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Religious leaders urge Colin Powell to revive Middle East peace plan

 


Religious leaders urge Powell to revive Middle East peace plan

 

June 2, 2004               

 

By Shanta Bryant Gyan*

 

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Ann Saunkeah
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — A delegation of religious leaders met with Secretary of State Colin Powell on June 1 to press the United States to immediately restart Israeli and Palestinian negotiations.

The group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders also urged the appointment of a high-level envoy to broker peace in the region.

James Winkler, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said the delegation told Secretary Powell that the United States must take an even-handed approach to resolving the conflict.

“The United States has to take the leadership and be re-engaged at a high level in the Middle East,” Winkler said. “And there needs to be major action now.” The Board of Church and Society, based in Washington, is the social action and advocacy agency of the United Methodist Church.

The State Department meeting drew more than 30 religious leaders, all members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.

At a press briefing afterward, religious leaders said the United States should revive the “road map for peace,” the U.S.-initiated blueprint for ending the Middle East conflict, and make peace and security in the region a priority.

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Photo courtesy of NCCCUSA

30 religious leaders encouraged Secretary of State Colin Powell to revive the U.S. "road map for peace."
“It is our hope that they will take the road map, bring it back up again, and take it out to the people,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a Roman Catholic leader in Washington. “We believe the moment is now. We can’t wait for more violence.”

 

The delegation asked Powell to send a presidential envoy to the Middle East to be a catalyst to move peace negotiations forward.

Dawud A. Assad, former president of the Council of Mosques USA, said the United States must take a more proactive role in creating opportunities for peace in the Middle East. He said an envoy would show the Arab and Muslim world that “the United States is not sitting on the sidelines but is very concerned about this issue.”

At a later press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that while the secretary is not opposed to appointing high-level envoys, a presidential envoy is not necessary until the Palestinian Authority brings the violence under control.

Powell “reiterated the need for control of the violence and for the Palestinians to take responsibility to control the violence because that is the thing that has led to the problems and the breakdown of previous efforts by envoys,” Boucher said.

Religious leaders strongly disagreed.

Winkler emphasized that the road map requires simultaneous action by both Palestinians and Israelis. “Any hope for the Middle East to move ahead will involve all parties,” he said.

“We believe positive action now will contribute to an environment where there will be a negotiated settlement that will ultimately bring an end to the violence,” said Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice-president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, called for a two-state solution — for the Palestinian territories to form a separate entity from Israel — to resolve the conflict, saying the “moral demand for action is now.”

 

The delegation also recommended increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians living in impoverished areas.

Winkler said the Board of Church and Society would activate United Methodist grass-roots networks through the board’s Peace with Justice Network and Churches for Middle East Peace, of which the board is a member, to continue advocacy with the U.S. government on the Middle East conflict.

*Gyan is a freelance writer based in the Washington area.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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