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Presiding Bishop joins in call for renewed efforts at Middle East peace

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori  

[Episcopal News Service]  Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is one of 34 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice December 12 asking for a meeting with her to discuss the "urgent situation in the Middle East" and calling on the United States to make peace in the region an "urgent priority."

The leaders, acting as the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, issued a statement the same day, saying that "as Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, our shared Abrahamic faith compels us to work together for peace with justice for Israelis, Palestinians and all peoples in the Middle East."

"As Americans, we again ask the United States to make peace in the Middle East an urgent priority," the statement's preamble concludes. "Our nation has an inescapable responsibility and an indispensable role to provide creative, determined leadership for building a just peace for all in the Middle East."

Quoting from the religious texts of all three faith traditions, the statement says that "building peace through justice is simultaneously an urgent human challenge and a gift of God."

The leaders express disappointment that the United States "did not more actively pursue the Road Map for Peace which we felt held great promise."

Saying they must "speak a word of hope," the leaders write that it is their "conviction that the current crisis can also open up new opportunities for peace."

"Our shared faith in the One God gives us hope and reminds us that God is on the side of peace.  Hatred will not have the final word," the statement says.

The leaders write that the way forward is a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, implementation of certain UN resolutions dealing with Lebanon and reconstruction aid for that country, and diplomatic efforts to restart Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese peace talks. The statement also includes a series of steps the U.S. ought to take on the part of both Israeli and Arab states.

The leaders sent the statement, "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope," to Rice.

"Our statement comes at time when the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians raises hope for restarting negotiations and in the wake of the Baker-Hamilton Report that supports renewed efforts for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace as essential for achieving U.S. goals in the Middle East," they say in their letter.

"The only solution is a negotiated one based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions, realistic compromises, and monitored security arrangements with international guarantees," the letter tells Rice.

"Whatever develops in terms of a possible change of course for U.S. policy in Iraq, we believe a commitment by the Administration, with the support of Congress, to actively reengage in pursuing Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace is essential and will have positive reverberations in the region and around the world."

The signers of the letter and statement are listed below.

Christian Leaders:

His Eminence, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archdiocese of Washington
His Eminence, William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore
Most Reverend William Skylstad, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate, Greek Orthodox Church in America
His Eminence, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate, Armenian Apostolic Church in America
Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church
John H. Thomas, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Ann B. Sherer, Bishop, The United Methodist Church
The Reverend Michael E. Livingston, President, National Council of Churches USA
The Reverend John M. Buchanan, Editor and Publisher, Christian Century
Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary
The Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries
David Neff, Editor and Vice-President, Christianity Today

Jewish Leaders:

Rabbi Harry K. Danziger, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, University of Judaism
Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Rabbi Brant Rosen, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Peter Knobel, Member, Council Parliament of World Religions
Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman, Vice President, A Different Future
Rabbi Merle S. Singer, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth El, Boca Raton, Florida

Muslim Leaders:

Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Imam Mohammed ibn Hagmagid, Vice President, Islamic Society of North America
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder, American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA)
Imam Yahya Hendi, Chaplain, Georgetown University
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America
Both the letter and the statement note that the leaders' organizations are listed for identification only