Peace in the Middle East: A Step Forward

By Jim Wallis 5-18-2009

Two days, in comparison to years of conflict, is not a lot of time, but it was long enough for a broad spectrum of Christian leaders to find hope in a growing consensus around a way forward for peace in the Middle East. More than 40 Christian leaders from the United States, Israel, and Palestine, along with Jewish and Muslim allies, convened last week in Atlanta to discuss possibilities for peace between Israel and Palestine.

The reports from the region reflected real despair of solutions, but there is real hope in the broad consensus and support that is now emerging from the American Christian community for a just and lasting two-state solution. Below is a copy of a letter that was signed by many of the leaders gathered in Atlanta and delivered to President Obama on Friday. The president's meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is critical to bringing about peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. Two days was not a lot of time, but it was a step forward, and in a world torn apart by conflict, a step forward is always a hopeful one.

May 15, 2009

Dear President Obama,

We are a diverse group of Christian leaders convened in Atlanta, who have been meeting for the past two days. As you prepare for meetings with Israeli, Palestinian, and other Arab leaders, we offer you our support, encouragement, and commitment. We have heard testimony consistent with the experiences of our churches in the Holy Land about a growing sense of despair. Yet, at this meeting we sense a rising hope. That hope is grounded in the growing consensus across the Christian community that supports a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the new leadership that you bring, both of which will make more possible a real, just and lasting two-state solution and an end to conflict in the region that upholds the security and freedom of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Our pledge to you is to continue to build constituencies that will advocate for a just political settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We request that you call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to embrace the principle of a two-state solution. As members of your administration have already suggested, we share a concern about how Israeli settlements make that solution less and less possible. Furthermore, we are concerned that a way be found immediately to open the Gaza borders in a manner that respects both humanitarian and security concerns.

We are committed to an ongoing conversation with you about achieving the solution we can no longer postpone. Know that we are praying for you in these critical meetings.

The Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, Presbyterian Minister, Executive Director of AMIS, Inc, and Moderator of the 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Rev. Dr. Jimmy R. Allen, Coordinator, New Baptist Covenant

The Rev. Dr. Randall C. Bailey, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Hebrew Bible, Interdenominational Theological Center

The Rev. Bruce Burnside, Bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Ambassador Warren Clark, Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace

Dr. Elizabeth Corrie, Director of the Youth Theological Initiative and Assistant Professor of Youth Education and Peace-building, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem

Dr. Joy Fenner, Former President, Baptist General Convention of Texas

James Fine, Legislative Secretary for Foreign Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Ms. Beth Fogg, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

The Rev. Dr. David Goatley, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention

Dr. Marsha Snulligan Haney, Professor of Missiology and Religions of the World, Interdenominational Theological Center

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and President, Lutheran World Federation

Lynne Hybels, Advocate for Global Engagement, Willow Creek Community Church

The Rev. Charles Jones, Area Director for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society

The Rev. John McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service

The Rev. Dr. Kathy Nelson, Pastor, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and F.I.S.H. Foundation, Inc.

The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly Stated Clerk for the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

The Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, Canon for Global Justice and Reconciliation, Washington National Cathedral

Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., Founder and Senior Pastor, North Wood Church

Leila Sansour, Executive Director, Open Bethlehem

The Rev. Dr. William Shaw, President of National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Ronald J. Sider, Professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and President of Evangelicals for Social Action

The Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention

James M. Wall, Contributing Editor, Christian Century and former Editor

Jim Wallis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners

Ambassador Phil C. Wilcox, Jr., Director, Foundation for Middle East Peace

The Rev. Robina Marie Winbush, Associate Stated Clerk and Director, Department of Ecumenical and Agency Relations, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners.

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