Sunday, April 27, 2008

Churches for Middle East Peace Conference Report and video of ELCA Bishop Hanson

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson opened the Churches for Middle East Peace conference in Washington, D.C., last week. Video of his keynote is at this link:

Churches for Middle East Peace Conference Report: A Time for Learning, Prayer & Advocacy for Peacemaking in the Nation's Capitol
This message can be found online at:

150 church advocates and clergy from around the country gathered in Washington earlier this week amidst pouring rains that cleared just in time for their advocacy day on Capitol Hill.

"Calming the Storm: Middle East Peacemaking in a Turbulent Time" was the theme of CMEP's April 20-22 conference that sought to build support in theU.S. Congress for diligent follow-up on the Annapolis process toward the goal of a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The conference was a unique gathering of Christians from a wide variety of denominations committed to effective advocacy with policymakers as well as continued education and training back home. The conference reflects CMEP's partnership with Middle East policy experts, Jewish and Palestinian partner organizations and officials from the U.S. Congress and the Administration as we work to build support in Washington for U.S. policies conducive to peacemaking.

The full conference report is included below.
Links: Media Coverage -
Speaker Bios -
Schedule -
Photos -
Video of Major Plenaries and Prayer Breakfast -
CMEP Advocacy Message -

Inspiration to Advocate

The conference began with greetings from Maureen Shea, CMEP's Board Chair and introduction of Warren Clark, CMEP's new Executive Director. Reflecting on the important work of CMEP's grassroots advocates, Clark said, "Despite enormous obstacles, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement this year is possible and we must keep up the momentum".

The Sunday evening keynote address was given by Mark S. Hanson - - Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who spoke strongly in support of a two-state solution to end the conflict and likened advocates to marathon runners who must continue to run the race to the finish line of a peace agreement, with CMEP's conference and ongoing advocacy guidance providing the necessary support. "We can only run that race together and we are here to give each other that encouragement," he said, commenting that he came to the conference with "renewed resolve to join with others in daily praying for, consistently advocating for, working for a lasting, just Middle East peace."

Engaging in the Stormy Issues of the Middle East

Monday was filled with opportunities to learn from and engage in issues related to Middle East peacemaking. Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland/Brookings Institution and Gary Sick of the Gulf 2000/Project began the day [video at] putting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the broader context of regional dynamics, including the role of Iran, and drawing lessons from recent public opinion polls in the Middle East that show continued majority support for a two-state peace, while at the same time expressing doubts about the viability of the current effortsand a new sense of urgency if they fail.

B. Todd Deatherage of the Policy Planning Office of the U.S. State Department provided an in-depth and up-to-date account of the Annapolis process and the Administration'swork to achieve a peace agreement by the end of 2008, noting in particular the important role of groups like CMEP and the Christian community in the Holy Land.

Amb. (ret) Philip Wilcox of the Foundation for Middle East Peace moderated a discussion [video at] between Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine and Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now in which they provided their perspectives on the current push for peaceand the importance of the collective efforts of Jewish, Christian and Arab-American organizations and citizens. In discussing Israel's 60th anniversary, Nir described a feeling among many Israelisthat they're "not there yet" in the sense that Israel is not yet at peace with itsneighbors. In the midst of celebrating the Passover holiday, he closed his remarkswith the hope that "next year would be in a 'shared Jerusalem'".

Having just returned from a trip to the Holy Land, Asali noted some of the obstacles to moving forward, including settlement activity, checkpoints and economic deterioration in the Palestinian territories, and predicted that if the conflict is not resolvedsoon, it will be transformed from a political conflict into a religious one.

Morning and afternoon workshops provided an opportunity for the participants to hear from CMEP partners and colleagues on a variety of topics relating to Israeli-Palestinianpeace and the broader Middle East [link to a full list of workshop topics and speakers:]. On Monday evening, participants had the opportunity to attend a special event featuring Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Center and his new book, "The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace."

Training for Peacemaking

On Monday afternoon, participants focused on CMEP's own advocacy message and prepared for their Hill meetings. Julie Schumacher Cohen, CMEP's Legislative Coordinator, Maureen Shea, CMEP's Board Chair and Stephen Colecchi of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed the talking points and led an interactive training on how to hold an effective Congressional meeting. Reflecting on the theme of the conference, they reminded participants that as we struggle to understand the complexities of Israeli-Palestinian issues and grasp the suffering of all the peoples of the Middle East, we must also work to "calm the storm within us" as we prepare for advocacy.Participants had an opportunity to meet with others from their state to review and strategize for the next day.

Prayer before Action

During CMEP's first Congressional Prayer Breakfast [video at] advocates, Christian leaders, Members of Congress and their staff quieted their minds and lifted up their hopes and concerns for peace in the Holy Land. U.S. House of Representatives Chaplain, Rev. Daniel Coughlin offered the opening grace, praying that "our oneness in prayer and the work of advocacy today bring about freedom from internal conflict and peace in us and in a very Holy Land."

A message from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, reminded participants that their advocacy work "is truly a good work, an act of faith, a response to the call of the Lord to work for peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians in the land that is holy to the people of three great religions."

Bishop John Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington reflected that a two-state solution "can be realizable in our lifetime" but not unless advocates continue doing their hard work. Archbishop Vicken Aykayzian of the Armenian Orthodox Church offereda closing prayer, asking for "wisdom and understanding" for advocates and political leaders and God's "blessing on all the people of the Holy Land of all creeds and backgrounds."

Several Members of Congress joined the call to pray and act for peace in the Holy Land and responded with their own commitment to join with CMEP and others in moving forward on the peace process. The Congressional Prayer Breakfast included remarks from Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1) and Chris Van Hollen (MD-8) and a message from Rep. David Price (NC-4) read by one of his senior staff.Rep.

Jeff Fortenberry [video at] told a story of how he found himself in the Sinai desert in 1979 when Israel and Egypt made peace with the help of the United States. "The spirit of peace and hope that filled the land there was so deeply formative to me as a young person" he said, thanking the group for inviting him to "participate in some small way with you in your good work and concern for the people of the Middle East and the hope that we all have that somehow despite the intractable difficulties there that we can build a more just and peaceful world."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen [link to video:] commented that in this "combustible" time, the work of "Churches for Middle East Peace is needed now more than ever," urging advocates to "keep the faith."
"There have been moments of peace and hope and then there have been valleys of despair ... I commend the Administration, the Bush administration, for coming together at Annapolis and bringing the parties together. Now of course the challenge is to keep that process going," said the Congressman.

A message from Rep. David Price (NC-4) emphasized the need for successful peacemaking efforts and the important role of groups like CMEP. "I join you in praying for a just peace in the Holy Land ... through our prayers, we seek sustenance that will nourish our hope and maintain our commitment to action. Organizations like Churches for Middle East are, for many, an answer to such prayers. Your tireless advocacy for peace with justice in the Holy Land is an inspiration to me and my colleagues. I am grateful for your work. No matter, the odds, we must continue our work for a just peace in the Middle East. We must seize every opportunity to make small gains,even in times of overwhelming challenge."

On to the Hill to Build Support for Peacemaking

After an energizing breakfast, CMEP advocates departed the Capitol Building and went on to hold over 75 meetings with their Representatives, Senators and staff. The advocates presented three main "asks," all related to the goal of a two-statesolution with a secure Israel living in peace alongside a viable Palestinian state.

In meetings throughout the day, they 1) emphasized the need for U.S. leadership on the Annapolis process and robust Middle East diplomacy, citing the importance of both sides abiding by their Road Map obligations and for a solution to the Gaza crisis. In the House, advocates urged co-sponsorship of H. Con. Res. 321 [] in support of comprehensive, multi-lateral diplomacy across the Middle East. In the Senate, they encouraged hearings in the Foreign Relations committee to monitor progress on the current peace efforts. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Israel, advocates asked their Members to use this opportunity to recommit to work for Israeli-Arab peace, noting that Israel's future is best served by a viable Palestinian state [click here: - to read some constructive statements that were made later that day].

Conference participants also urged 2) Congressional support for Palestinian funding in the Iraq supplemental and FY09 foreign operations appropriations bills, as an essential element of building the foundation for a sustainable Palestinian state. 3) The rapid decline of Palestinian Christians and the urgent need for a two-state peace agreement to stem Christian emigration - and improve life for all the peopleof the Holy Land - were also raised during the Hill meetings. Click here: - for the full CMEP advocacy message.

Continuing the Work

On Tuesday, conference participants returned home with renewed commitment to the work of Middle East peacemaking and to staying engaged with CMEP. In their final send-off, Warren Clark, CMEP's Director urged advocates to "deepen, establish and continue" their relationships on Capitol Hill.

Photos courtesy of Karin Brown and John Johnson.

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners,Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).

Churches for Middle East Peace
110 Maryland Ave. NE
Suite 311
Washington, DC 20002

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Russ Siler: Here we read, there we see

The Rev. Russ Siler, fomer pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, sends occasional commentaries. He calls them "Not From Jerusalem." For more of his writing, see the web page of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land -

Not From Jerusalem #9
15 April 2008

Not so long ago, when more and more people began to hear of the realities of life for ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, their reaction was very often one of disbelief. When Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land heard such responses in his travels over the world, he very often replied, “Please do not take my word for anything. Come and see!”

My wife Anne and I just returned from a visit to Jerusalem where we provided a tiny bit of support for a church project in exchange for a fantastic time with friends, both old and new, coupled with a sobering, renewed encounter with those same realities. The hospitality was exactly what we have come to know of the people there, warm, inviting, and sincere. Yet in the midst of reunions, rejoicing, and relaxation was the constant reminder that the news the rest of the world hears not only distorts the actual circumstances in which people live, but leads hearers to assume either of two diametrically opposite perceptions: (1)that positive change is happening, or (2)that positive change is impossible. Either perception serves well the motives of those—regardless of which side they purport to stand on—who believe they will benefit from a prolonging of the conflict. Harsh as this assessment may sound to some, it is the result of 60 years of “official” conflict and more than 40 years of occupation of the Palestinian Territories by the nation of Israel, sufficient time to institutionalize the clash so that the previous generation’s assumptions and images do not need to be argued or justified today for the casual, or even the committed foreign observer. Those assumptions and images seem real and true from a distance, but are seen as hollow and tragic at the distance of a handshake, an embrace…or a rifle barrel.

So many of those who came to the land in recent years have departed with the clear understanding that the conflict ceased long ago to be a question of security of either the people of Israel or Palestine. Now it is a struggle for two national identities: the Israelis who have never declared precisely what borders or limits they claim for their state and the Palestinians who have never had a state…only a home.

Here in the West we read and hear the headline-makers: Israelis in the desert town of Sderot under daily Qassam rocket barrages with swift Israeli retaliation, and we assume that this is war without end. In truth, as horrible as it sounds, many benefit from these exchanges. Israel has a constant rallying cry to gather its supporters with their votes, vows, and voices. Hamas, in sole control in Gaza, daily demonstrates that it alone holds the keys to any peace process. When news reports tell us of the ongoing violence, they now mention only that Hamas seized control of Gaza from rival Fatah in June of last year. They conveniently fail to remind us that Hamas was democratically elected to lead the Palestinian people, but that Israel and the United States have linked arms to guarantee that the people will never have the opportunity to see if their choice was a wise one. Here we read of the paralyzing split between Hamas and Fatah and the efforts of Israel and the U.S. to work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to achieve peace. It is as if we are to believe that peace with justice is possible when one and one-half million Palestinians are completely cut off from sisters, fathers, and heritage. There we watch with dismay as the nascent Palestinian state is skillfully dissected into entities labeled Gaza and the West Bank, and both are forced to stand in helpless dread as their heart in Jerusalem is removed from them.

Here we read that Israel is removing roadblocks and other impediments to movement—not on the line between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but within the West Bank itself. There we find a military version of a “shell game,” in which barriers are added just before Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces that two score and more such impediments will be dismantled. From a distance it looks like genuine progress. Up close we count even more road closures, earth mounds, and checkpoints than before.

Here we hear threads of a conversation about the curtailment of the illegal Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There we witness the relentless tide of housing in one settler enclave after another, built on confiscated land while Palestinians are denied permits to build their own houses on their own land. No one asks why any more. The answer is all too clear and well known.

Is it all bad news? Absolutely not! We listened to Israelis who deplore what their government is doing in their name. We learned of Israelis who were arrested and imprisoned for publicly opposing the demolition of Palestinian houses, destroyed for no legitimate reason. We listened with tears and anguish of the bereaved—both Israeli and Palestinian—who seek not revenge but reconciliation. We broke bread with courageous women, men, and children who calmly walk the daily gauntlets of humiliation with a dignity and a grace that soars far above anything I can hope to achieve myself. And we met again the selfless individuals who are there on behalf of all of us in other lands, speaking, walking with their sisters and brothers, aiding, giving, serving, that the oppressed and the fearful might see light in the midst of darkness.

“Come and see!” he said. And when you do—whether in person or vicariously through others who go—remember to listen to “officialspeak,” but also to venture into the West Bank, share with those who live under another’s power, but who wish and pray only to live in freedom…hear the voices and the lives of the real peacemakers—those who shun the ways of violence and walk the often lonely road that leads to justice, mutual respect and understanding, and reconciliation.

Then let your leaders—religious, political, military, national—know that there is another truth…and another way.

Russell O. Siler, retired

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rachel Corrie's Journals - Book Launch

Thanks to Friends of Sabeel North America for circulating this schedule

Rachel Corrie's personal journals now in book form -

Launches have taken place or are scheduled in these locations: Berkeley, California; Seattle, Olympia, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Frederick, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Iowa City, Iowa; and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Here is a letter from Cindy Corrie:


I am thrilled to announce the release of my daughter Rachel's writings in the new book Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie, published by W.W. Norton & Co. and available in bookstores and online! I am also excited to invite you to attend a series of book launch events across the country that Craig and I will be participating in during the month of April. We hope that you and your friends will join us to celebrate Rachel's book at one of these events and ... help us spread the word about each one.

[For information about CSpan's film of the first book event, April 5th in Berkeley, California, go to the website of sponsor KPFA Radio]

Working on the book was an alternately exhilarating and challenging process. We agonized over every editing decision, which pieces would Rachel have included? Which would she have wanted to work on further? However, we knew how much Rachel wanted her writing to have a wider impact and we still believe deeply that the questions she pondered and the realities she witnessed are universally important to confront. It is a true milestone for our family, and for Rachel, that her words in this book reach the world.

More information about Let Me Stand Alone, including how to purchase it, can be found at

If we are not scheduled to be in your area during the April book tour, but you would like to organize a future reading, you can contact us through this website as well.

As Craig wrote in the introduction to the book: Words were sacred to Rachel, and her words have become treasures to us. They are what we have left and are an immense gift to our family. With this book, we offer that gift to you. We look forward to seeing you in Berkeley, Seattle, Olympia, Portland, DC, New York, Iowa City or Minneapolis! Please do help us spread the word.

Thank you! Cindy Corrie

Remaining dates on the schedule are:

Frederick, Maryland
Monday, April 14th
Time: 7 PM
Delaplaine Visual Arts & Education Center
40 South Carroll Street
Frederick, Maryland 21701

Washington, DC
Tuesday, April 15th
Time: 6:00 PM
Busboys & Poets
2021 14th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

New York City
Friday, April 18th
Time: 6:30 PM
51 Astor Place (8th Street between 3rd and 4th)
New York, NY
Guest Readers Include: Kathleen Chalfant, Nick Flynn, Marie Howe, Denis O'Hare and Lili Taylor.

Iowa City, Iowa
Tues., April 22
Time: 7:30 PM
University of Iowa, Iowa Memorial Union
Black Box Theater, Room #360
125 N. Madison Street
Iowa City, IA

Twin Cities, Minnesota
Thursday, April 24th
Time: 7:00 PM
Micawber's Book Store
2238 Carter Avenue
St. Paul, MN

Thursday, April 10, 2008

ELCA Middle East Network Update - April 2008

ELCA Middle East Network Update
April 7, 2008

For lots more, see the Peace Not Walls web site:

1. "Peace Not Walls: Making a Difference in the Holy Land," 28-minute video featuring images from the Holy Land and interviews with ELCA members, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan, Rabbi David Rosen, and many others. This video explores such topics as the ELCA's Middle East peace initiative, the Israeli separation barrier, accompaniment with the Palestinian Lutheran church, and collaboration with interfaith peace partners; accompanying discussion guide.

This DVD contains also

- "The Holy Land: Recent History and the Quest for Peace," a PowerPoint presentation outlining the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and describing how the ELCA and the ELCJHL are working for peace; accompanying script and user guide.

- Updated "Forbidden Family" video and discussion guide

2. Other new 2008 resources

Peace Not Walls educational resource user guide, suggesting ways to use the online resources for adult forum series, youth program, women’s meeting, worship, and travel

Updated reproducible color flier: Many Walls Stand in the Way of Peace

Expanded Peace Not Walls FAQs

Resources are available via the Peace Not Walls website;
DVD, bookmarks and color fliers can be ordered at no cost by emailing Marie (Mia) Cortez at or 773/380-2642 (or use 800/638-3522, ext. 2642).

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this. Tell-a-friend!

Read the Middle East Networking newsletter archives.

You can sign up for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America e-Advocacy Network.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Swedish Lutherans boost Mount of Olives Housing Project

Swedish Lutherans Give Mount of Olives Housing Project $4.6 Million Boost

See the web site -

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In Jerusalem there's a shortage of affordable housing for Christian Palestinians. At the same time Christians in that city are now less than a third of their number in the 1940s, when about 31,000 Christians lived in Jerusalem, said the Rev. Mark M. Brown, regional representative, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Jerusalem.

To help stem the loss of Christians, the LWF and partners that include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) began the LWF Mount of Olives Housing Project -- a plan to build 84 low-rent apartments and a community center on LWF property on the Mount of Olives.

The $8.3 million project recently reported a gift of $4.6 million from the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. That "gracious gift ... takes us more than half-way in our fundraising," said Brown, an ELCA pastor. Something that may have given "the Church of Sweden the confidence to make this gift" is the project's "quick start" with fundraising and publicity in the ELCA, he said.

The ELCA has made a $2 million commitment for the project, and $600,000 has been raised so far. Other partners include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Germany-based Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation, and churches in Norway, Finland and Germany.

The LWF is "moving ahead as fast as we can with lawyers and architects and engineers to get the master site plan and permits approved as soon as possible," Brown said. "If we had the permits to begin building, we could move forward with the first two stages of construction," he said, "but we can't break ground until we have the master site plan and then 17 permits approved by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem."

To help smooth the approval process, Brown said the LWF began submitting a detailed master site plan to the municipality in 2007. Groundbreaking is still expected to occur in late 2008 or the first half of 2009, he said.

"A project like this gives people hope to stay," Brown said. "The situation is so desperate economically and politically (that) anything the churches can do to reduce the level of frustration, to help people build up their own lives, to strengthen their families and to build a nation that fulfills their needs as a people, I think, helps the overall peace process."

The Mount of Olives is "an important location because of the future of Jerusalem as a shared city between Jews, Christians, Muslims and between Palestinians and Israelis," Brown added.


More information about the Mount of Olives housing project is under "Support Mission throughout the World" at on the ELCA Web site.

Report provided by ELCA news -

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Friday, April 4, 2008

In Seattle: Standing with the Living Stones of Israel and Palestine

Standing with the Living Stones of Israel and Palestine

For readers in the Seattle area, take note of an outstanding event coming up, a conference on Christians in Israel and Palestine, April 18-19 in Seattle -

The purpose of the "Living Stones" conference is to support Christians in the Holy Land by increasing knowledge about them among congregations and ministries in Western Washington, resulting in stronger connections and new partnerships.

There's an impressive list of sponsors, including Pastor David C. Wold, Bishop Emeritus, SW Washington Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The timing is critical

The "Living Stones" conference evolved out of a sense of urgency to support the alarming decline in the number of Christians in the land of Christ's birth. In the cradle of our faith, there is a living, faithful community whose existence is threatened and who feel forgotten. By way of example, the number of Anglican Christians has plummeted from 4% of the population to 2% in recent years.

Although there are numerous church, church-affiliated, and not-for-profit efforts in the Holy Land, there is presently no concerted effort to bring Northwest Christians together to learn from and partner with our Christian brothers and sisters.

This conference will focus on encouraging a thriving Christian community and a just peace. We believe that by uniting to stand together, we can have a significant positive impact on the future of our sisters and brothers in the region and on the churches and individuals in the Northwest. Indeed, Christians from the Holy Land have encouraged us to do so.

Time is running out. The Christian presence and witness in the place of Christ's birth is at stake.

The conference will be held in two University District locations. On Friday, join us for daytime events at the University Christian Church, 4731 15th Ave. N.E. in Seattle. Friday evening and Saturday events are at the University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Ave NE. The churches are one block away from each other in Seattle's University District.

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 18
9-10 am - Sign – in and Registration – University Christian Church

Friday morning:
The Christians of the Holy Land - Dr. Bernard Sabella
A historical perspective – Dr. Steve Niva

Friday lunch
Growing up as a Palestinian Christian
Panel to include Dr. Sabella, Mr. Sami Awad,Rev. Fahed Abu Akel, and Grace Yateem

Friday afternoon
Theological reflections - Rev. Jane Barron
The Holy Land today – choice of two 50-minute workshops
Education for non-violence and practice
Relationships between Muslim and Christian Palestinians
The role of women in the Church and Palestinian society
Reframing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
Arab Christians in America
Theology of the Land
US foreign policy in the Middle East

5:30 pm Social Hour – University Presbyterian Church
Dinner Buffet and keynote speaker – Dr. Bernard Sabella

Saturday, April 19
8:30 Registration - University Presbyterian Church

Saturday morning
Education for non-violent conflict resolution – Mr. Sami Awad
Focus on Solutions – panel discussion: The role of the churches here and there

Saturday lunch

Witness group roundtable - tourists, partners, accompaniers and volunteers

Saturday afternoon
Planning for action – choice of two 50 minute workshops
Tours, volunteers and accompaniers
Advocacy – the press and public policy
Interfaith cooperation and coalition building
Church partners and companion relations
Higher education-the role of the universities
Keeping Hope Alive – the power of prayer
Campus youth organizations
Economic development and empowerment

Commitment to action

Closing worship

For more information, contact steering committee co-chairs:
Shannon Parks-Beck
John Berg
Mary Pneuman

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

CMEP: Rice Makes Limited Progress, More Effort Needed

This report is out today from Churches for Middle East Peace -

Rice Makes Limited Progress, More Effort Needed

Also available online at:

Warren Clark, Executive Director
After seven lean years the U.S. has reengaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The President visited both sides in January and will return next month. The latest trip - - of Secretary of State Rice March 29-31 made limited progress. It underlined the need and opportunities for U.S. peacemaking, but also illustrated the intractability of certain issues and the major effort that will be required to reach the President's goal of an agreement this year.

Following a series of meetings, Prime Minister Olmert agreed to measures - - to make living conditions more tolerable for Palestinians in the West Bank, including the removal of some roadblocks. Palestinian President Abbas agreed to meet with Olmert again April 7th for the first time since the Gaza crisis erupted in violence late in February.

Yet just after the Secretary left Israel, authorities there announced plans to further expand settlement activity in Palestinian areas, underlining a long standing point of tension between Israel and the U.S. Secretary Rice reiterated the U.S. stance, saying - - "settlement activity should stop...its expansion should stop...". On the one hand ongoing settlement construction activity is an obstacle to the quest for a viable peace agreement. On the other politically powerful settler groups, an important part of Israel's government coalition, are determined to continue the expansion. (For more details on settlement activity since Annapolis, see Peace Now's new report:

Apart from the official parlay, there also have been other efforts taking place with different parties and on different tracks. Egypt, with tacit U.S. approval, has sought to mediate between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. There was talk of reopening the Gaza crossings with Israel. Yemen has launched its own initiative, approved during the Damascus Arab Summit, to mediate between Hamas and Fatah.

Talks among lower level officials, including security officials on both sides, have been going on all along since they were set up following the Annapolis conference last November. The topics reportedly have included the so-called final status issues - borders, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and Jerusalem, notwithstanding the threat of the Shas political party to leave the Israeli government coalition should the topic of Jerusalem ever be discussed.

While the final status issues will be the heart of any peace agreement, the more immediate issues have been the violence and fear of violence, the burden of living under occupation, concern over expansion of Israeli settlements, and the credibility of the leadership and of the peace process itself.

This tension will not abate. The threat of renewed violence is constant. Clearly sustained and active U.S. diplomatic involvement is needed to keep the peace process moving forward. Lack of forward motion can mean collapse and worse. CMEP, together with Jewish and Arab allies, is committed to making the most of the Annapolis process and continuing to press this Administration and the Congress to deliver real progress in 2008.


Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator
On March 14th, CMEP issued an action alert - - on the Crowley-Moran House letter in support of Middle East peace and cooperation funding. Twenty-eight Representatives signed on to this letter! View the full list here: - and thank your Representative if he or she is among the signers. Now, there is a similar letter circulating in the Senate led by Senators Sununu (R-NH) and Biden (D-DE). The letter closes this Friday, April 4th

Contact your Senators - - and ask them to sign the Biden-Sununu Letter in support of $11 million in funding for grassroots peace activities in the Middle East. Your Message: People-to-people activities together with a robust political process supported by the United States can help move forward on the promise of peace made in Annapolis. The achievement of a negotiated peace agreement and its implementation will require steadfast American commitment and the support of both the Israeli and Palestinian publics.


Register Now for CMEP's 2008 Advocacy Conference - - Calming the Storm: Middle East Peacemaking in a Turbulent Time
April 20-22, 2008 - Washington, DC


Sorry this is a delayed posting of the March Info Update from Churches for Middle East Peace -

Four Months On: How to Regain the Momentum of Annapolis?

The full update is also available online at:

Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator
March 18, 2008

Excerpts from CMEP's March Info Update are included below. The topic areas include commentary on the Gaza crisis, the recent Road Map meeting, current negotiations, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Jerusalem news and an update on Christians in the Holy Land and the broader Middle East, including the article, "Christians in Flight (" in America magazine, edited by Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., a member of CMEP's Leadership Council.

The update can be viewed in full on CMEP's website at:


* Impact of the Gaza Crisis: Options for Moving Forward
* Road Map Revived: First Meeting Highlights Israeli, Palestinian Shortcomings
* Negotiations Now and Then: Current State-of-Play and Lessons Learned
* Humanitarian Update: Aid Groups Report on Gaza* Conflict in Jerusalem: Terror Attack in Fragile City, Settlement Expansion
* Update on Christians: Leaving the Mideast, Jerusalem Churches on Violence & Attacks on Gaza's Christians


The update can be viewed in full on CMEP's website at:


Churches for Middle East Peace
Phone: 202-543-1222

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