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Edgar and Church leaders meet with President Abbas
Washington, D.C., May 26, 2005—National Council of Churches USA General Secretary Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, along with other Christian leaders, will meet at 4 p.m. today with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who is in Washington to meet with government officials and religious leaders.
Following an official delegation to the Middle East earlier this year, NCC wrote to both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Abbas (pictured) to express alarm and worry for the people in the region and to ask for a meeting to discuss the longstanding concern for peace, security and justice in the Holy Land. In today’s meeting with President Abbas, which is being facilitated by the Churches for Middle East Peace, Rev. Edgar hopes to emphasize that there is support for justice for the Palestinians from a broad spectrum of Christians in the U.S.
“We are excited about the opportunity to meet with President Abbas and also look forward to the day when we will be able to meet with Prime Minister Sharon,” said Rev. Edgar. “It is extremely important that we continue to work and pray for peace in the Holy Land. In spite of the conditions we remain hopeful that peace is possible.”
At a meeting in Louisville earlier this week, NCC’s Governing Board issued a letter to President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon expressing deep concern for the well being of Israeli and Palestinian people as well as hope for a peaceful and just solution to the conflict. Rev. Edgar delivered copies of the letter to President Abbas and to the Israeli Embassy.
According to the letter (see full text below), “…[D] espite the disheartening conditions under which Israelis and Palestinians now live, there is indeed a glimmer of hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” stated the letter. “With this in mind, we support Palestinian leadership in calling for an end to suicide bombings against Israeli citizens, and we applaud Israeli disengagement from Gaza, as first steps toward such a resolution.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For a copy of the statement released by the NCC delegation following the visit to the Middle East earlier this year or to schedule an interview, contact Phil Jenks at (212) 870-2252 or Leslie Tune at (202) 297-2191.
May 24, 2005
President Mahmoud Abbas
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Dear President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon:
Greetings in Peace, Salaam, Shalom!
On behalf of the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches USA, I write to you out of our deep concern for the well being of the people who live in the Holy Land. Many years of conflict have passed, and yet we still remain hopeful that peace may one day come to the land where we, along with the Christian communities in Israel and Palestine, confess God visited creation in the person of Jesus Christ.
In all these years of conflict, the National Council of Churches USA, which is composed of 36 churches that collectively represent nearly 50 million Christians, has advocated for a peaceful resolution that includes the Palestinians’ right to their own state, as well as Israel’s right to exist with security. We continue to see a viable two-state solution as the only equitable resolution to this conflict. And we continue to condemn any and all violence that prevents the attainment of this goal.
Earlier this year, a National Council of Churches USA delegation of religious leaders visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and other places in Israel and Palestine. Delegation members agreed with many observers that, despite the disheartening conditions under which Israelis and Palestinians now live, there is indeed a glimmer of hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. With this in mind, we support Palestinian leadership in calling for an end to suicide bombings against Israeli citizens, and we applaud Israeli disengagement from Gaza, as first steps toward such a resolution. Indeed, we consider the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 to be at the heart of this enduring conflict.
As a result of the visit to Israel and Palestine, the National Council of Churches USA extended invitations to both of you to meet with US religious leaders when you visit our country, so that we might better understand our respective positions. We are pleased to have the opportunity for Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, and other church leaders to meet with Mr. Abbas later this week in Washington. We continue to hope for a meeting in the near future with Mr. Sharon.
Please understand that, as people of faith, we seek peace and justice for all people in the Middle East. We are cognizant of the difficulties that stand in the way of peace, but we nonetheless believe in the words of the Prophets that the pursuit of justice is the duty of all those who call upon the Lord.
Those with political authority and those in positions of religious leadership have a special responsibility to work for peace with justice. May God strengthen us all to live up to this responsibility, for the sake of all Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people of other faiths who live in the Holy Land.
Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr.,
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