Religious leaders urge President Obama to take bold action for peace in Middle East

 Washington, June 30 — National Council of Churches officers and heads of NCC member communions have joined other faith leaders in calling on President Obama to take bold action for peace between Israel and Palestine.

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, NCC president, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary, signed onto a message that points out that “time is not on the side of peace.”

The letter, drafted by Churches for Middle East Peace, urges the president to issue a comprehensive statement prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly this fall “that addresses all final status issues, including the need for Jerusalem in the future to be the shared capital of both states, a just resolution on the issue of all refugees, and assured access for all faiths to their holy places.”

The letter to the president comes at a time when the path to peace is strewn with hurdles and both Israeli and Palestinian leaders face unprecedented domestic political challenges.

Recent weeks have seen comments by both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Currently, a humanitarian flotilla is about to head to the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian Authority is considering bringing the question of statehood before the United Nations in the fall. There is a growing recognition of the increasingly desperate situation on the ground and that time is not on the side of peace.

“All of these events make it even more pertinent for President Obama to take immediate leadership toward a comprehensive peace agreement,” said Jordan Blevins, Advocacy Officer and Ecumenical Peace Coordinator for the National Council of Churches and Church of the Brethren.

The letter is signed by a wide range of evangelical, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders. In addition to Chemberlin and Kinnamon, signers representing NCC member communions include:

Father Mark Arey, Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, NCC past president, Armenian Orthodox Church of North America; Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists; and Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Reformed Church in America.

Also, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; and His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church,in the Eastern United States.

Also, the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service; the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, President, Provincial Elders’ Conference, Moravian Church in America, Northern Province; Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren; and Dr. Harriett Jane Olson, Deputy General Secretary, the Women’s Division of General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Also, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (USA); the Rev. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary Emeritus, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Radar, Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church; Dr. T. DeWitt Smith Jr., Immediate Former President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and Bishop John F. White, Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church.