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WASHINGTON (December 2, 2003) -- Cardinals William H. Keeler of Baltimore and Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington and Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, were among 32 of the nation's most prominent Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders today in announcing a new collaborative effort to mobilize broad public support for active and determined U.S. leadership in pursuit of peace among Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states.
These religious leaders believe that there is a moral imperative for the President to exercise such leadership and that evidence of public support among Israelis and Palestinians for the civil society peace initiative signed yesterday in Geneva provide a particularly important and hopeful time for determined leadership. They believe that a hiatus in active U.S. leadership would risk further dangerous escalation of the conflict, undermine the global campaign against terrorism, and threaten vital U.S. national security interests in the region and worldwide. The religious leaders will utilize the extensive community networks of the organizations with which they are affiliated to deliver their message to house holds across the country. The delegation is committed to building a broad bipartisan public constituency to press for strong U.S. leadership in the Middle East.
The religious leaders have garnered significant and growing bi-partisan Congressional backing for their effort with endorsement from House and Senate leaders.
Christian leaders in this unprecedented interfaith delegation include two Roman Catholic Cardinals, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, leaders of the Lutheran,
Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ
Protestant denominations, three prominent Christian evangelical leaders, and editors of two of the most influential national Christian publications.
Jewish leaders include the heads of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the University of Judaism.
Muslim leaders include leaders of the largest national Muslim religious organizations -- Islamic Society of North America and Islamic Circle of North America -- as well as the former President of the Council of Mosques; and leaders of the United Muslims of America, The Mosque Cares, and the American and International Sufi Muslim Associations.
(See list of Delegation)
In a letter to President Bush, the delegation stated that "it is united in support of a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian state alongside the existing Jewish state of Israel, with enduring peace and security for both peoples." The delegation is deeply concerned about the perilous lack of progress on the Road Map, the renewed cycle of violent attacks and counterattacks, and the need for U.S. commitment to pursue full implementation of the Road Map. In addition to sending letters to President Bush, National Security Advisor Rice and Secretary of State Powell, the delegation will communicate and urge their constituents to communicate with members of Congress and other elected officials to urge non-partisan support for renewed, active U.S. leadership in the peace process.
In a statement, "Twelve Urgent Steps for Peace," sent with their letter to the President, members of the delegation call on the United States to take the following steps to renew momentum on the Road Map:
Reiterate the Road Map's unequivocal call for an end to all acts of violence and work to achieve a ceasefire agreement;
Return the special Presidential Envoy to the region and provide visible, public monitoring of steps required by both sides;
Determine specific simultaneous steps that the two sides must take and set a timetable for taking them (See specific steps the Delegation endorses in relation to the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the attached "Twelve Steps for Peace.)
Support benchmark principles and ideas for mutually acceptable solutions developed in earlier negotiations and current civil society efforts for peace, including the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative and the Geneva Accord.
Repeated public opinion polls show that most Palestinians and Israelis, and most Americans support negotiations for a two-state solution, including ideas for realistic compromises developed by Israelis and Palestinians on how to resolve crucial final status issues. However, voices for peace in the Middle East and here are often marginalized by coverage of the cycles of violence and counter violence. The repeated images of hatred and violence create a sense of irreconcilable differences and hopelessness. U.S. leadership - both governmental and nongovernmental -- is essential to helping to end this impasse.
In addition to direct approaches to the Bush Administration, Congress and other elected officials, a variety of ongoing activities are planned by one or more of the organizations represented including:
Utilize the extensive communications resources within the religious community, including church, synagogue and mosque bulletins, newsletters, e-mail lists and websites to build an active, broad public voice for peace during the coming election year;
Publicize Israeli-Palestinian civil society efforts for peace, including the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative and the Geneva Accord;
Support regional and local interfaith religious leadership groups in all parts of the country, modeled on the national leadership delegation and its message for peace;
Support the Walk the Road to Peace interfaith campaign in organizing a "Walk in Washington" in Spring 2004. "Walking Groups" will be locally constituted and include an imam, a rabbi, and a minister or priest, from communities across the country. The groups will provide a highly visible expression of interfaith cooperation and moral vision and leadership.
The delegation members believe that both the deepest values of their traditions and the urgency of the current situation necessitate strong, united interfaith action now to mobilize their communities to support the U.S. leadership essential to achieving peace. The religious leaders conclude the letter to President Bush expressing their deep belief that "the land which was the birthplace of all three Abrahamic religions can once again become a source of hope, justice and reconciliation for the whole world and Jerusalem can become the city of peace."
The National Interreligious Leadership Delegation is a collaborative effort of A Different Future (www.adifferentfuture.org), the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East (www.usicpme.org), and the United Religions Initiative (www.uri.org) with initial financial support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
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