Lutherans in the US are asking the Obama administration to “remain firm” in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, expressing concern over the stalemate and the “fading hopes” for a two-state solution.
The plea comes in a letter sent to the president and senior advisers on 13 October 2009 by 58 of the 65 synod bishops and the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
It declares: “We urge the US to insist upon an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as well as an end to Palestinian violence against Israelis.”
The bishops state their appreciation for the past leadership of the administration and ask the president to “remain firm in your commitment to achieving a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Rev Mark S Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said: “The call of ELCA bishops for an even stronger leadership role by President Obama recognizes both a high regard for his commitment and the recognition of US responsibility to press for a negotiated solution.”
The letter also addresses the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“The deteriorating conditions in Gaza make a resumption of violence more likely; however, opening the borders in a carefully monitored way that respects Israel’s security needs will contribute to the wellbeing of Palestinians in Gaza and the safety of Israelis in Sderot,” it says.
According to the Rev Bruce H. Burnside, a bishop of the ELCA South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Madison, the letter was sent to demonstrate to the administration and to the church as a whole that “this church stands behind just peacemaking.”
“We hope that the outcome is to encourage these extraordinary moves and to encourage support throughout the ELCA,” said Burnside. “We see this as an opportunity to speak in both directions, from the church and to the church.”
Burnside chairs the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Middle East concerns committee and was among four bishops on the committee who visited members of Congress in Washington DC from 24-25 September.
The letter outlines ELCA’s affiliation with the Lutheran World Federation as well as with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).
Bishop Hanson met recently with the Bishop Munib A. Younan of the ELCJHL.
“I heard first-hand of the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem and the diminishing hope for a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Hanson.
The letter expresses the bishops’ “conviction that now is the time for bold US leadership.” A copy of the letter has been delivered to members of Congress.