Thursday, June 30, 2011

Letter to President Obama Urging Bold, Concrete, and Immediate Action for Peace

Religious leaders urge President Obama
to take bold action for peace in Middle East

Washington, June 30 -- National Council of Churches officers and heads of NCC member communions have joined other faith leaders in calling on President Obama to take bold action for peace between Israel and Palestine.

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, NCC president, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary, signed onto a message that points out that "time is not on the side of peace."

The letter, drafted by Churches for Middle East Peace, urges the president to issue a comprehensive statement prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly this fall "that addresses all final status issues, including the need for Jerusalem in the future to be the shared capital of both states, a just resolution on the issue of all refugees, and assured access for all faiths to their holy places."

The letter to the president comes at a time when the path to peace is strewn with hurdles and both Israeli and Palestinian leaders face unprecedented domestic political challenges.

Recent weeks have seen comments by both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Currently, a humanitarian flotilla is about to head to the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian Authority is considering bringing the question of statehood before the United Nations in the fall. There is a growing recognition of the increasingly desperate situation on the ground and that time is not on the side of peace.

“All of these events make it even more pertinent for President Obama to take immediate leadership toward a comprehensive peace agreement,” said Jordan Blevins, Advocacy Officer and Ecumenical Peace Coordinator for the National Council of Churches and Church of the Brethren.

The letter is signed by a wide range of evangelical, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders. In addition to Chemberlin and Kinnamon, signers representing NCC member communions include:

Father Mark Arey, Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, NCC past president, Armenian Orthodox Church of North America; Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists; and Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Reformed Church in America.

Also, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; and His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church,in the Eastern United States.

Also, the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service; the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, President, Provincial Elders' Conference, Moravian Church in America, Northern Province; Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren; and Dr. Harriett Jane Olson, Deputy General Secretary, the Women’s Division of General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Also, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (USA); the Rev. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary Emeritus, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Radar, Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church; Dr. T. DeWitt Smith Jr., Immediate Former President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and Bishop John F. White, Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church.

For the full text of the statement, including the signees, please visit:

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Increased Demolitions in the Jordan Valley

This is an important Middle East Network Action Alert from the ELCA. Please read this report carefully and take the action steps recommended.

Increased Demolitions in the Jordan Valley
Families Homeless due to Demolitions in the Jordan Valley

[The best way to take action is to go the Action Alert Link and follow the instructions for contacting Members of Congress, Daniel Rubinstein, the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, and Dr. Michael B. Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States.]

In the first six months of 2011, home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories displaced 706 individuals, including 341 minors, the majority of whom reside in the Jordan Valley.

The Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley has consistently faced discriminatory Israeli policies related to planning, building, and access to land and water. Over 94 percent of building permit applications submitted by Palestinians to the Israeli authorities between 2000 and September 2007 were rejected. The Jordan Valley is home to an estimated 150,000 Palestinians, but is classified as part of Area C, one of three zones identified as part of the Oslo Accords, and over which the Israeli government has both civil and security authority.

Much of the Jordan Valley’s land has been declared a "closed military zone" by the Israeli army or has been annexed into Israeli settlements, effectively turning the Jordan Valley into an Israeli-controlled enclave within the occupied Palestinian territories. Attempts by the authorities to remove the Palestinian population from Area C appear to be escalating.*

Summary of Events (June 2011):
On June 21, the Israeli army destroyed 29 homes and other properties in the Bedouin hamlet of Hadidiya in the Jordan Valley, leaving 11 children and 16 adults without homes.

Also on June 21, five structures (two homes, a shared kitchen and two animal shelters) were demolished in Khirbet Yarza, in the northern Jordan Valley, affecting 30 people, of which 8 are children.

On June 14, demolitions were carried out in Al-Fasayal, in the southern Jordan Valley, which, according to Jordan Valley Solidarity, displaced an estimated 103 people, including 64 children.

Earlier this month, the Israeli army destroyed a tent and three animal shelters in Hadidiya, displacing a family of 10 on grounds that they had relocated their home one hundred meters from its original site to a closed military area.

For more information read this article from Maan News Agency or watch this video provided via YouTube by EAPPI.
TAKE ACTION: Contact the following officials to condemn the acts above and to call for all demolition and eviction orders against Palestinians in the West Bank to be cancelled immediately.

Contact Your Members of Congress at and or through the "Take Action" link on this e-mail.

Contact Mr. Daniel Rubinstein, U.S. Consul General, Jerusalem:
Mr. Daniel Rubinstein
Consul General
U.S. Consulate
Via Fax: 011 972 2 624 9462

Contact Dr. Michael B. Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States:
Dr. Michael B. Oren
Ambassador of Israel to the United States
3514 International Drive, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Telephone: 202-364-5500
Fax: 202-364-5423
For more information on current events in the Jordan Valley, see the May 2011 B'Tselem report: "Dispossession and Exploitation: Israel’s Policy in the Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea". Also see "Worrying Increase in home demolitions" [from UNRWA.]
[See also the June 21 B'Tselem report Israel Demolishes...
* The International Court of Justice has stated that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War applies to the occupied Palestinian territories. The systematic policy of house demolitions carried out against Palestinian residents contravenes Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids "any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons" except where such destruction is rendered "absolutely necessary by military operations."

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sabeel reiterates a vision for the peace of Jerusalem

Sabeel’s Call for the Peace of Jerusalem
24.05.11 [Find this news at the Sabeel website]

“(41) As (Jesus) came near and saw the city, he wept over it, (42) saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19: 41-42)

During this World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel convened by the World Council of Churches as a joint action for a just peace, we, Palestinian Christians want to send a message to all our brothers and sisters in the world that focuses on Jerusalem:

Due to its significance for the whole land, the city of Jerusalem has come to encapsulate the hopes, desires, and dreams of millions of people that are concerned for its well-being and the well-being of all its inhabitants. Jerusalem has been a symbol, model, and paradigm par excellence of peace throughout its history. And today, what happens in and to Jerusalem is an omen for the whole country. It can be an omen for good or bad, for conflict and disaster or for peace and neighborliness.

In its present situation, Jerusalem cannot, in any way, stand for or represent the dreams that its citizens wish for it. Today’s picture of Jerusalem continues to be one of occupation by Israel, discrimination against and oppression of its Palestinian inhabitants and the denial of their human and political rights. Today’s Jerusalem cannot even come close to the hopes, desires, and dreams that its people long for. What the Israeli government is doing through its policies of Judaizing the city and displacing its Palestinian citizens and replacing them with Jewish settlers is a recipe for disaster.

Therefore, we reiterate our vision for the peace of Jerusalem:

1. We call on all the countries and governments in the world to make it abundantly clear that Jerusalem cannot be the possession or monopoly of the state of Israel; it is occupied territory and geographically located between the two states of Palestine and Israel; and so politically speaking, it must be shared equitably by both of them.

2. Religiously speaking, Jerusalem is equally significant to the three religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All attempts by the occupying Israeli forces to give advantage to the rights and privileges of Jews above those of Christians and Muslims must be considered null and void by the international community.

3. We call on all countries and governments in the world to pressure Israel to stop establishing and expanding the illegal settlements in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, to remove the wall that envelops the city and all the checkpoints that have isolated Jerusalem and made it inaccessible to its own people – Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

4. We call on all countries and governments to pressure Israel to respect and uphold the human rights of all the people of the land and to work for the end to the Israeli occupation and for the freedom and sovereignty of Palestine through peaceful and nonviolent means.

5. We call on all churches around the world to continue to pray and advocate for the peace of Jerusalem. In faithfulness to Jesus Christ’s message of justice, peace, and reconciliation, we call on all Christians to use their biblical interpretation and theology for the purpose of peacemaking and not as a cover-up for injustice.

It is time for the Palestinian people to be free and to live in dignity and peace. It is time for peace based on justice to be achieved. It is time for the establishment of the Palestinian state in accordance with the demands of international law and UN resolutions. IT IS TIME FOR PALESTINE!

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Sabeel's call for the peace of Jerusalem and other resources can also be found at the website of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (World Council of Churches) -

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