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Delegation to Jerusalem
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Christian Ecumenical Delegation Calls for and Commits to Prayer for a Just Peace in the Middle
December 12, 2000
As is our custom as churches, we open this statement with a verse from the Holy Bible.
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
We have come as an ecumenical delegation of United States churches in this holy season in anticipation of the birth of the "Prince of Peace" in this land. We have heard the voices of the people in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, in Beit Jala, in Beit Sahour and in Gaza. We have seen the exploded shells made in the U.S.A. found in ambulances and in families’ homes. We have seen the impact of Israeli settlements that strangulate and isolate the Palestinian people from one another. We have seen the houses demolished by the army and we have walked in centuries-old olive groves, uprooted by bulldozers. We have seen the effect of the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs on the lives of Palestinian families with its accompanying poverty and hunger. We have heard the terror in the voices of Israeli Jews and Palestinians Christians and Muslims alike. We heard a rabbi express fear for his daughter who serves in the Israeli army. We heard a Palestinian parent express fear for their children’s lives as they go out into the street. We have met with the leaders of Christian churches, rabbis, sheikhs and government officials representing both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. We believe that our faith calls us to tell the truth of what we have seen and that unless we share with the world what we have seen, the stones will cry out. We are persuaded that the peace which must come for all–Israeli and Palestinian alike–can only be achieved on a firm foundation of justice.
We grieve for all the victims, Palestinian and Israeli. We mourn each precious life lost in the violence of recent weeks. As we love mercy and seek to be worthy of receiving it, so we extend our prayers and consolation to the afflicted and the bereaved.
We commend the churches who have extended acts of mercy and practical assistance to Palestinian families and communities who face danger, privation, loss, and suffering through isolation under closure and attack by heavy weapons and helicopters. We plead for an end to the cycle of violence that threatens to spin completely out of control.
We have heard the fears from both sides and ask each side to hear the other. We reach out with concern to our sisters and brothers in the Israeli Jewish community to caution them that their government’s disproportionate use of violence further deteriorates hopes for their aspirations for peace with security. Oppression breeds terrorism. As one Jewish voice said, "There can be no Palestinian freedom without Israeli security, just as there can be no Israeli security without Palestinian freedom."
Therefore we make an urgent plea that all parties heed the moral imperative to do justice. To that end, we urge the community of nations and all people who love mercy to recognize and condemn this new apartheid that oppresses the Palestinian people.
We have come to understand that the fundamental requirement for a durable peace is the prompt end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas in fulfillment of United Nations Security Council Resolutions #242 and #338. This will require Israeli withdrawal to the borders of June 4, l967 (including East Jerusalem and the settlements) except as may be modified by mutual consent and exchange of territory. We call upon our U.S. President and Congress to encourage such an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands and neighborhoods. A peace accord that implements U.N.S.C. 242 and 338, and all other pertinent resolutions including U.N.S.C. 194 affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees, would open the way to Israel’s long-term security and acceptance by Arab nations in the region.
We believe that the following steps are additional elements in the effort to "do justice:"
Finally, we affirm our affection and love for both Israelis and Palestinians. We promise to support efforts of reconciliation and healing and a just peace for both communities in fulfillment of the common mandate of the three Abrahamic faiths to love our neighbors. Our churches in the United States and many other nations began a prayer vigil on December 3 for an end of the violence. We will continue that vigil, and invite our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers to join us in prayer until a genuine and lasting peace is achieved.
Participants in the delegation include:
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