[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has joined 20 other Christian leaders in writing to the four U.S. presidential candidates urging them to speak forcefully and provide leadership on ending the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The leaders, organized as Churches for Middle East Peace and representing most of the mainline Christian denominations in the United States, expressed their “deep concern about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, now in its 50th year.” They asked the presidential candidates — Secretary Hillary Clinton, Governor Gary Johnson, Dr. Jill Stein, and Mr. Donald Trump — to pledge, “if elected, to take urgent and vigorous new steps to seek creative political solutions that will foster a just and lasting peace and help each party to realize self-determination with necessary confidence building measures to build mutual security.”
Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has largely controlled East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights in what are collectively identified as the Israeli-occupied territories.
Last April, Curry joined more than 100 church leaders from the Middle East and the United States at the Carter Center in Atlanta for an unprecedented summit focused on seeking a lasting two-state solution for peace in the Holy Land and ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
The Episcopal Church has long supported a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized state of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both.
The Episcopal Church’s most recent action on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking was taken at General Convention in June 2015. Resolution B013 “reaffirms the vocation of the church as an agent of reconciliation and restorative justice,” and recognizes that “meaningful reconciliation can help to engender sustainable, long-lasting peace and that such reconciliation must incorporate both political action and locally driven grassroots efforts.”
Resolution C018 expresses solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories; affirms the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and affirms the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, nonviolence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians.
The resolution also urges Episcopalians to demonstrate their solidarity by making pilgrimage to Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories and learning from fellow Christians in the region.
In addition to official Episcopal Church policy, several dioceses and networks also are engaged in Holy Land partnerships and advocacy, particularly in supporting the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. These institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities.
The diocese and the institutions also are supported by the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization established in 1985.
The Palestine Israel Network, part of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, has campaigned for more vigorous church policy to end the occupation, but the Episcopal Church has not supported its calls for boycotts and divestment against Israeli companies that profit from the occupation. Instead, the Episcopal Church supports a policy of positive investment.
“Almost 50 years of occupation have and will continue to erode the soul of both the occupied and the occupier,” the Christian leaders said in their September letter to the presidential candidates. “To ease tensions, we urge you to support people-to-people exchanges and the end of practices under the occupation that result in major human rights abuses, such as home demolitions, systematic land seizures, travel restrictions, the blockade of Gaza, and indefinite administrative detention, including detention of persons under eighteen.
“We pray that, as you look forward to the heavy burdens of leadership, you will find the wisdom, strength and persistence to seek new avenues toward a just and durable peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Churches for Middle East Peace is encouraging all people of faith to join the Christian leaders of in calling upon the 2016 presidential candidates to pledge, if elected, to take urgent and vigorous new steps to seek creative political solutions that will foster a just and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine.
The full text of the letter and its signatories follows.
Letter from Christian Leaders to the Presidential Candidates (September, 2016)
Dear Secretary Hillary Clinton, Governor Gary Johnson, Dr. Jill Stein, and Mr. Donald Trump:
As American church leaders, we are writing to you and other candidates for President of the United States in the upcoming November election to express our deep concern about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, now in its 50th year. We ask that during the coming political campaign that you pledge, if elected, to take urgent and vigorous new steps to seek creative political solutions that will foster a just and lasting peace and help each party to realize self-determination with necessary confidence building measures to build mutual security.
We lament the violence perpetrated by both Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides have engaged in incitement. Both sides live in mutual fear. Ongoing settlement expansion that has led to 570,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is eroding the viability of the two-state solution. The blockade of Gaza has led to immense human suffering. This status quo is clearly contrary to global security interests, including those of the U.S., and a source of violent extremism throughout the region. In addition, the daily indignities and stresses of the occupation foster human suffering and have led to emigration from the small but vital Palestinian Christian community.
Only Israelis and Palestinians themselves can decide upon the details of a lasting and just peace agreement. However, given the imbalance of power and history of deep mutual distrust, there will not be progress toward an agreement unless other steps also are taken. Because of its power and influence, the U.S. has a special responsibility for leadership, in cooperation with Europeans and interested Arab states, to move the two sides toward an agreement which will remove this source of conflict once and for all.
As an urgent first step, we hope you will speak forcefully and provide the leadership of your office, if elected, to call openly for an end of violence and settlement expansion. Almost 50 years of occupation have and will continue to erode the soul of both the occupied and the occupier. To ease tensions, we urge you to support people-to-people exchanges and the end of practices under the occupation that result in major human rights abuses, such as home demolitions, systematic land seizures, travel restrictions, the blockade of Gaza, and indefinite administrative detention, including detention of persons under eighteen.
We pray that, as you look forward to the heavy burdens of leadership, you will find the wisdom, strength and persistence to seek new avenues toward a just and durable peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Armenian Orthodox Church of North America
Bishop Oscar Cantú
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Archbishop of Oklahoma City Paul S. Coakley
Chairman of the Board
Catholic Relief Services
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Jim Greenfield, OSFS
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ
Reverend John L. McCullough
President and CEO
Church World Service
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Miller
Moravian Church Northern Province
Rev. Dr. James A Moos
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries, Co-Executive Global Ministries
United Church of Christ
Very Reverend Kevin Mullen, OFM
English Speaking Conference, Franciscan Friars (OFM)
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Bishop Bruce R. Ough
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Sr. Joan Marie Steadman, CSC
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Rev. Dr. Ervin R. Stutzman
Mennonite Church USA
Dr. Steven Timmermans
Christian Reformed Church in North America
Dr. Leanne Van Dyk
Columbia Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches