Make Mideast peace urgent priority, interfaith leaders urge U.S. gov't
WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) – Make Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace in the Middle East an urgent foreign policy priority with a two-solution as its centerpiece, U.S. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders urged its government.
In the strongly worded, 2,500-word statement dated Dec. 12 and released Dec. 14, 35 leaders of national religious bodies, compelled by “our shared Abrahamic faith,” said the United States has “an inescapable responsibility and an indispensable role to provide creative, determined leadership for building a just peace for all in the Middle East.”
The leaders, in an accompanying letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, called for a meeting to express their support for renewed action by the Bush administration and to outline, as the statement noted, the “elements of a way forward.”
The statement, entitled “Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope,” comes at a time when the leaders of 29 national Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious communities and organizations hope that a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians is opportune for restarting negotiations and when the issuance of the Baker-Hamilton report has concluded that comprehensive negotiations between Arab and Israeli leaders is essential to Middle East peace.
“At this time of crisis and danger, we must speak a word of hope,” the leaders said, who include three Catholic signatories – Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler and Bishop William Skylstad, of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Among the other signatories were eight heads of other denominations and five other Christian leaders, 11 rabbis and one other Jewish leader, and seven Muslim leaders.
“As religious leaders, we must heed the call to walk the road of justice to peace and call on others, especially our nation's leaders, to do the same, the statement said. “Violence, especially against civilians, violates the dignity of the human person and is incompatible with the peace God desires for each of God's children.”
“It is God who calls us to walk the just road to peace with all peoples and who makes that path possible, even when, as today, the way forward may seem unclear,” the interfaith group said.
The leaders come together as the National Interreligious Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, a group that began in December 2003 to call upon the U.S. government to “to exercise leadership at the highest levels to secure a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians … to more fully engage in the work for a two-state solution to the conflict.”
Pointing to the loss of life, “destroyed communities, displaced peoples, deepened animosities and diminished prospects for a negotiated peace” caused by the crisis in and near Gaza and the war in Lebanon, the religious leaders argued that “status quo in the region is unstable and untenable.”
A comprehensive Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace,” they added, “will have positive reverberations in the region and around the world.”
“Our nation and the world will be much safer if peace takes hold in the Middle East,” the leaders stated.
“The unique role of the United States in the region and in the world gives our nation a special responsibility to pursue peace,” the statement said. “The United States must make peace in the Middle East an urgent priority.”
Joint negotiations, built on “difficult, but realistic, compromises and security arrangements with international guarantees” are the only way forward, the 35 leaders said.
“Military action will not solve the conflict,” they said. “The path to peace requires a rejection of violence and an embrace of dialogue” and “demands reciprocal steps that build confidence on all sides.”
Demonization, laying blame or considering only each community’s “authentic stories of suffering and legitimate aspirations” alone “can pull us a part,” the leaders said. “But we choose to stand together.”
In outlining the elements of an “active, fair and firm” U.S. policy for the region that helps “achieve a just peace,” the leaders centered on the importance of diplomatic efforts engaging and negotiations between Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians that includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
The religious leaders urged support for and work toward implementing previously passed U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for a creation of a Palestinian state and for resolving the situation in the aftermath of the war in Lebanon, including the disarmament of Hezbollah militia and the complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
They called for creating the conditions “that bring about serious negotiations on a two-state solution,” including: “resolving the crisis in Gaza; finding appropriately monitored ways to provide urgently needed humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian people; achieving an effective Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire; urging Hamas to reject violence, recognize Israel and accept previous ...
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