The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), joined with other U.S. religious leaders in calling on President George W. Bush to do more to help end the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel.
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"More than words are needed," said a Dec. 30 letter sent to Bush. "We urge you to send a high level personal representative to the region immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire."

The letter was signed by prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who are members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, an organization of more than 25 religious organizations. The leaders also urged the president to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

Churches for Middle East Peace also sent a letter to Bush.

It's a coalition of 22 public policy offices of national churches and agencies — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. The ELCA is a member of the coalition.

"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 Dec. 29 letter.

The letter said it was not enough for the United States to urge Israel to avoid civilian targets, particularly because of Israel's stated intention to expand and intensify its current offensive.

"There can be no military solution to this conflict," the letter said. "Only a political solution will bring a durable peace to both Palestinians and Israelis."