Nearly 40 leaders of a broad coalition of Christian denominations sent a letter to President George W. Bush on January 23 asking that he "make Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace initiative" an "urgent priority" for his administration.
Among those signing the letter were Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; the Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and executive director of the International Council of Community Churches, one of the NCC's 35 member denominations; and the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC.
"Even though we are from a wide range of Christian traditions -- Orthodox, Catholic, mainstream and evangelical Protestants -- we stand close together in our hopes and prayers for peace in the land we all call Holy and for the reconciliation of the children of Abraham -- Jews, Christians and Muslims," says the letter to the president (complete text follows).
"We commend your vision of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living as a peaceful neighbor alongside the state of Israel, with both nations secure and recognized by their neighbors," says the letter. "With your active engagement, this vision could reignite a passion for peace that can overcome the appeal of violence, vengeance and exclusivity."
The leaders also expressed concern for the Palestinian Christian community.
"The Palestinian Christian leaders have asked us to bring to your attention the very grave situation of Jerusalem," state the U.S. Christian leaders. "With the construction by Israel of the separation barrier, many of the faithful -- both Christians and Muslims -- are excluded from the Holy City, and Jerusalem is severed from Bethlehem."
The letter was initiated by Churches for Middle East Peace, an advocacy group of nearly two dozen denominations seeking a non-violent solution in Israel and Palestine.
The full text of the letter follows.
January 23, 2007
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
As leaders of churches and Christian institutions in the United States, we bring you greetings for the New Year and encouragement as you meet the challenges that face our nation and the global community. Even though we are from a wide range of Christian traditions -- Orthodox, Catholic, mainstream and evangelical Protestants -- we stand close together in our hopes and prayers for peace in the land we all call Holy and for the reconciliation of the children of Abraham -- Jews, Christians and Muslims.
We come to you with two interrelated appeals that are central to our faith-motivated quest for peace with justice. First, we ask that you make Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace initiative, an urgent priority for your Administration. We recognize the great many difficulties and struggles that the people of the Middle East region must confront and the heavy responsibilities that fall upon you to help restore hope for a better future for them and for the citizens of the United States. We know that many view the Israeli-Palestinian situation as the most intractable in our troubled world, but we know that when it is resolved, the positive repercussions will go well beyond that small geographic area.
We commend your vision of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living as a peaceful neighbor alongside the state of Israel, with both nations secure and recognized by their neighbors. With your active engagement, this vision could reignite a passion for peace that can overcome the appeal of violence, vengeance and exclusivity. The United States and the world will become safer as confidence grows that the U.S. is willing to take leadership and work cooperatively with the United Nations and other nations to resolve this conflict.
We bring to you our deepening concern for the welfare and future of the Palestinian Christian community. A small but vital part of the Palestinian society, Christians are rapidly emigrating to countries where they can gain the economic and physical security that is denied all Palestinians living under occupation. The future of the Palestinian Christians requires a solution to the conflict that will allow both peoples -- Israelis and Palestinians -- to live side-by-side in two states where all enjoy justice, peace and security.
The Palestinian Christian leaders have asked us to bring to your attention the very grave situation of Jerusalem. They remind us that Jerusalem is the location of "not only historical memories and sacred places of pilgrimage, but also living communities of believers." With the construction by Israel of the separation barrier, many of the faithful -- both Christians and Muslims -- are excluded from the Holy City, and Jerusalem is severed from Bethlehem. Our second appeal is for you to work with Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to guarantee access to Jerusalem’s Holy Places and religious liberty for all peoples. Resolving the status of Jerusalem is key to achieving a workable two-state solution.
Mr. President, as this New Year begins, we encourage you to maintain the faith, the courage and the resolve to work with other world leaders toward negotiations that guarantee two viable and secure states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side and sharing Jerusalem. For guidance we look to the examples of the great prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah who declared that God calls all nations and all people to do justice to one another. We join in praying for peace in the Holy Land and at home.
The Most Rev. Archbishop Barsamian
Primate, Diocese of the
Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
+Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Bishop Thomas G. Wenski
Chairman, Committee on Int’l Policy
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Are joined by:
The Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette
President, Provincial Elders’ Conference
Moravian Church in America, Southern Province
Simone Campbell, SSS
Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education
Sister Mary Dacey, SSJ
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rev. Robert Edgar
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Reformed Church in America
Catholic Relief Services
Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
Alliance of Baptists
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Very Rev. Dominic Izzo, OP
President, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes
Rev. Phillip L. Jones
Director, Washington Office
Church of the Brethren
Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Michael E. Livingston
International Council of Community Churches
President, National Council of Churches
Albert C. Lobe
Interim Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee
E. Earl McCloud, Jr. Bishop
Office of Ecumenical & Urban Affairs
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director & CEO
Church World Service
Mary Ellen McNish
American Friends Service Committee
A. Roy Medley
American Baptist Churches U.S.A.
Richard J. Mouw
Editor and Vice-President
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Br. Mark Schroeder, OFM
President, Franciscan Friars (OFM)
English Speaking Conference
Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba)
Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Ambassador Robert A. Seiple
Former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
Ronald J. Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. William G. Sinkford
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Msgr. Robert L. Stern
Secretary General, CNEWA
President, Pontifical Mission for Palestine
The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Sojourners/Call to Renewal
The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Churches for Middle East Peace
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement