From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Church Leaders Fault President Bush for Sharon Concessions
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thu, 15 Apr 2004 17:35:21 -0700
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. Church Leaders, Citing Risks, Fault President Bush for Concessions to
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
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, email@example.com
NCC MEDIA CONTACT: Carol Fouke, (212) 870-2252; firstname.lastname@example.org
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 www.cmep.org
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