US faith leaders push Rice on bipartisan Israel-Palestine peace deal

By staff writers
December 29, 2006

A delegation of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department today to support positive American engagement in achieving a bipartisan peace agreement in the Middle East.

Both sides said that there had been an honest dilaogue over the best way forward. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who led off a press briefing afterwards outside the Department of State, said the meeting was "substantive and excellent."

"But the real measure of the success of our meeting can only be taken in the coming weeks and months as actions and events unfold," he added.

Those attending the meeting included: Cardinal McCarrick, former Catholic Archbishop of Washington; Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church; the Rev Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, an evangelical body which has links with evangelist Billy Graham; Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America; and Imam Yahya Hendi, Chaplain, Georgetown University.

Mr Syeed said that American Muslims are also very concerned about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, "but we believe that the issue of Palestine is critical; that's why we're here."

The meeting with Dr Rice follows the release of a statement, 'Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope', which was signed last month by thirty-five Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, as reported on Ekklesia.

The statement from the National Inter-religious Leadership Initiative affirms peace as "an essential of faith" in all three religious traditions and asserts that the United States has "an inescapable responsibility and an indispensable role to provide creative, determined leadership for building a just peace in the Middle East."

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Rice, the faith leaders had asked for a meeting with the Secretary and acknowledged her "personal commitment to the creation of a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel, with security and peace for both peoples."

The National Inter-religious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, a coalition of 35 leaders of national religious bodies or organizations that was formed in 2003 to press for a more constructive and comprehensive US approach to Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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