Members of the 220th General Assembly Middle East and Peacemaking Issues did not see much business completed by Monday's dinner break, but they experienced a lot of passion and asked numerous questions as they worked to get a picture of the history and strategy for peace in the Middle East.
Commissioners did approve sending Item 15-04 to the General Assembly after massaging the text of the overture on the United States and world's approach to Iran regarding perceived nuclear weapons capability. They passed the overture from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta by a vote of 47-1, which encourages the peaceful engagement of Iran and the avoidance of a preemptive military strike.
The background information for the committee's delicate work this week started with a presentation by Amgad Beblawi, PC(USA) area coordinator for the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe on the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the Middle East. A second presentation by Brian Ellison, chair of the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI), detailed the history of MRTI’s work.
The committee began its consideration of the possible divestment in specific companies that are seen to be profiting from non-peaceful purposes related to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. They heard impassioned statements during the one-hour open hearing that featured 44 speakers, alternately speaking for and against divestment. Speakers included Christians and Jews.
Earlier Monday, the committee received the report from the Middle East Monitoring Group.