From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church Leaders Fault President Bush for Sharon Concessions

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 15 Apr 2004 17:35:21 -0700

U.S. Church Leaders, Citing Risks, Fault President Bush for Concessions to 
PM Sharon

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 15, 2004  -- (CMEP) U.S. church leaders today 
expressed disappointment and alarm at yesterday's remarks by President Bush 
that seemingly reversed 35 years of longstanding U.S. policy on Israeli and 
Palestinian negotiations for peace.

Speaking through Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 19 
national Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox church offices, including the 
National Council of Churches USA, the leaders criticized President Bush's 
unilateral prejudging of negotiations by his endorsement of Israel's large 
Jewish settlements in the West Bank and of Israel's wish to prevent any 
Palestinian refugees from ever being resettled within Israel.

Corinne Whitlatch, executive director of the coalition, stated, "We had 
hoped that the Gaza withdrawal could be a first forward step toward peace." 
Whitlatch continued, "Instead, President Bush has betrayed decades of 
diplomatic advances, undercut the future of the Road Map peace plan and 
ignored its cosponsors - the U.N., the European Union and the Russian 
Federation. His repeated assurance that he wants a viable Palestinian state 
alongside a secure Israel is losing credibility. The President's blatant 
disregard for Palestinian and Arab participation and sentiment places a 
future peace and our own security as risk."

"The President's decision," said Father Drew Christiansen, S.J., a member 
of CMEP's Leadership Council and an editor of the Jesuit magazine America, 
"makes U.S. policy hostage to Prime Minister Sharon's expansionist 
goals.	Legitimating West Bank settlements is a recipe for protracted 
conflict which will continue to impact adversely the dwindling Christian 
presence in the Holy Land."

Fr. Christiansen asked the President to consider the consequences of his 
decision on Christians in the region, saying, "Mr. Sharon has talked about 
his unilateral initiative delaying negotiations for another generation. But 
this is a generation in which, under the pressure of endless conflict, the 
endangered indigenous Christian population in the Holy Land could well 
disappear.  I doubt this is an outcome that President Bush would like to 
see, but it is very likely one that he is setting in motion."

Other church leaders questioned whether the "war on terrorism" itself may 
have blinded President Bush to the possible outcomes of his actions on 
Israelis and Palestinians.  Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the United 
Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, observed, "President 
Bush responded yesterday to a reporter that 'the best way to achieve peace 
is to fight terror.'  I disagree.  The way toward peace is to work for a 
just resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. That will 
lead to the end of the terror of suicide bombers and targeted

Winkler continued, "Instead of telling Prime Minister Sharon that it's ok 
now to violate international law and United Nations resolutions, President 
Bush should be pressuring both sides to stem the violence and start talking 
again.	President Bush has effectively told the world that what Israel has 
taken by force from the Palestinians is now acceptable. This is a road map 
to war."

Whitlatch reiterated the disappointment of the national church 
organizations in yesterday's developments.  "The President's decision, 
contrary to the public, long-standing positions of many U.S. Protestant and 
Orthodox churches and of the Catholic Church, is de facto a rejection of 
international law.  He has clearly shown that the U.S. is not as concerned 
for the rights of the Palestinian people as he is for the political goals 
of Prime Minister Sharon.  How unfortunate for all the people of the Middle 


CMEP MEDIA CONTACT: Jim Wetekam, (202) 543-4150,
NCC MEDIA CONTACT: Carol Fouke, (212) 870-2252;

Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the 
Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian 
Orthodox Archdiocese, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's 
Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, 
Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in 
America, Franciscan Mission Service, Friends Committee on National 
Legislation, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, National 
Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), 
Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association of 
Congregations, United Church of Christ and the United Methodist 
Church.  For further information, see 

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