From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Church Leaders Meet with Secretary of State on Middle East
News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Fri, 8 Jun 2001 15:52:04 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 8, 2001
CHURCH LEADERS MEET WITH SECRETARY OF STATE ON MIDDLE EAST
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A group of United States church leaders
delivered a letter June 7 to Secretary of State Colin Powell at the U.S.
State Department in Washington, D.C., addressing the violence in the
Middle East. "There is no higher priority for peacemaking in the world
today than that between Israel and the Palestinians," the church leaders
said in the letter. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
was represented at the meeting by the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, bishop of
Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, Pittsburgh, and chair of the ELCA
Conference of Bishops.
The church leaders called the conflict in the Middle East "a
cancer that threatens the health of the whole region, U.S. relations
with Arab and Muslim countries, and interfaith relations worldwide."
"We have heard from our Palestinian Christian partners," the
church officials said in the letter, "and seen for ourselves the
destructive impact of Israel's settlement policy, separating village
from village, confiscating more and more Palestinian land."
During the meeting, they pressed for the U.S. government "to do
what it must to bring Israel's settlement activity to an end," urging
that the United States make clear to Palestinians and Israel that they
are committed to a negotiated end of military occupation by Israel.
ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson, was among the 26 church
leaders who signed the letter. The delegation included the Rev. Robert
W. Edgar, general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ
in the U.S.A. (NCC) and a host of Protestant, Orthodox and Roman
Catholic church leaders.
The church leaders said Powell was "very receptive" to their
concerns and "engaged in a very spirited discussion." They urged Powell
"to use his influence to encourage both sides to hold back from use of
arms and terrorism so we might enter a cooling down period and more
rational discussion leading to a lasting resolution of the problem,"
said the Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director of NCC's Church
The letter asked Palestinians "to abandon violence as a means to
end the occupation." It also called on Israel "to abandon military
force and return to negotiations as the path to security."
The letter pleaded with the U.S. government to "place a hold on
any pending delivery of attack helicopters or fighter jets to Israel and
to reconsider the promise made by the Clinton Administration that the
United States will increase military aid to Israel for each of the next
eight years." It said the use of F-16 fighter jets against civilian
populations "is unacceptable and must be challenged by the U.S.
Concern for both parties plagued by the violence was expressed in
the letter when signers said their concern "extends to each person
suffering from the conflict." However, the church leaders said they are
"extremely worried about their Palestinian Christian brothers and
sisters," because they must face "daily threats from violence and
economic deprivation and lack hope for peace and a viable Palestinian
"For their sake, and the sake of all, we seek a restoration of
hope for a negotiated sharing of the Holy Land and the city of
Jerusalem, holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims," the letter said. "We
tremble to consider the destructive consequences that would follow the
premature moving, as called for by Congress, of the U.S. embassy from
Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," said the letter.
Powell "received our delegation very warmly and was very gracious.
He took the time to listen to the concerns we brought and engaged us in
the discussion," said McCullough. Powell encouraged church leaders to
"shout out their concern" for Middle East peace "from the tops of our
steeples," he added.
-- -- --
The text of the church leaders' letter to Secretary of State Colin
Powell is at http://www.loga.org on the Web.
[*Michelle T. Mills is a senior at Bradley University, Peoria, Ill.
This summer she is an intern with the ELCA News and Information.]
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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