ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 14, 2009
Lutheran Bishops Urge for Continued Commitment to Middle East Peace
WASHINGTON (ELCA) -- Lutherans are asking the Obama Administration to "remain firm" in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. In an Oct. 13 letter, 58 of 65 synod bishops and the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) expressed concern over the stalemate and the "fading hopes" for a two-state solution.
"We urge the U.S. to insist upon an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as well as an end to Palestinian violence against Israelis," the letter said. The bishops stated their appreciation for the past leadership of the administration and asked the president to "remain firm in your commitment to achieving a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said, "The call of ELCA bishops for an even stronger leadership role by President Obama recognizes both a high regard for his commitment and the recognition of U.S. responsibility to press for a negotiated solution."
The letter also addressed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. "The deteriorating conditions in Gaza make a resumption of violence more likely; however, opening the borders in a carefully monitored way that respects Israel's security needs will contribute to the well being of Palestinians in Gaza and the safety of Israelis in Sderot," the letter said.
According to the Rev. Bruce H. Burnside, bishop, ELCA South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Madison, the letter was sent to demonstrate to the administration and to the church as a whole that "this church stands behind just peacemaking."
"We hope that the outcome is to encourage these extraordinary moves and to encourage support throughout the ELCA," said Burnside. "We see this as an opportunity to speak in both directions, from the church and to the church."
Burnside chairs the ELCA Conference of Bishops' Middle East concerns committee and was among four bishops on the committee who visited members of Congress here Sept. 24-25.
The bishops asked the members of Congress "to be supportive of all the efforts to resolve the conflict in the region," said the Rev. Floyd M. Schoenhals, bishop, ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, Tulsa, Okla. "This is an opportune time," he said.
The letter outlined the ELCA's affiliation with the Lutheran World Federation as well as with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).
Hanson met recently with the Rev. Munib A. Younan, ELCJHL bishop. "I heard firsthand of the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem and the diminishing hope for a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said Hanson.
The letter expressed the bishops' "conviction that now is the time for bold U.S. leadership." A copy of the letter was delivered to members of Congress.
The letter is at http://www.ELCA.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Advocacy/Issues/Israel-Palestine.aspx on the ELCA Web site.
Audio of comments by Bishop Burnside is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/091014Burnside.mp3 on the ELCA Web site
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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