US Christian Ecumenical Delegation Calls for and Commits to
Prayer for a Just Peace in the Middle East

12 December 2000

As is our custom as churches, we open this statement with a verse from the Holy Bible.

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

We have come as an ecumenical delegation of United States churches in this holy season in anticipation of the birth of the "Prince of Peace" in this land. We have heard the voices of the people in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, in Beit Jala, in Beit Sahour and in Gaza. We have seen the exploded shells made in the USA found in ambulances and in familiesí homes. We have seen the impact of Israeli settlements that strangulate and isolate the Palestinian people from one another. We have seen the houses demolished by the army and we have walked in centuries-old olive groves, uprooted by bulldozers. We have seen the effect of the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs on the lives of Palestinian families with its accompanying poverty and hunger.

We have heard the terror in the voices of Israeli Jews and Palestinians Christians and Muslims alike. We heard a rabbi express fear for his daughter who serves in the Israeli army. We heard a Palestinian parent express fear for their childrenís lives as they go out into the street. We have met with the leaders of Christian churches, rabbis, sheikhs and government officials representing both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. We believe that our faith calls us to tell the truth of what we have seen and that unless we share with the world what we have seen, the stones will cry out. We are persuaded that the peace which must come for all - Israeli and Palestinian alike - can only be achieved on a firm foundation of justice.

We grieve for all the victims, Palestinian and Israeli. We mourn each precious life lost in the violence of recent weeks. As we love mercy and seek to be worthy of receiving it, so we extend our prayers and consolation to the afflicted and the bereaved.

We commend the churches who have extended acts of mercy and practical assistance to Palestinian families and communities who face danger, privation, loss, and suffering through isolation under closure and attack by heavy weapons and helicopters. We plead for an end to the cycle of violence that threatens to spin completely out of control.

We have heard the fears from both sides and ask each side to hear the other. We reach out with concern to our sisters and brothers in the Israeli Jewish community to caution them that their governmentís disproportionate use of violence further deteriorates hopes for their aspirations for peace with security. Oppression breeds terrorism. As one Jewish voice said, "There can be no Palestinian freedom without Israeli security, just as there can be no Israeli security without Palestinian freedom."

Therefore we make an urgent plea that all parties heed the moral imperative to do justice.

To that end, we urge the community of nations and all people who love mercy to recognize and condemn this new apartheid that oppresses the Palestinian people.

We have come to understand that the fundamental requirement for a durable peace is the prompt end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas in fulfillment of United Nations Security Council Resolutions #242 and #338. This will require Israeli withdrawal to the borders of June 4, l967 (including East Jerusalem and the settlements) except as may be modified by mutual consent and exchange of territory. We call upon our US President and Congress to encourage such an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands and neighborhoods. A peace accord that implements UNSC 242 and 338, and all other pertinent resolutions including UNSC 194 affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees, would open the way to Israelís long-term security and acceptance by Arab nations in the region.

We believe that the following steps are additional elements in the effort to "do justice:"

  • that Israelis and Palestinians cease all acts of violence and attempts to kill and return to the negotiating table immediately;
  • that Israeli forces end the use of disproportionate force in violation of international norms, as when tanks and helicopters are used to attack civilian neighborhoods;
  • that Israel stop further confiscation of land, house demolitions, widespread closures, destruction of trees and agricultural fields, settlement expansions, and other policies that victimize Palestinians and change the "facts on the ground" before reaching a final negotiated peace agreement;
  • that, prior to such a peace agreement that can end the current violence, Palestinian populations under occupation have some form of immediate protection provided by the international community;
  • that the United States suspend current sales of attack helicopters to Israel pending investigation of their use against civilian targets as well as assurances that they will be used in conformity with United States law covering "end-use" in our weapons sales;
  • that the United States should make all necessary changes so that US aid to Israel is administered and made accountable consistent with the rules and procedures that are applied to every other recipient of US aid;
  • that governments and relief agencies join the churches in providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians;
  • that a final peace agreement include a plan to share the city of Jerusalem that fully respects and protects equally the national rights of both Israelis and Palestinians in the city (under whatever political formula may be worked out) and, further, that guarantees the rights of access, worship, and practice to all three faiths - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - with international supervision to enforce these rights as may be needed.

    Finally, we affirm our affection and love for both Israelis and Palestinians. We promise to support efforts of reconciliation and healing and a just peace for both communities in fulfillment of the common mandate of the three Abrahamic faiths to love our neighbors. Our churches in the United States and many other nations began a prayer vigil on December 3 for an end of the violence. We will continue that vigil, and invite our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers to join us in prayer until a genuine and lasting peace is achieved.

    Participants in the delegation include:

  • Bishop Viken Aykazian of the Armenian Apostolic Church
  • The Very Rev. Brother Stephen Glodek of the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes
  • The Rev. John McCullough of Church World Service and Witness of the National Council of Churches
  • Bishop Vincent Warner of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Olympia and Mrs. Janice Warner
  • Bishop Edmond Browning, former presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, and Mrs. Patti Browning
  • Bishop Dimitrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  • Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom, former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Bishop Margaret Payne, bishop of the ELCA's New England Synod
  • Bishop Theodore Schneider, bishop of the ELCA's Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod
  • Donella Clemens of the Mennonite Central Committee
  • Inez Allan of the Presbyterian Church USA
  • Mary Ellen McNish of the American Friends Service Committee
  • The Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson of the United Church of Christ
  • Bishop William Oden of the United Methodist Church and Mrs. Marilyn Oden

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