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Amid the violence in the Middle East and elsewhere,
a prayer of contrition and messages to the President

New York, December 30, 2008 -- As the death toll in Gaza exceeded 350 in the fourth day of Israeli attacks, and as violence continued in other world hot spots, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA has offered a prayer of contrition and a plea to God to "make war cease."

In addition, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon also signed on to a message from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) to President Bush to press for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Also today, patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem issued a statement expressing "deep concern, regret and shock" over the war now raging.

As most of the 35 member communions of the National Council expressed their dismay over the sudden eruption of violence between Israel and Gaza, Kinnamon offered this prayer:

God of all creation, you who are so bound to humankind that you feel the joys that complete us and the sorrows that rend us; God of Abraham, you who have made covenant with our ancestors and called us to be special instruments of your peace; we come to you in pain. 

You have commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves; yet throughout our world we see horrifying examples of our failure to love as you command. 

In the land made holy by the prophets and the birth of Christ, an insane cycle of rocket attacks and air bombardment has left hundreds of your children dead and wounded.  Murderous conflict continues in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Sri Lanka.  A recent act of terrorism threatens the peace between India and Pakistan.  Animosity lingers between Georgians and Russians.  Thousands of persons who bear your image face starvation and violence in Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, often because power-hungry leaders have put themselves above your law. 

God of peace and justice, we come to you in pain and contrition.  Forgive us for how we turn away from the suffering of others.  Help us to face their agony so that you might use us as instruments of your peace.  We know, in the words of the psalmist, that you are the one who can make war cease to the ends of the earth, breaking the bow and shattering the spear; but we also know that you have called us to participate in this holy mission.  May this new year be the time when your name will be exalted among the nations, and when we will come to love others as we have been loved by you. 

In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

Kinnamon also signed on to an urgent message to President Bush from Churches for Middle East Peace.

"As people of faith, we care deeply about the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians and deplore the violent deaths of those caught in this conflict," said the letter, signed by  CMEP Executive Director Warren Clark and Executive Committee Chair Maureen Shea on behalf of the 22 churches and church organizations -- including the NCC -- that compose the organization. "We reject all justifications for the unconscionable Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel.  We similarly reject the Israeli response as disproportionate and believe that it is likely to strengthen extremists and undermine moderates in the region. While we appreciate Secretary Rice's statement of December 27 calling for an immediate cease-fire, there must now be prompt action by your Administration to help bring about an end to the violence.

The CMEP letter stressed that there can be no military solution to the conflict. "Only a political solution will bring a durable peace to both Palestinians and Israelis."

The letter called upon Bush and the Israeli government to restore access to essential services to Gaza and seek international assistance in restoring the cease-fire.

"The continued closure of Gaza with the cutoff or delay of vital food, fuel, electricity and adequate access to medical attention for the residents of Gaza must be addressed quickly and responsibly," the letter said. "We are confident that U.S. engagement, together with international partners including Egypt, can help restore the cease-fire, end the border blockade, and establish real security at Gaza’s borders."

Earlier today, patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem called on "the various Palestinian factions" to settle their differences. "We call on all factions at this particular time to put the interests of the Palestinian people above personal and factional interests and to move immediately toward national comprehensive reconciliation and use all non-violent means to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region."

The leaders called upon "officials of both parties to the conflict to return to their senses and refrain from all violent acts, which only bring destruction and tragedy, and urge them instead to work to resolve their differences through peaceful and non-violent means."

The church leaders also called upon the international community "to fulfill its responsibilities and intervene immediately and actively stop the bloodshed and end all forms of confrontation; to work hard and strong to put an end to the current confrontation and remove the causes of conflict between the two peoples; and to finally resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a just and comprehensive solution based on international resolutions. "

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,

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