Healing Middle East wounds a priority, says church coalition

By staff writers
June 8, 2009

A broad coalition of church groups has sent a message of support for President Obama’s efforts at reaching out to Muslims across the world and towards making Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority of his administration.

But it has also expressed grave concern over the “deteriorating situation in the Holy Land” and urged the Obama administration to make real and concrete progress in achieving a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Rev Dr A. Roy Medley of the 1.3 million strong American Baptist Churches is among rthose praising the initiative of the President's visit to Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.

“To reverse the hostility between the US And China, it took a dramatic break with the past for President Nixon to visit China," he declared. "That visit was the important first step in creating a new peaceful relationship between our two countries. We pray for God's mercy that, in like manner, this bold effort by President Obama might initiate a process that bridges the misunderstandings and hostilities between our country and the Muslim world, and that provides solid building blocks for peace in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

Bishop Howard Hubbard, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “I am deeply inspired by the President’s effort to bridge divides of culture and faith and to reach out directly to the people of the Middle East. Confrontation only breeds radicalism. For this effort at rapprochement to succeed, however, we need to see real progress on the ground towards peace with justice in the Holy Land.”

Dr Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland Church, added: “For too long the Holy Land has been viewed as a clash of religions and cultures, but religion must be part of any durable solution. We’re saying today that we’re prepared to put our faith and resources behind that most important goal of bringing a just peace to Israelis and Palestinians - Jew, Christians and Muslim alike.”

Meanwhile the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, commented: “I welcome President Obama’s strong commitment to pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace. His belief that peace in the Holy Land is possible and his firm statements holding both Israel and the Palestinians to their obligations are heartening. Indeed, urgent efforts are now needed to preserve the two-state solution. We are ready to help support bold action by his Administration to finally achieve the peace of Jerusalem.”

The letter emphasizes the urgency of the current moment — that this may be the last chance for a viable two-state solution to the Holy Land’s conflict, which the signatories view as critical to stabilizing the region and bringing justice to both Israelis and Palestinians.

The signatories are national leaders ranging from religious liberals to conservatives, including national leaders who have never made public statements on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and some who are confidants of the President. Catholic Bishops and Cardinals, Evangelicals, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and historic African-American leaders representing millions of Americans joined this ad-hoc initiative.

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