Ecumenical coalition wants presidential hopefuls to prioritize Middle East peace

Ecumenical coalition wants presidential hopefuls to prioritize Middle East peace

August 09, 2007
Written by Bennett Guess

A coalition of U.S. church leaders has called on candidates hoping to stand for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, to support stronger diplomatic efforts to promote a Middle East peace that addresses "the basic needs of both Israelis and Palestinians."

Clergy and laity from the UCC-supported Churches for Middle East Peace, a Washington-based group, wrote to nine candidates from the Republican Party, and eight from the Democratic Party, to urge them, if elected as U.S. president, to support a "two-state peace between Israel and the Palestinians as a top priority."

Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant church bodies and organizations, including the UCC, that support a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The signers said U.S. leadership was needed to help a stalled Middle East peace process, and also to restore "the goodwill that the United States once enjoyed in the region."

"The unwillingness of the U.S. government to engage constructively to resolve the conflict has created deep distrust and hostility toward our country in the Arab and Muslim world, and elsewhere," the letter said. "Our principles of justice, equality and peace are at risk, and our security interests depend on more effective leadership in helping resolve this historic struggle."

Declaring the need to show "empathy and support for both Israelis and Palestinians if we are to help resolve this terrible conflict," the letter asked the candidates, "to rise above the polemical rhetoric that has too often characterised political commentary on this conflict."

Among those who signed the letter are board members of Churches for Middle East Peace, including Antonios Kireopoulos, the associate general secretary of the US National Council of Churches, and Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society.

Members of the group's leadership council who also signed the letter include several retired U.S. ambassadors. Among them are Phyllis E. Oakley, a one-time assistant secretary of state, and Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican senator from the state of Rhode Island.

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