Along with other national religious leaders, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has added his name to a March 7 letter urging President Obama to take bold steps toward achieving a just and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine.
In the letter, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, along with 19 other leaders of denominations and faith-based organizations, expresses regret about the recent U.S. veto of the United Nations resolution stating that Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories are illegal.
“While we appreciate statements affirming continuing U.S. strong opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements, these must be followed by concrete measures to halt this activity,” the letter reads.
Distributed by the ecumenical coalition group Churches for Middle East Peace, the letter calls for “bold and immediate new steps” to “prevent this veto from further damaging America’s credibility as a broker to help resolve this conflict.”
The group pushes for Obama to build on the Arab Peace Initiative and to seek the support of Middle East Quartet, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
“With rapid change underway in the Arab world we believe that the time to act is now — before events make the task of reaching an agreement more difficult,” the letter states.
The letter also calls for Obama, along with the other Quartet leaders, to visit Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Syria to propose specific steps toward peace.
The full text of the letter, including signees:
Dear Mr. President,
We believe the current upheaval in the Arab world both reveals God’s desire for the liberation of all people from oppression (Psalm 146.7) and presents an opportunity to support moral values in advancing human rights.
In this connection, we wish to express our regret that the United States vetoed the resolution in the United Nations Security Council February 18 reaffirming that Israeli settlements activities in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal.
While we appreciate statements affirming continuing U.S. strong opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements, these must be followed by concrete measures to halt this activity. We believe bold and immediate new steps are needed now to prevent this veto from further damaging America’s credibility as a broker to help resolve this conflict that threatens the security of both peoples and denies self-determination to Palestinians.
Negotiations to end this conflict have foundered not just because of remaining differences over the specific issues, but also because of deep fear and mistrust. Both sides need to have confidence that any agreement for a just peace with security will be lasting and reliably executed in a reasonable timeframe.
We call upon you therefore to open up broad new channels of diplomatic effort to encourage both sides to take responsibility now for creating the conditions necessary for talks to succeed. This initiative must necessarily include support from the Middle East Quartet, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference for a set of proposals, building on the Arab Peace Initiative. The concerns of persons displaced over the years by the conflict should be addressed. Neighbors and powers in the region should be engaged no matter what their current relations with Israel.
With rapid change underway in the Arab world we believe that the time to act is now -- before events make the task of reaching an agreement more difficult. The Quartet recently expressed support for concluding an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians by this September, and you also have expressed the hope there can be an agreement by then.
With that time frame in mind, we hope that you and the other Quartet leaders will travel to the region together soon, visiting Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring Syria, to propose specific steps to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbors.
We believe an interim agreement at this time would be folly. We have seen that stagnation in this peace process can be explosive. We appeal to you to initiate these bold actions now to help bring about resolution of all final status issues and a definitive end to this conflict. Only then can peace, healing and reconciliation of neighbors for which we all pray be achieved, so that all involved may have life more abundantly.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Primate of the Armenian Church
Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
J Ron Byler
Mennonite Central Committee
Very Rev. Thomas. P. Cassidy, SCJ
Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes
American Friends Service Committee
Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns
Rev. Jerry Dykstra
Christian Reformed Church in North America
Donna Graham, OSF
Franciscan Friars (OFM)
English Speaking Conference JPIC
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Mary Hughes, OP
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey
President, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Ph.D.
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Reverend John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service
Rev. Dr. Roy Medley
American Baptist Churches, USA
Reverend Peter Morales
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Stanley J. Noffsinger
Church of the Brethren
Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Friends Committee on National Legislation
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)