Before it’s too late

United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson is among 30 American Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders who have called for “a bold new U.S. initiative for a two-state peace agreement before it is too late.” They warned last month that “twilight has fallen on the possibility of a peaceful resolution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict.

National Interreligious Leadership Initiative (NILI) for Peace in the Middle East issued their warning in a document, “Twilight of Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” The leaders are encouraging members of their faith communities to send the letter to the White House, Secretary of State and members of Congress.

“The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity,” Twilight of Hope warns. “These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict.”

Endorsers of statement

In addition to Swenson, endorsers of the statement include Kathryn Mary Lohre, National Council of Churches of Christ USA; Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, The Episcopal Church; The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Presbyterian Church (USA); the Rev. Geoffrey Black, United Church of Christ; the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ); Richard Stearns, president, World Vision U.S.; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington; Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Imam Mohammed Magid, president, Islamic Society of North America.

We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides.

The leaders acknowledge “the challenges are daunting,” but say they believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the Obama administration in 2013. “We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides,” they say.

“[The United States] has unique leverage and credibility in the region,” the religious leaders assert. “Indeed, no past progress towards peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support. Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.”

The Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders pledged to mobilize strong public support for bold, determined U.S. leadership for peace.

The full text of “Twilight of Hope” statement and list of endorsers follows:

Twilight of Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Twilight has fallen on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders committed to peace, we urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution.

We recently witnessed shadows of dusk. We mourn for the lives lost and shattered during the violence that gripped southern Israel and Gaza. What we have seen, recently and before, will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate. The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians. Now is not the time for another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace.

The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict.

As people of faith, we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible. Egypt and the United States helped achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace. A new dawn is possible.

As members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), we affirm President Obama’s support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.

We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides.

Our nation has unique leverage and credibility in the region. Indeed, no past progress towards peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support. Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.

The Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders of NILI are committed to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace. We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.

Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains. Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement.

—January 2013

Christian leaders:

  • Bishop Richard E. Pates, D.D., Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace
  • Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
  • Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
  • Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenian Orthodox Church in America
  • Fr. Mark Arey, Director, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  • Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
  • Bishop Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • The Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
  • The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
  • Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church
  • Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US
  • The Rev. Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US
  • David Neff, Editorial Vice-President, Christianity Today
  • John Buchanan, Editor/Publisher, The Christian Century

Jewish leaders:

  • Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D. Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
  • Rabbi Burt Visotzky
  • Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Muslim Leaders:

  • Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
  • Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
  • Naeem Baig, Executive Director, Islamic Circle of North America
  • Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of the ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative
  • Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
  • Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
  • Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America
  • Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance

Organizations for identification only

Editor's note: More information about the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East is available at nili-mideastpeace.org.

 

Letter to the Editor