Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Christians Call for Middle East Peace: Letter to Obama

UPDATE: Renewed violence in Gaza, with Israel targetting Hamas leaders (and, as usual, hitting numerous civilians along the way) and promising an incursion “that will not be short,” and Hamas launching retaliatory rockets and calling for a renewal of suicide bomb attacks,  calls such as these are needed more than before.  Religious and other peace leaders from around the globe need to converge on Israel-Palestine and put themselves in harm’s way an unarmed human shields in order to stop the madness.  We cannot have half-measures nor handwringing, but need bold, nonviolent action–NOW! 

As Bob Cornwall notes, Christians from many denominations have written an open letter to U.S. president-elect Barack Obama calling for strong action in the new year for Middle East peace.  The letter was generated by one of my favorite organizations, Christians for a Middle East Peace.  You can add your signature here.  Let me add:  These are the kind of efforts Christians should be known for–and not just at Christmastide! Hopefully, this is a sign of far more peace and justice activity by U.S. Christians in the coming year–not gay bashing, warmongering, neglecting the environment or the poor, etc., but promoting peace and justice–and challenging elected officials to do more of the same.  The text and initial signatories appear below:

December 1, 2008
The Honorable Barack Obama
President-elect of the United States
Presidential Transition Team
Washington, DC 20270

Dear President-elect Obama,

As Christians of the Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions, we are united by a Biblical call to be peacemakers and a commitment to the two peoples of the Holy Land who yearn for a just peace. As Americans, we urge you, Mr. President, to make achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority during your first year in office.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has gone on too long. It has caused untold suffering for both sides, created economic hardships, and provided a rallying cry for extremists.

As people of faith and hope, we believe peace is possible. Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians continue to support a negotiated solution based on two secure and sovereign states as the best way to end this tragic conflict.

In order to achieve a durable peace, your Administration must provide sustained, high-level diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal of a final status agreement. Building on past discussions, we ask you to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make historic compromises necessary for peace. [Emphasis added by MLW-W]

Your commitment to working for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel can help strengthen U.S. security and improve stability and relationships throughout the Middle East. We believe that Jerusalem – home to two peoples and three religions – has the potential to become a powerful symbol of hope and coexistence for people across the region and the world.

We know the work for a just peace will not be easy. It will require great courage and resolve, but the risk of inaction is even greater. Without active U.S. engagement, political inertia and perpetuation of the unbearable status quo will make achievement of a two-state solution increasingly difficult. Moreover, we are concerned about the negative impact a further delay will have on the Christian community in the Holy Land, whose numbers continue to decline.

We call on all Christians and people of goodwill to join us in praying for the peace of Jerusalem and in supporting vigorous U.S. diplomatic efforts to secure Middle East peace. Mr. President, as you take up the many challenges facing the United States and the global community, we urge you to work for a better future for all the children of Abraham in the land that is holy to us all.


Rev. Fr. Mark Arey
Ecumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Most Rev. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of
America (Eastern)

Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette
Moravian Church in North America

Tony Campolo
Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

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

Marie Dennis
Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Sr. Donna Graham, OSF
President, English Speaking Conference JPIC Council
Franciscan Friars (OFM)

Ken Hackett
President, Catholic Relief Services

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Dr. Stan  Hastey
Minister for Mission and Ecumenism, Alliance of Baptists

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor, Northland Church
Member, Executive Committee of the
National Association of Evangelicals

Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church
for the Eastern USA

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches
Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches

Reverend 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, The American Baptist Churches, USA.

Richard J. Mouw
President, 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
President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Dr. Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Bob Roberts, Jr.
Pastor, NorthWood Church, Keller, TX

Leonard Rodgers
Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba)
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Rolando L. Santiago
Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Dr. Chris Seiple
President, Institute for Global Engagement

Robert A. Seiple
Former Ambassador-at-Large for
International Religious Freedom

Ronald J. Sider
President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Richard Stearns
President, World Vision, United States

The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Constantine M. Triantafilou
Executive Director and CEO
International Orthodox Christian Charities

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Jim Wallis
President, Sojourners

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Right Rev. John F. White
Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer
African Methodist Episcopal Church

American Christians nationwide are invited to add their names to the leaders’ call for Holy Land peace.
Deadline is Jan. 16, 2009.
Visit: www.cmep.org/letter

December 25, 2008 - Posted by | Israel-Palestine, just peacemaking


  1. This is an important statement. The Bush Administration decided not to pursue the Clinton initiatives, leaving this situation to fester and worsen. It’s imperative that Hillary Clinton jump on this and push both sides to work on a solution that works for all!

    Thanks for the hat tip!

    Merry Christmas.

    Comment by Bob Cornwall | December 25, 2008

  2. Bush I and Clinton tried and failed–because they waited until the end of their presidential terms. The U.S. president who made the most progress was Jimmy Carter because he put his capital on the line early. Hillary Clinton and Obama must jump on this immediately.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 27, 2008

  3. I’m curious–why is there no mention or critique of the U.S.’s ‘support’ for Israel?

    How is this not a call to more interventionism on behalf of an empire that is already over-extended, and which has already caused and continues to cause (both directly and indirectly) violence in the Middle East?

    Would not a first step be to re-evaluate the U.S.’s relationship to Israel, before telling both Israelis and Palestinians to make ‘compromises’?

    Just wondering…


    Comment by Daniel | December 27, 2008

  4. Daniel, I suspect that the reason there is no such critique of U.S. uncritical support for Israel (one can find more critical discussion of Israeli occupation in Israeli newspapers than one can anywhere in the U.S.) is because such a statement would limit the number of people who would sign. The statement is assuredly NOT a call to military intervention–far from it. But it is written to gain the maximum support for restarting the peace process.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 27, 2008

  5. I feel that Hamas will not be swayed to seek peace and the Israelis are fed up with rocket attacks, suicide bombings et al. To have peace all sides have to want it.

    Comment by Paul | December 28, 2008

  6. Paul, I urge you to read the Israeli press for more balanced accounts than you can find in the U.S. media. The Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, and other major Israeli news outlets have English language websites. There you will find much more debate over the occupation and the actions of the Israeli government than you will in the U.S. media–which always places ALL the blame on the Palestinians and assumes complete Israeli innocence. No other news media in the world is as one-sided about Israel as is the U.S. mainstream media. This gives U.S. citizens a VERY warped view of what is happening.

    In truth, the rank and file of both Palestina and Israel desperately want peace and are fed up with the extremists on both sides. What is lacking is not desire, but trust. The reason for urging the U.S. to play a major role is that the Israeli govt. depends on U.S. aid to stay in power. We are the one outside power that they MUST listen to–and, at least at times in the past, we have been an honest power broker that helped establish peace (e.g. with Egypt) that didn’t compromise either justice or security.

    Palestinians know this, too. Europeans are much more sympathetic with their plight than the U.S. is, but the EU cannot by itself get Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders and achieve a 2-state solution in exchange for an end to Palestinian violence.

    I don’t know who began this current round of madness. Both sides have committed numerous atrocities over the 60 years of Israel’s existence. Both have much to repent and much work to do to find a way for peace.

    I greeted the arrival of Hamas to power as a disaster and still do–but it was rooted in the absolute failure of Fatah to get anything accomplished other than words. Recogniizing Israel’s existence and working a “roadmap to peace” did not result in better lives for the average Palestinian. The illegal Israeli settlements continued and Palestine was turned into a giant open air prison. It’s no wonder the people turned to Hamas–disastrous as that was.

    The real obstacle to a just peace–desired by huge majorities of both peoples–is that there are entrenched political interests in both peoples that persist in seeing a military solution. Hamas extremists (and their allies in other nations) are deluded into thinking that they could somehow militarily force Israel out of existence. They can cause much pain and suffering, but they cannot do that.

    Likewise, fools like the current Israeli Defense Minister insist that they can solve the “Palestinian problem” by wiping out all Palestinians–or forcing them into nearby Jordan, Egypt, etc.–ethnic cleansing. But Palestinians and Israeli Arabs (Arab citizens of Israel) have much higher birthrates and will soon completely outnumber Israelis–even in Israel proper. Further, a successful genocide of Palestinians would lead to a renewed war with all of Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors–as in the ’50s and ’60s, but with far more bloodshed.

    And Americans should care deeply about all this—for selfish reasons if we cannot muster the humanity to have other reasons.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 29, 2008

  7. Thank you.I do in fact read the Israeli press and both sides have to want to make peace. The fact of the matter is that no sane person wants a war,but even Solomon (with all of his purported wisdom) would be challenged to solve this perpetual conflict. Truly vanity and pride and hate are part of this equation – on both sides.
    I am a man of peace, but how would I react if someone were to try to kill me or my family. The Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 addresses such a dilemma. Truely these are times that try men’s souls.

    Comment by Paul | December 30, 2008

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