US religious leaders seek two-state solution for Palestine and Israel

By Arthur Hagopian
January 27, 2013

Leading figures among the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches in the US have joined other leaders of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious and lay organisations and institutions, pledging to mobilise support for peace in the Middle East.

Armenian Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Director of Ecumenical Affairs for Armenian Orthodox Church in America Father Mark Arey, the Director of the Office of Ecumenical Affairs for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, believe time is running out for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The loose umbrella of the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative (NILI) for Peace in the Middle East, which includes Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America, and Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, warns that the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was waning, and urged "immediate, sustained US leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution."

Among the other leaders are Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ (USA) and Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US.

The group believes the most viable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a two-state agreement that provides for a secure and recognised Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.

"With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace. A new dawn is possible," they said in a recently released statement.

Mourning the lives lost and shattered during the recent violence that gripped the region, the group warns that what had been seen, over the past years, "will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate."

As things stand now, "the status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians," they conceded, but stressed now is not the time for "another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace."

"The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilises the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict," the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East says.

The group urges strong and determined action, proposing a peace of the brave, because as people of faith, "we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible."

"We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new [US] Administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides," the statement declares.

The signatories note that the US "has unique leverage and credibility in the region" and that no past progress towards peace has occurred in the Arab-Israeli conflict without US leadership, facilitation or staunch support.

"Once again, we need active, fair and firm US leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late," they add.

They pledge to mobilise the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the US, in the push for peace.

"Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains. Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement," the statement from the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East concludes.

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© Arthur Hagopian is a writer and journalist currently based in Australia. He has worked for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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