ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 19, 2011
ELCA Presiding Bishop Joins Interfaith Call for Middle East Peace
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and 32 Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, said a new peace initiative by former Israeli government, intelligence and security officials offers a useful sign for Middle East peace. The initiative, along with previous Middle East peace initiatives, offers "key principles and ideas for negotiations to achieve comprehensive Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace," the religious leaders said in a letter to President Barack Obama.
The leaders, writing as the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, sent their letter to the president April 14.
Called the Israeli Peace Initiative, the new proposal was introduced earlier this month. Previous peace initiatives cited by the religious leaders include the Arab Peace Initiative and the Geneva Accord.
"The main elements of these peace initiatives reflect years of official and informal, unofficial negotiations," the religious leaders wrote. They wrote that "the peace initiatives include creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, based on the 1967 borders with possible limited land swaps as mutually agreed; a fair negotiated resolution of the issue of refugees that does not threaten the demography of Israel; the sharing of Jerusalem by Israel and the Palestinian state with both having their capitals in the city; and Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as part of a peace agreement with Syria."
Citing "the current stalemate in negotiations, the threat of escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and the goal and expectation that peace can be achieved this year," the religious leaders called for immediate action by the United States. They wrote that the United States, in coordination with the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, "should support these elements being addressed in negotiations on an urgent basis." Known as the "Quartet on the Middle East," the United States, the European Union, Russia and the U.N. are mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The religious leaders encouraged Obama to visit Jerusalem and the region soon. They "pledged their prayers and public support for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership in this urgent endeavor." The leaders said they believe that in providing such leadership, the president "can count on substantial support from members of churches, synagogues and mosques across the country."
The full text of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders' letter to President Obama is at http://www.ELCA.org/advocacy on the ELCA website.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.5 million members in more than 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
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