UCC and Disciples leaders urge end to Israeli occupation
May 2002

In a letter sent to President Bush two days after Easter, the Rev. John H. Thomas and the Rev. Richard L. Hamm, General Ministers and Presidents, respectively, of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), urged him "to recognize that it will require an active and level-headed international approach to end the current crisis, which has reached gravely serious levels. It will also require the intervention of the community of nations to help arrive at a long-term resolution that is fair and just.

"An essential component of a just solution is the end of the occupation, rightly affirmed in the recent U.N. Security Council resolutions," they wrote. "The United States is in a unique position to play the central role to this end, and we believe that it must do so, and must not wait.

"Three months ago, during the season of Advent, we wrote to you expressing our concerns regarding the prospects for peace in the Middle East, and our hope that your administration would take an active role in encouraging negotiations toward a just resolution of the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those concerns and hopes have become ever more urgent in the wake of the very aggressive Israeli incursion into and re-occupation of Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other Palestinian cities, during which President Arafat has been isolated and imprisoned, and hundreds of Palestinians have been wrongly detained."

The letter continued, "We have strongly condemned the violence of both sides, but fear that the persistence of violence by those who have a stake in maintaining the conflict is being used as a pretext to avoid a vigorous pursuit of peace.

"The suicide bombers have inflicted pain and death on many innocent Israelis and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victims and their families. At the same time, a major military campaign that Israel claims will last 'several weeks' counteracts the peace Israel claims is her goal, and inflicts pain and death on many innocent Palestinians. To cut off and humiliate the only Palestinian leader with whom the Israelis can negotiate, and concurrently impose heavy restrictions on the lives of so many innocent Palestinians who have suffered long enough under the violence of occupation, also demonstrates a violence that will only generate more anger. Taking steps toward a just peace cannot depend upon the cessation of aggression."

The letter ended with a reference to the recent Holy Week.

"Christ's suffering is our human condition of despair. As Christ felt as if he had been abandoned by God, so too many in the world feel abandoned in their despair. We have just celebrated Easter, though, and know the triumphant hope that is victorious over death.

"In Israel and Palestine, let us do what we can to demonstrate the hope of God's love."

Speak out for peace

In related news, the UCC's Justice and Peace Action Network (Middle East) has issued an alert encouraging UCC members to "contact U.S. officials and urge them to show leadership toward peace, and pursue our nation's expressed commitment to end Israeli occupation and create a viable Palestinian state."

"From his Birmingham jail, M. L. King Jr. reminded gradualists that 'justice too long delayed is justice denied,'" the alert says. "We have learned that to do nothing is to allow Israel to increase its stake in the occupation—without international enforcement Israel settled 50 percent more illegal residents in the Occupied Territories since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords."

"Most Israelis want to end the occupation and know Israel, for its own sake, must. The U.S. must urge Israel to make that difficult choice, assuring Israelis that 'justice for all' will not mean the end of U.S. support for Israel."

Peace program endorsed At its meeting in Indianapolis April 4-6, the Common Global Ministries Board of the UCC and the Disciples endorsed the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. The program's goal is "to implement 2002 in the Decade to Overcome Violence as the year to end the violence of occupation in Palestine.

More @

World Council of Churches at File www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/news/press/02/06pre.html; UCC/Disciples Global Ministries at File www.globalministries.org/mee; Churches for Middle East Peace File www.cmep.org.

What you can do to aid in peace efforts

Contact President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and your Congressional representatives to urge a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict:

The President: phone 202-456-1111; fax 202-261-8577; e-mail  president@whitehouse.gov

Colin Powell: phone 202-647-6575; fax 202-261-8577; e-mail  secretary@state.gov

Members of Congress: phone 202-224-3121; the switchboard can transfer you to your members' offices and provide your members' e-mails or fax numbers, or search www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.

Participate on May 2-3 in a strategy conference and advocacy day on efforts to bring peace with justice to Palestine and Israel, being held by the ecumenical Middle East Forum of Church World Service and Witness. See www.loga.org for registration or call Derek Duncan, 216-736-3220, for information or to be connected with other grassroots advocates.

Join the national Middle East Prayer Vigil; read the petition "A Christian Call for Peace." Go to www.globalministries.org or www.cmep.org.

Pray for our two missionaries in Palestine. One of them has essentially been stuck in Bethlehem with her family since Easter weekend, when Israel declared Bethlehem to be a "closed military zone." The other missionary is safely in Jerusalem.

Contact Peter E. Makari, Executive for the Middle East and Europe, Common Global Ministries Board, UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 700 Prospect Ave., Room 706, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100; phone 216-736-3227; fax: 216-736-3203; e-mail:  makarip@ucc.org; website: www.globalministries.org/mee.