Letter from Heads of Denominations to President Obama on Restart of Direct Talks (August 30, 2010)

August 30, 2010

Dear Mr. President,

As leaders of American Christian faith communities deeply concerned with the need to end the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, we are pleased with the success of your diplomacy in bringing the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority together in Washington September 1-2 to restart direct negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on final status issues within the coming year. We fully support your goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace with a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

At the same time we have no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead. Both sides hold deep convictions contrary to those held by the other. Although many issues have been clarified in past negotiations, major compromises by both sides will be needed at considerable political risk and cost. Without your help it seems unlikely that an agreement can be reached. Time is short. If an agreement is not reached within the coming year, it may not be reachable at all.

For that reason we call on you and your negotiating team to continue your vigilant efforts to help the parties find acceptable solutions. We are heartened by the statement of Senator George Mitchell that he will remain closely involved in the negotiations. The U.S. will need to empower both sides to take risks for peace and when necessary to make proposals to bridge remaining differences. The United States must be clear that actions or words by either side in the coming year that undermine confidence in the negotiations, incite disrespect or prejudge the outcome of final status issues will not be tolerated.

In support of this effort, we pledge to maintain and expand our dialogue on this issue with American Jewish and Palestinian communities and to assure them of our steadfast support for achieving the aspirations of both Israel and the Palestinian people for peace and security.

Mr. President, we are praying for you as you seek to bring God's justice and peace to a place torn by walls and weapons. We are convinced that with your vigilant support this dream can be fulfilled, and the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. national security interests, can be transformed for the better.

Sincerely,

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Armenian Orthodox Church

Jimmy R. Allen
Coordinator
New Baptist Covenant

Dr. Ray Bakke
Chancellor
Bakke Graduate University

Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Bishop Wayne Burkett
Moravian Church in America

J. Ron Byler
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Very Rev. Thomas Cassidy, SCJ
President
Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes

Tony Campolo
Eastern University

Marie Dennis
Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rev. David Emmanuel Goatley, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary – Treasurer
Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention

Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster
President
The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Lynne Hybels
Advocate for Global Engagement
Willow Creek Community Church

Fr. Larry Janezic, OFM
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Ph.D.
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA

Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church USA

Leonard Rogers
Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Daniel A. Seeger
Interim General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Ronald J. Sider
President
Evangelicals for Social Action

Dr. Stephen J. Thurston
President
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Jim Wallis
President and CEO
Sojourners

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Bishop John F. White
Ecumenical & Urban Affairs Officer