Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is organized to educate and give witness to principles of peace and justice in the Middle East on behalf of its religious constituencies by advocating public policy positions that seek to:
1. Pursue a just and durable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in which Israelis and Palestinians realize the vision of a just peace, which illuminates human dignity and cultivates thriving relationships.
CMEP believes that U.S. engagement to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires leadership of the administration, accompanied by bi-partisan support from Congress and U.S. public opinion. CMEP urges members of Congress to support sustained and high-level diplomatic action by the administration to urge Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, together with a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace initiative, as a top policy priority. CMEP supports robust U.S. diplomacy with both Israelis and Palestinians to bring the two parties together for negotiations and a resolution of the conflict.
We believe that working towards a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not only serve the cause of peace and justice in the Holy Land but also promote peace in the Middle East region in general. A just peace would take away from those who take advantage by exploiting this conflict to serve their own motives, thereby compounding the perpetuation of injustices.
2. Realize the vision of two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace within secure and recognized borders.
CMEP supports a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes an end to the violence, security for all peoples, an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, the establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, and an agreement on Jerusalem that allows the city to be shared by the two peoples and three faiths. CMEP fears that a two-state solution is in significant jeopardy.
Israel: CMEP supports a secure state of Israel. We believe the best way to achieve long term security for Israel is through a negotiated two-state solution as part of a comprehensive Middle East peace. CMEP urges the United States to pursue the peace process as integral to helping Israel achieve security, recognition and normalization of relations with all countries. CMEP recognizes that Israelis have legitimate security concerns.
Palestine: CMEP supports the creation of an independent, secure and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a recognized and secure Israel. CMEP advocates for U.S. policies that will reduce internal Palestinian friction, enable reform, and contribute to building stable Palestinian institutions and a thriving civil society. CMEP supports robust US development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people as a critical component to creating a climate conducive to progress toward peace. Palestinians have legitimate security concerns.
3. Pursue an end to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, to promote a solution that advances security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.
CMEP advocates for the end of the occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. CMEP opposes routing the security barrier through Palestinian lands, the existence and the expansion of settlements, and settler-only bypass roads that create severe limitations on self-determination, freedom of movement, and economic activity.
CMEP also advocates for an end to the blockade and closure of Gaza. Since 2006, the political and humanitarian crisis in Gaza has become an urgent problem for the two million Palestinians living there. The blockade limits the import of basic necessities and materials desperately needed to rebuild after the recent wars in Gaza 2008/2009, 2012, and 2014. The restrictions on travel have limited Palestinians’ access to health care, religious holy sites and educational institutions outside of the Gaza Strip. CMEP also strongly condemns rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
4. Recognize settlements as illegal and an impediment to peace and ensure accountability for settlement policies that disregard legal restraints and international consensus.
The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands beyond the 1967 borders and measures and laws that continue to constrain and control the Palestinian population, in contravention of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, must end. These actions prevent economic and social development and constrain the exercise of political rights. Our nation we needs to focus on bringing a new sense of equality, inclusivity, and mutual respect among all the citizens of the Land regardless of religious affiliation or ethnicity.
The existence and continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands increasingly dims the hopes and realistic prospects for a two-state solution and is a major threat to peace. CMEP:
- Opposes the expansion of all settlements and is particularly monitoring Nahla (E-2) near Efrat in the Gush Etzion Bloc that would isolate Bethlehem from Hebron;
- Opposes policies that have as their objective changing the ethnic character of neighborhoods in Jerusalem;
- Opposes the existence and completion of the separation barrier/wall on Palestinian land, including the barrier across the Cremisan Valley separating the valley owned by Palestinian Christian families and institutions from Beit Jala and Bethlehem;
- Opposes unilateral annexation and West Bank “land grabs” or unilateral declarations of “state land” by Israel; and
- Supports a U.S. declaration that settlements and unilateral land expropriations are “illegal,” not just “illegitimate,” in the spirit of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334.
5. Promote a shared Jerusalem by Palestinians and Israelis, as well as full access to the Holy Sites of the three religious communities — Jews, Christians, and Muslims – by those who call them holy.
CMEP supports the sharing of Jerusalem by the two peoples and the three faiths and urges the Administration to work with Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to guarantee access to Jerusalem’s holy places and religious liberty for all peoples. We believe that unilateral actions in East Jerusalem and incitement to violence create tensions that undermine trust and make resuming meaningful negotiations and achieving a two-state solution more difficult. CMEP urges members of Congress and the Administration to hold both sides accountable for any actions that prejudge negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem must be resolved in a comprehensive peace agreement. CMEP supports a shared Jerusalem, serving as a capital for Israel and a future Palestinian state as well as full access by all faiths.
6. Promote restorative justice, trauma healing, and multi-level peacebuilding efforts with a particular recognition of the contribution and role of women.
A lasting and sustainable peace requires a negotiated settlement and political process that also integrates robust restorative, trauma-healing, and peacebuilding activities. Religious traditions contain many resources for this work in their scriptures, traditions, and within the life of their faith communities. We will call for more investment in these peacebuilding approaches.
Culturally sensitive restorative processes focus on the harm done and how to heal that harm. Effective practices include victim-offender conferencing, family conferencing, peacemaking circles with a broader set of key stakeholders, as well as truth and reconciliation commissions. These processes better meet the needs of all parties, better reduce recidivism, address underlying causes of harm, build trust, and ensure a more sustainable just peace.
Women have played a critical role in global peacebuilding initiatives and often are underrecognized and underutilized. There are specific initiatives seeking to elevate the role of women in conflict situations such as the efforts of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Palestine and other similar organizations.
7. In order to defend free speech and religious liberty, uphold the right of churches and organizations to find appropriate and various ways to end unjust practices and policies that violate international laws and conventions, including exerting economic leverage on commercial and government actors.
As an organization composed of churches and church related bodies, we maintain strong support for free speech and religious liberty. As part of this support, we affirm and defend the right of churches and organizations to witness using economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine, and endeavor to find appropriate ways to exert economic leverage on commercial and governmental actors to end unfair and unjust practices and policies which violate international laws and conventions. Such actions have precedence among churches in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and in many other times and locations.
8. Support the right for engagement in nonviolent resistance while raising concerns about all forms of violence regardless of actor.
CMEP member communions are united in raising concerns about the use of violence and the effects of this violence on communities, the region, and possibility of a lasting and just peace. Despite differences between just peace, just war, or pacifist theology and ethics of violence, together we recognize the many powerful, effective, and humanizing efforts of nonviolent resistance to challenge unjust situations.
9. Recognize the religious importance of the Middle East to Jews, Christians, and Muslims and others; to protect the religious freedom of all as well as support measures to ensure the viability of the historic Christian community in Palestine, Israel, and the entire region.
CMEP is concerned for religious freedom and access to holy sites for all religions. While CMEP and its member communions are concerned for all, we as churches and church related organizations have a natural and particular connection and felt concern to Christian communities in Israel-Palestine and the broader Middle East. As the years pass without a peace agreement, lack of freedom of movement, deterioration of local economies, and the realities of the occupation drive Palestinian Christians to emigrate in large numbers. Through our supporters, CMEP consistently brings Palestinian Christians’ plight and hopes of peace to the attention of lawmakers and policymakers in Congress and the White House.
Palestinian Christians: CMEP has a special connection to the Palestinian Christians, their churches and institutions and has long expressed concern that a healthy future for this community requires a resolution of the conflict. The indigenous Christian community is increasingly emigrating due to ongoing political and economic instability and the burdens of occupation. CMEP emphasizes the important role that Christians have to play in prospects for pluralism, religious freedom and democracy in Palestinian society and throughout the region. CMEP maintains an ongoing dialogue with Congress and the Administration about actions by both Israeli and Palestinian governments that have a detrimental effect on the dwindling Christian community. CMEP raises serious moral concerns about the impact of particular Israeli measures (including checkpoints, permit systems, route of the security barrier, travel restrictions, residency requirements, home demolitions, and closures).
Middle East Christians: CMEP is very concerned about the rise of extremism that targets Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East. We are especially concerned about the impact of recent events on Christian communities and others in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, especially attacks associated with the rise of the so called Islamic State (ISIL) and other extremist groups. CMEP is committed to the building of inclusive societies based on citizenship rights where persons of all religions can live together in harmony and peace, and calls on the U.S. government to support political solutions that can secure such a reality.
10. Encourage negotiated, just, and peaceful resolutions to conflicts in the region and the demilitarization of conflict.
CMEP has welcomed the Arab League Peace Initiative as a hopeful development and opportunity for increased regional dialogue and diplomacy. CMEP believes that U.S. national security interests and Middle East stability will be strengthened by a resolution of the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. CMEP believes a just, lasting and comprehensive peace will require agreements for peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors, including normalization of relations as foreseen in the Arab League peace initiative. CMEP is also concerned about other conflicts in the region, including the Syrian war, and promotes diplomacy, peacebuilding, and demilitarization as ways to resolve all of the region’s conflicts.
11. Encourage needs and rights based development and humanitarian assistance to reduce inequality and promote human dignity, especially in the West Bank and Gaza while ensuring access and protection for aid agencies and others.
CMEP believes that engagement from the United States and other nations to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires humanitarian assistance and commitment to equitable development in order to foster reform and contribute to building stable institutions and a thriving civil society for Palestinians. CMEP supports robust U.S. development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, including via NGO’s as a critical component to creating a climate conducive to progress toward peace. The U.S. government should deliver aid directly and through trusted non-government organizations including faith based organizations. The Christian community is well known for providing a range of services including schools, hospitals, clinics, social services, and economic development projects. We have a responsibility to encourage and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance into and within the territories to alleviate suffering and advocate for a just peace for all people in the region.
12. Respect for human rights of all in the region, including refugees and displaced people, based on full observance of the Geneva Conventions and other international law agreements.
CMEP believes all parties should be held accountable for human rights violations to the full extent of the law. The Middle East is experiencing record numbers of refugees and displaced persons. Their rights must be respected and protected in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949, which established the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), as well as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. CMEP opposes the acquisition of land by force, economic exploitation, illegal settlement construction, and the inhumane treatment of Palestinian people in contravention of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions.
13. CMEP opposes anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and anti-Islamic actions and all other forms of racism or bigotry in rhetoric or actions that dehumanize, stereotype, or incite distrust or violence toward anyone.
We encourage civil society and community leaders and politicians, to take a strong stand against anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and anti-Islamic actions. As humans and as Christians, we must exemplify our love for our neighbor and speak out against injustice and hate.
We oppose all forms of anti-Semitism towards the Jewish people and are alarmed by the increased attacks against the Jewish community and other minority groups in the United States and abroad. CMEP maintains the notion that criticism or opposition to Israeli policies is not inherently anti-Semitic. By conflating anti-Semitism with legitimate critiques of Israeli policies, it devalues anti-Semitism and the real threat it poses.
Especially since 2001, Muslims in the United States have experienced increased discrimination, marginalization, hatred, and exclusion from American Society. CMEP opposes all forms of anti-Islamic actions and stands against inflammatory rhetoric, discriminatory actions and negative behavior toward Muslims and people from Muslim-majority countries.
In recent years, there has been an alarming surge in anti-Christian actions against Christians living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as the Church of the Multiplication and various other holy sites have been subjected to arson and violence. CMEP opposes all forms of discrimination against Christians and condemn the hate crimes and desecration of holy sites. CMEP stands with Church Leaders and Christians in the Holy Land in solidarity against anti-Christian attacks and call on community leaders and politicians to advocate for religious freedom and protection for all people in the region.
Updated at July 18, 2017 Board Meeting