Presiding Bishop joins letters promoting two-state framework in Middle East

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has in recent weeks signed on to two letters to Secretary of State John Kerry that seek to support the current negotiations toward a framework for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The first letter, dated February 28, comes from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle

East (NILI), an organization that includes present and past heads of twenty-five Jewish, Christian, and Muslim national religious organizations. The signers write:

“We agree with you that public support by leaders and members of our three religious communities, both here and on the ground in the region, will be essential to encourage success in negotiating a final peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. ….

We believe the coming months are critical to achieving a negotiated two-state peace agreement, the only realistic resolution of the conflict. While we know that some in our communities will oppose any compromises, 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.

The second letter, released today, marks the first time that ” Catholic, Coptic, Lutheran and Episcopal heads of churches in Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Places are joining with U.S. Christian denominations and groups to support urgent efforts to reach a comprehensive agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to Churches for Middle East Peace.

The letter says:

Lack of a resolution will have negative consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians and exacerbate other grave problems in the region. Failure would have detrimental consequences for the entire international community, including the United States, as well as exacerbate ongoing humanitarian concerns. We hope that the framework will be based on principles of international law.

The preservation and welfare of the Christian communities affected by this conflict are important to us. A comprehensive agreement should greatly strengthen opportunities for them to flourish. Moreover, the support and inclusion of all three Abrahamic faiths is critical as they will have an important role to play in promoting the peace process.

Alex Baumgarten, director of justice and advocacy ministries for the Episcopal Church is writing a Lenten series ( 1, 2 and 3) on the church’s efforts in the Middle East.

The Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship often presents a contrasting viewpoint from that offered by the Presiding Bishop and the churchwide staff. Last January it “hosted” an open letter to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church that was signed by a number of prominent church leaders. It asked in part that the council “immediately move forward with our Church’s corporate engagement policy so that our financial resources are not being used to support the infrastructure of this suffocating occupation.”

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