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Presiding Bishop signs statement on Gaza, Hezbollah-Israel conflicts

[Episcopal News Service]  Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has signed a letter to President George W. Bush,  issued by Churches for Middle East Peace, calling for a diplomatic solution to the conflicts in Gaza and between Hezbollah and Israel.

The full text of of the statement follows:

July 20, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Bush,

Mr. President, while attention is rightly focused on the Hezbollah-Israel conflict, we write with growing concern for the situation in Gaza and appeal to you to do everything possible to calm the crisis and restore hope for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. We condemn the capture by Palestinian militants of Cpl. Gilad Shalit and pray that he will be released by Hamas without further delay and returned safely to his family.

The escalating violence and regional dimension of the conflict is alarming. It is urgent that you call on all the parties to restrain from using force and, rather, to trust a diplomatic process.

We urge the sustained intervention of the United States at the highest level with both Israeli and Palestinian officials and with the cooperation of Egypt and the Quartet. We ask you to work closely with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz toward a diplomatic solution which will not further impoverish and burden ordinary Palestinians. Our churches and institutions in Gaza struggle in despair to try to meet the needs of the people – both Muslim and Christian. We endorse the call by the church-related humanitarian and development aid agencies for the urgent protection of Gaza's civilians, as specified by the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as immediate and unobstructed access for the delivery of critical humanitarian aid and supplies necessary for basic human needs.

As religious leaders in the United States, we are deeply moved by the July 7 statement by the Bishops and Patriarchs of Jerusalem. They condemn the abduction of the Israeli soldier and the killing of the young settler by Palestinians, but consider Israel's response – the destruction of bridges and a power station, the deprivation and deaths of civilians and arrests of Palestinian officials – as without proportion. "Things have gone too far. We call on the International community to intervene and insist on a diplomatic solution to this conflict. All Authorities must change course, and with unflinching International pressure and presence, they have to negotiate in order to reach the just and definitive peace."

We share and support your vision of a two-state solution. If the Hezbollah-Israel crisis, which threatens to expand into a regional war, continues it could end all hope for a solution that brings peace and security to Israel and the future state of Palestine and their suffering peoples.

We hold you in our prayers as you seek a way toward peace in these challenging times.


Dr. Robb Davis
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rev. Robert Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church in America

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
Executive Director
Alliance of Baptists

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
United Methodist Council of Bishops

Very Rev. Dominic Izzo, OP
Roman Catholic Conference of Major
Superiors of Men's Institutes

Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church, (USA)

Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director & CEO
Church World Service

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Bro. Mark Schroeder, OFM
President, Franciscan Friars (OFM)
English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council

Rev. William G. Sinkford
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Rev. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)