Funding

Jewish and Christian Leaders Try to Revive At-Risk Interfaith Group

 WASHINGTON — As a coalition of mostly Christian groups gathered here Thursday to support church leaders who have publicly questioned U.S. aid to Israel, those same church leaders signaled that they want to reconcile with the Jewish groups who were upset by their action.

An Oct. 5 letter asking Congress to investigate U.S. aid to Israel led Jewish groups to cancel a long-planned meeting later that month of the Christian-Jewish Roundtable, a eight-year-old group dedicated to improving relations between the two faiths.

The Rev. Gradye Parsons, the top official of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the first signatory on the letter, did not attend Thursday's Washington press conference that was convened to support its message. But Parsons said he stands by the letter, and acknowledged that it heightened tensions between Jews and Christians on the roundtable.

“We regret any distancing it put between us and our Jewish partners," he said, "and we hope we can close that gap."

Is Military Money a Stabilizer?

After the failed Christmas bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane in which the prime suspect admitted that he’d been trained at an al Qaeda boot camp in Yemen, President Obama doubled U.S. security funding to that country, but resisted introducing U.S. troops.

But is U.S. military money the best stabilizer? The Gulf of Aden, a strategic sea lane more recently known as “Pirate Alley,” touches Yemen, Somalia, and Djibouti. All three risk becoming hotbeds for al Qaeda due to the lack of social and political stability. “I am wary of any American involvement in the region,” Paul Hinder, Catholic archbishop of the area, told Sojourners. “Yemenites resent any interference from outsiders, from America in particular for its often heavy-handed approach in protection of its own interests.”
Archbishop Hinder prioritizes strong support from Arab neighbors to help Yemen resolve its internal problems and to deal with al Qaeda. “There’s little hope that U.S. financial support in the fight against terrorism won’t end up in the wrong pockets. Without more dialogue and power-sharing between the Yemeni government, tribes, regions, and political and economic interest groups resulting in greater national unity, little will be achieved.” Currently, there are about 3,000 Christians in Yemen; most are refugees or temporary workers. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity have served in Yemen since 1973. “Their work is appreciated,” Archbishop Hinder told Sojourners, “but they are restricted in their outreach by problems of security.”

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Sojourners Magazine March 2010
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