|Bishop says time is critical for peace in Middle East|
United Methodist Bishop Elaine Stanovsky (left)
joins with other religious leaders at the Masjid Nebi Musa (Mosque of
the Prophet Moses) near Jericho in the West Bank.
UMNS photos courtesy of Bishop Elaine Stanovsky.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Jan. 5, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)
Stanovsky (left) joins with other religious
leaders during a visit to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in
Time may be running out to reach a peaceful settlement between Israel
and Palestinians, said a United Methodist leader who was part of a
delegation of Christians, Jews and Muslims visiting the Middle East.
“People of faith must always look for paths that lead to peace, even
when they are overgrown from disuse or blocked by security checkpoints,”
said United Methodist Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, Denver Area, who joined a
delegation of 15 U.S. religious leaders in the Holy Land, Dec. 17-23.
“We heard again and again that the window of hope for a peaceful
settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is closing.”
Stanovsky said continued Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory
fragment the Palestinian homeland and threaten to render it
“But I also experienced fatigue and impatience, and frustration that
both the current Israeli and Palestinian leadership seem to be waiting
for the other to take the first step,” she said.
The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the
Middle East organized the trip that included Christian leaders of The
United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church,
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), National Baptist Convention,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Episcopal Church. Jewish
leaders from Reform Judaism, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and
the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and Muslim leaders of the
Islamic Society of North America and Clergy Beyond Borders also were
Holy Spirit at work
The delegation flew into Amman, Jordon, drove through Jericho to
Jerusalem, visited Ramallah and Bethlehem and flew out of Tel Aviv,
Stanovsky said. The week was spent praying together and talking with
Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians.
“This was my first trip to the Middle East,” she said. “What made the
land holy for me was God's Holy Spirit at work through people of all
three faith traditions who pray and yearn and work for peace in this
land, despite their own group's ‘exclusive’ claims. God is still at
work; people still seek and follow God's leading; hope is alive.”
The delegation agreed to call on the United States to be a catalyst
in achieving a ceasefire. The delegation also called for allowing the
flow of humanitarian and economic assistance to the people of Gaza, for
continuing efforts to improve the capacity of the Palestinian Authority
to increase security and economic development, and for reducing the
number of checkpoints and freezing all settlement expansion in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem.
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, representing the Central Conference of American
Rabbis, said, “Even on the most emotional issues of refugees and
Jerusalem, we believe most Palestinians understand that they will have
to accept a negotiated solution regarding refugees that does not
jeopardize the Jewish majority in Israel; and most Israelis understand
that they will have to accept a negotiated solution regarding sharing
Jerusalem that includes provision for both Israel and Palestine to have
their capitals in Jerusalem.”
Longing for peace
Members of the delegation also committed to working within
their constituencies to promote peace.
“Unfortunately, religious belief and zeal can be an obstacle to peace,”
Stanovsky said. “People who believe God is on their side, and has given
them a right to certain land, are not necessarily the best negotiators.”
She said representatives of each faith tradition in the delegation
committed to offering leadership within their spheres of influence.
“For me, that means preparing a thorough report to the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns and to the
Council of Bishops, and finding ways to educate United Methodists on the
complexity of the issues involved,” Stanovsky said.
The United Methodist Church opposes Israeli settlements on Palestinian
land and continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East
Stanovsky has been involved in interfaith relations as
president-director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle from 1990-95
and as a member of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity
and Interreligious Concerns. She helped draft the United Methodist
resolutions on Jewish-Christian relations.
She longs for peace in our lifetime.
“Wouldn't it be a blessing if in our lifetimes we could re-hallow the
Holy Land so that it was a safe, secure and sacred homeland for Jews,
Christians and Muslims?”
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470
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