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Religious Leaders Urge Bush Administration
to Jumpstart Middle East Road Map
Washington, D.C., June 7, 2004 -- Religious leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions are urging the Bush Administration to take immediate steps to pursue the full implementation of the Road Map to Peace in the Middle East.
In a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell on June 1 at the State Department, a “National Interreligious Leadership Delegation in Support of the Road Map to Peace in the Middle East” said now is the time for the United States to jumpstart the peace process. To do so, the religious leaders have called for the United States to send a special envoy to Israel-Palestine.
“The U.S. has to create an opportunity for peace,” said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the National Council of Churches’ Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace, who attended the meeting representing Archbishop Demetrios the Greek Orthodox Church. “We need to refocus on this and not allow the peace process to be sidelined by all the other issues in the Middle East.”
The June 1 meeting followed up on a November 2003 letter to President Bush and a December 2, 2003, news conference in Washington, D.C. See www.walktheroadtopeace.org for more information and documentation.
According to a statement released by the delegation, “Unless the United States makes the Road Map and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations an urgent priority now, the cycles of violence will jeopardize prospects for a two-state solution, further alienate our European and Mideast Arab allies, exacerbate conflict in Iraq, and increase the terrorist threat to the United States.”
The religious leaders also expressed to Secretary Powell their concern that the Road Map has “effectively been put on hold until after the elections.” In the meeting, Powell unequivocally denied that the November election would dictate U.S. action.
Although the religious leaders believed that there was a good exchange with Secretary Powell, the major point of contention is on the timing of U.S. action in the Middle East. According to Powell, the United States will not send an envoy to the Middle East until the violence has ceased. The religious delegation, on the other hand, believes intervention is needed now as the situation continues to worsen.
According to His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, “We believe that the moment is now. The U.S. is looking for the appropriate moment but the Road Map calls for everybody to go together. Dialogue will not happen unless the U.S. gets involved. There is an urgent need for our government and for the world to put an end to violence in the Holy Land now.”
The delegation members also expressed their belief that unilateral action from Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon without negotiation is counterproductive and that the only way unilateral actions could work would be if they genuinely facilitated a peaceful and just solution.
In addition to sending a special envoy to the Middle East, the religious delegation called for a special fund to be established to help Palestinians build an infrastructure for security and self-rule.
“We cannot lose sight of the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the entire Middle East situation,” said Dr. Kireopoulos. “At a time when the United States is at war in Iraq and trying to end terrorism, we feel it is important to refocus on this central issue and on implementing the Road Map. So much of our success in other efforts depends on resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. We really must do this now,” said Dr. Kireopoulos.
The religious delegation that met with Secretary Powell was composed of members of the National Interreligious Initiative for Peace and represents a wide range of Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups united in their support of a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian state alongside the internationally recognized Jewish state of Israel, with enduring peace and security for both peoples.
Members of the delegation from NCC communions were: the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Mr. James Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church; The Rt. Rev. Thomas Clark Ely of The Episcopal Church; Rev. Dr. John R. Deckenback, Conference Minister, Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Dr. Ken Booker Langston, Co-Convener of Disciples Advocacy Washington Network, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Pictured: Religious leaders give a news conference following the June 1 meeting with Sec. of State Powell.
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