Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, June 9, 2009


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A Letter from Leading American Christians in Support of Obama's Work for Peace in the Holy Land

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House
Washington, DC 20500
June 4, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

As American Christian leaders with a shared commitment to a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian
peace, we have come together at a time of great opportunity and urgency. After decades of tragic
conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace, yet with your
determined leadership we believe the promise of two viable, secure and independent states can
be realized.

We commend your message to the people of the Middle East and your challenge to all of us to
work for Holy Land peace as we seek to build a more positive future for the people of the region
and the world. We are grateful that you have identified resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict as a top priority and made clear your Administration’s commitment to sustained, hands-on
diplomacy. As you embark on peace efforts, we ask you to provide a clear framework for an
end to the conflict, help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to
achieve lasting peace, and hold both parties to account when they fail to honor their

Mr. President, you have assumed office at one of the most critical moments in the long history of
this conflict. While the international community and majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian
people are all committed to a two state solution as the best option for achieving peace and
security, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Continued settlement growth and
expansion are rapidly diminishing any possibility for the creation of a viable Palestinian
state. The targeting of Israeli civilians through ongoing rocket fire and the insistent rejection by
some of Israel’s right to exist reinforces the destructive status quo. These actions, along with the
route of the separation barrier, movement restrictions, and continued home demolitions, serve to
undermine Palestinians and Israelis alike who seek peace. As hope dims, the threat of violence
grows and hardliners are strengthened.

We share a common commitment to all the people of the Holy Land—Jews, Christians and
Muslims— and are particularly concerned with the plight of the Palestinian Christian
community. In the birthplace of our faith, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities is
dwindling rapidly, and with them the possibility of a day when three thriving faith communities
live in shared peace in Jerusalem. Mr. President, it is apparent that unless there is an Israeli-
Palestinian peace agreement Christians in the Holy Land may cease to exist as a viable

Now is indeed the time for immediate and bold American leadership. Fruitful diplomacy will
require U.S. engagement with a Palestinian unity government committed to peace with the state
of Israel. We commend your important statements pressing both Israel and the Palestinians to
live up to their obligations, and we urge your Administration to continue to bolster Palestinian
capacity to halt violence and continue to demonstrate firm dedication to a viable Palestinian state
by exhibiting no tolerance for Israeli settlement activity. While working to end rocket attacks
against the people of southern Israel, the U.S. should also seek immediate relief for the
population of Gaza—living in rubble and without basic necessities—by ending restrictions on
humanitarian goods and opening the borders to reconstruction material, commerce and transit in
a secure manner.

We welcome your call for people on both sides to recognize the pain and aspirations of the other.
Because of this conflict many have lost the ability to see the other as human beings worthy of
dignity and respect. An entire generation of Israelis and Palestinians has grown up amidst
violence and hatred. We pledge to join with you to work with and support those in both societies
who seek peace, justice, and security, standing beside those who hope for a better future for
themselves and for the generations that follow.

The current political stalemate and declining situation on the ground demonstrate that Israelis
and Palestinians cannot reach a negotiated agreement without a strong, helping hand. We urge
your Administration to present proposals that go beyond the mere principle of two states and lay
out a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples.
Moreover, we appreciate your strong support for a comprehensive peace and we look forward to
diplomatic efforts to build upon the historic Arab Peace Initiative, with its offer of recognition
and normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for an end to the occupation.

There is no greater work than the Psalmist’s call to “seek peace and pursue it” and no more
critical time than now to finally end the conflict in the Holy Land (Ps. 34:14). We stand ready to
support your bold action and are rallying Christians nationwide around robust U.S. peacemaking
efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Our prayers and mutual commitment are with you in
this difficult and most important task.

The Rev. Dr. Jimmy R. Allen
New Baptist Covenant

The Most Rev. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America

David Black
Eastern University

Bishop Wayne Burkette
Moravian Church in America, Southern Province

Tony Campolo
Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

Sr. J. Lora Dambroski, OSF
President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America Primate
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Dr. Joy Fenner
Former President
Baptist General Convention of Texas

Leighton Ford
Leighton Ford Ministries

Israel L. Gaither
National Commander
The Salvation Army

Rev. Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley
Executive Secretary-Treasurer
Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
President, Lutheran World Federation
Dennis Hollinger
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor, Northland Church
Member, Executive Committee of the
National Association of Evangelicals
Bill Hybels
Senior Pastor
Willow Creek Community Church
Lynne Hybels
Advocate for Global Engagement
Willow Creek Community Church
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church
Reverend A. Wayne Johnson
General Secretary
National Missionary Baptist Convention of
Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of
Antioch for the Eastern USA
Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF
Franciscan Action Network
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches
Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches
Immediate Past President, National Council of
Reverend Willie Maynard
Treasurer, National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church, LA
His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service
Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches
Richard J. Mouw
Fuller Theological Seminary
David Neff
Editor in Chief
Christianity Today
Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren
Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, President
The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church, (USA)
Very Rev. Thomas Picton, CSsR
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Reverend Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Most Rev. John H. Ricard, SSJ
Catholic Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Bob Roberts, Jr.
NorthWood Church, Keller, TX
Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba)
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of
North America
Rolando Santiago
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Dr. Chris Seiple
Institute for Global Engagement
Robert Seiple
Former Ambassador-at-large for
International Religious Freedom
Reverend William J. Shaw
President, National Baptist Convention, Inc
Pastor, White Rock Baptist Church, PA
Ron Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action
Reverend T. DeWitt Smith
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Richard Stearns
World Vision
Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Jim Wallis
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski
Catholic Bishop of Orlando
The Right Rev. John F. White
Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Bishop President
Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace





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