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Diverse interfaith leaders call for comprehensive Middle East peace plan


As more than 120 heads of state and government prepare for seven days of debate at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, a diverse group of interfaith leaders are raising their voices in support of “a negotiated, sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- a fundamental American interest” that they say crosses racial, ethnic and religious lines.

The statement was drafted by Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) -- a coalition of 22 Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant national church bodies, including the Episcopal Church -- and signed by 30 religious leaders, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The leaders express their support for President Barack Obama’s determination “to provide sustained, hands-on diplomatic leadership to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end through the creation of two viable, secure and independent states living side by side in peace and security.”

The Middle East will be one of the main agenda items debated by the world’s leaders during the September 23-30 General Assembly. Obama is holding a series of meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 22.

Acknowledging that Obama has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority since his first day in office, the religious leaders say: “This is a moment of great opportunity and urgency. After decades of tragic conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace. While the international community and majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian people are committed to a two-state solution as the best option for achieving peace and security, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

In their statement, the leaders support Obama’s efforts to end Israeli settlement growth and to halt Palestinian violence. While they pledge to work with the president “to forge the path to peace and security for the Middle East,” they also note that “there are many who will attempt to block the path to peace.”

“It is now time to move to the next stage of diplomacy and to address the tough issues that must be resolved to bring this conflict to an end,” they say.

Jefferts Schori joined a group of more than 50 Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical and African American church leaders in writing to Obama following his historic June 4 speech in Cairo saying they stand ready to support “robust U.S. peacemaking efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Obama’s Cairo speech formed part of his first official visit to the Middle East and followed several weeks of intense U.S. diplomacy with Arab and Israeli leaders in Washington, D.C.

The Episcopal Church, based on resolutions passed at meetings of General Convention and Executive Council, “remains firmly committed to a just peace that ends the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, guarantees Israel’s security and Palestinian aspirations for a viable sovereign state with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both Israel and Palestine,” said the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, the Episcopal Church’s senior director for mission centers, in a recent statement.


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