US religious leaders: Faith communities essential to two-state solution

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US religious leaders: Faith communities essential to two-state solution

Terrasanta.net

Thirty-three leaders of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious organizations in the United States have underlined that support from religious communities is essential to achieving a two-state peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.

They made the appeal in a February 28 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, also stressing that a negotiated two-state peace agreement is “the only realistic resolution of the conflict.”

The signatories of the letter belong to the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. The initiative, centred around Principles of Cooperation, is a coalition of religious leaders whose purpose is to urge the US government and congress to support active, fair, and firm US leadership for comprehensive, just, and lasting Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“We believe the coming months are critical to achieving a negotiated two-state peace agreement,” wrote the leaders, who included Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

“We also would urge you to meet personally with religious leaders on the ground in Jerusalem, most importantly including leaders of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land,” the letter said.

The signatories recalled how the Council wrote to Special Envoy George Mitchell in support of negotiations and reiterated “the importance of respecting the attachments of the three religions – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – in the holy land and especially in Jerusalem.”

The signers also requested a meeting with Secretary Kerry to discuss how they can help.

“While we know that some in our communities will oppose any compromises,” they wrote, “as leaders of NILI we support benchmark principles and practical ideas developed in earlier official and informal negotiations that provide possible elements for necessary compromises on key issues that could be acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Other signatories included Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Imam Mohammed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Last month, Secretary Kerry’s special advisor on faith-based community initiatives, Shaun A. Casey, stressed that the protection of Christians, the freedom of worship and access to the holy places of the Holy Land, are at the heart of the concerns of the Holy See and the United States.

Cardinal McCarrick has made similar appeals before, on behalf of the U.S. bishops. In 2011, they told President Obama to act quickly if a two-state solution was to work, warning that the chance for peace could be fleeting.

“If the opportunity for a two-state solution is missed, there almost inevitably will be renewed violent conflict with more suffering for Israelis and Palestinians, and increased dangers of extremism,” they said in a letter in May that year.

The two-state solution is also supported by the Holy See. On his trip to the West Bank in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI said the Holy See “supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbours, within internationally recognized borders.”

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 12:48
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