Recognizing that this is a time of both uncertainty and opportunity, advocates for peace in the Holy Land are pushing President Bush and the U.S. Congress to continue efforts toward a two-state solution.
This week is particularly busy in Washington with Episcopal participation in a high level State Department meeting and press conference, grassroots efforts by the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN), and meetings with the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Episcopal priest and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.
On February 28, former Washington Assisting Bishop Allen Bartlett represented Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold in Washington, D.C., at a National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East press conference and meeting with Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian -- Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Protestant -- leaders made up the Leadership Initiative. Inspired by the deepest teachings in their religious traditions, the leaders are committed to working together for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In their meeting with Hughes and in their statement the Initiative leaders asked the President to "Let Palestinians and Israelis know now that following the formation of their new governments, you and your Administration will work with determination and urgency to achieve peace." They also called upon the President to:
- Press for an immediate, comprehensive and lasting ceasefire
- Work to assure that the agreement on Gaza is fully implemented
- Press the Palestinian Authority and Israel to implement their initial Road Map obligations
- Appoint an on-the-ground special envoy to manage and monitor negotiations or support Secretary Rice engaging directly in negotiations
Bartlett, who has been committed to Middle East issues for many years, praised the initiative and urged activists around the country to send copies of the statement to members of Congress. He emphasized in particular the group's position that it will take some time for new governments to be formed and to clarify their policies, and that therefore it is essential that humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people be continued and that a decision about aid to the new Palestinian government not be made until the policies of the new governments become clear. It is available at: http:// www.walktheroadtopeace.org.
Also at the grassroots level, the Episcopal Public Policy Network (www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn) sent out an "alert" asking members to write the President and members of Congress stating their support for:
- Demanding that Hamas renounce violence, recognize the State of Israel, and accept previously negotiated agreements
- Pushing Israel to reject unilateral actions that would prejudge final status negotiations on borders and undermine the vision of Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and the future state of Palestine.
- Ensuring that economic and humanitarian aid continues to reach the Palestinian people -- 60 percent of whom live under the poverty line.
- Continuing to give the President the authority he needs to take the steps necessary to work toward peace.
Ateek is in Washington for a March 3-4 Sabeel Conference (www.wiamep.org). After meeting with board members of Churches for Middle East Peace (www.cmep.org), he met with Episcopal Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), who serves on the House International Relations Committee.
"The Episcopal Church has a long history of supporting peace in the Middle East with a viable Palestinian State side-by-side in peace with the State of Israel," said the Rev. Brian Grieves, director of the Office of Peace and Justice Ministries. "There have been many obstacles to the fulfillment of that vision, and there will be many more, but we remain committed to the people of both lands. And we are grateful for the statement issued by Christian leaders in Jerusalem following the Palestinian elections.
"We ask God to guide us towards what is good for all and for this Holy Land with all its inhabitants, Palestinians and Israelis, be they Muslims, Christians or Jews."
Those attending the meeting with Undersecretary Hughes included:
His Eminence, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington Fr. Constandinos Pavlakos, representing the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America Vartkess Valbalian, for Bishop Vicken, Armenian Orthodox Church in America Bishop Ray W. Chamberlain, for the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church Bishop Allen Bartlett, for Presiding Bishop Griswold, The Episcopal Church The Rev. Gareth Icenogle, pastor, Nat'l Presbyterian Church, for Mainline Evangelicals Dennis Frado, for Bishop Hanson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Catherine Gordon, for the Rev. Cliff Kirkpatrick, stated clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA) The Rev. Chris Hobgood, past president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) The Rev. John Deckenback for the Rev. John Thomas, president, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice resident emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman, vice president, A Different Future Mark Pelavin, associate director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Rabbi Amy Small, past president, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Rabbi Brett Isserow, Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Alexandria, VA
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, secretary general, Islamic Society of North America Eide Alawan, liaison for Imam Hassan Qazwini, Islamic Center of America, Detroit Dawud Assad, president emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA Kaleem Kawaja, interfaith director, United Muslims of America Imam Yahya Hendi, chaplain, Georgetown University