Declaring that they won't give in top cynicism or despair and that they are "people of hope," 31 U.S. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, including the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), called for members of their communities to pray for peace in Jerusalem. They also urged U.S. political leaders to advance a two-state solution "with vigor both now and in the early months of the new (Obama) Administration."
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In a Dec. 4 public statement issued through the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, the religious leaders restated their belief that the United States has a special responsibility to pursue peace in the region. "Israeli-Palestinian peace must be an urgent priority for President-elect Obama from the day he takes office," the religious leaders wrote. "Achieving Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace will have positive reverberations in the region and around the world. Our nation and the world will be much safer with the achievement of the peace of Jerusalem."
Despite tragic acts of violence and other developments,the leaders wrote that there are signs of hope in the Middle East. For example, they noted that a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians still support separate states for each, that Arab states declared their commitment to peace in the Arab Peace Initiative and that the United States convened the international community in Annapolis,to support a renewed peace process. The religious leaders said they are encouraged also by the work of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. The religious leaders pointed out that there have been serious setbacks in the Middle East. They cited such things as Palestinian rocket attacks and threats by Iran against Israel, a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the political split between Gaza and the West Bank, political weakness in the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, plus a transition to a new U.S. administration.
"There is a real danger that cynicism will replace hope and that people will give up on peace," the religious leaders wrote. "This dangerous time demands clarity. So let us be clear. As religious leaders, we remain firmly committed to a two-state solution to the conflict as the only viable way forward. We believe that concerted, sustained U.S. leadership for peace is essential. And we know that time is not on the side of peace, that delay is not an option."quot;The path to peace shuns violence and embraces dialogue.This path demands reciprocal steps that build confidence. This path can lead to a future of two states, Israel and Palestine,living side by side in peace with security and dignity for both peoples and stability in the region," the statement said.
Since 2003 the U.S. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have worked together for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, based on U.N. Security Council resolutions and the peace of Jerusalem. The leaders said they have prayed for peace, made public statements, met with public officials and stood in solidarity with religious leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and throughout the region.
The religious leaders sent their statement to President-elect Barack Obama.