1998 NCC News Archives

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NCC General Secretary's Message
to Presidents Clinton & Arafat, Prime Minister Netanyahu

October 16, 1998, NEW YORK ---- The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, conveyed this message today to President Clinton, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Arafat:

* * * *

I greet you in the name of the God of peace, who desires peace among all peoples, the one God, compassionate and merciful, who out of infinite love has created the universe and founded it upon justice and righteousness.

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA represents a constituency that has supported efforts to achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians for many years. In this we have been joined by Jews, Muslims and other people of faith in the U.S. and worldwide. We are heartened that together you have undertaken once again the difficult task of negotiations to bring all of our hopes for peace closer to fulfillment.

Hope has been sorely tried and tested in the last two years by setbacks and obstacles to the implementation of the 1993 Declaration on Principles and the 1995 Interim Agreement which established a framework for security and self-determination. Many believe that the process begun at Oslo has failed.

Bombings and other acts of violence against Israeli civilians have terrorized the population and given strength to repeated Israeli demands for security. At the same time, Palestinians find themselves vulnerable to and victimized by Israeli policies and by some of its citizens in numerous ways: shootings, arrests and beatings; the confiscation of land and demolition of homes and olive groves, the seizure of identity cards and termination of residency rights, and the relentless expansion of settlements.

After generations of strife and years of slow negotiation, Palestinians and Israelis need a renewed vision of their future as inseparable neighbors. Both peoples need renewed confidence in the direction and viability of the peace process. And both need a grounding in security: Security for one is dependent upon security for both, and security measures must be grounded in an appropriate regard for human rights and respect for international law.

In addition, the Palestinian people need to be assured that their recognition of the State of Israel is reciprocated by a recognition of their own right to self-determination, including the possibility of an independent sovereign Palestinian state. Similarly, Israelis need to be assured that their recognition of Palestinian self-determination and their compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 242 requiring the withdrawal of their forces from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is consistent with their right "to live within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." All parties in the region need a clear and practicable vision of a future with peace, prosperity, accountable governance, and respect for diversity.

Among the most contentious issues that still lie ahead is the status of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a place of great significance to all three Abrahamic religions, a venerated place and destination of pilgrimage. As the NCCCUSA has acknowledged in its document, "City of Holiness and Hope: A Message on Jerusalem," the city of Jerusalem is home to three religions and is claimed as capital by two peoples for two states. A final resolution of the contested status of Jerusalem must recognize and accommodate, in new and creative patterns of sovereignty and conviviality, the claims of all of these. We will be constant in prayer that our political leadership will find a way for Jerusalem to be shared inclusively by all, rather than be held exclusively by one.

As the three of you gather with other members of your governments, we pray that God will guide your thoughts and hearts in the ways that lead to peace.


(Rev. Dr.) Joan Brown Campbell
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

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