of milk and honey' free of violence and insecurity and with theability to provide a positive future for their families," theywrote.

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The text of the letter is at http://tinyurl.com/2gg9yr on the Churches for Middle East Peace Web site - www.cmep.org.

Information about ELCA ministries in the Middle East is available at http://www.ELCA.org/middleeast on the Internet.

For information contact: John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.orghttp://www.elca.org/news
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

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