“With rapid change under way in the Arab world we believe that the time to act is now—before events make the task of reaching an agreement more difficult,” said 20 leaders of Anglican, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations in a March 7 letter to President Barack Obama.
The leaders called upon Obama 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.” In the letter, the leaders, writing as members of the Washington-based coalition Churches for Middle East Peace, said they were disappointed with the Feb. 18 veto by the U.S. of a United Nations Security Council resolution that called Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories 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 said. “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.”
It added: “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 time frame.”
Churches for Middle East Peace had issued a call Feb. 2 that the Obama administration not oppose the Security Council resolution.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was among those signing the most recent letter. Others who signed it include the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, the largest U.S. ecumenical body; the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church.
The complete text of the letter can be accessed here.