Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land
Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land
Communications and Public Relations Office
The Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem
St. George’s Cathedral – Jerusalem
St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem: May 20th, 2009. The Right Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem participated in a Conference on May 14 and 15th held at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. It was entitled – Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land”.
The Conference was chaired by former President Jimmy Carter. Among the participants with Carter Center personnel were leaders from The Kairos Project, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the World Council of Churches.
Bishop Dawani was the only participant in the group from Jerusalem’s Palestinian Christian Community.
The Conferees in anticipating the meeting between President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as those with Arab Leaders, at other times, wrote a Letter to the U.S. President which stated:
“As you prepare for meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab leaders, we offer you our support, encouragement and commitment”.
Expressing a new found hope in the Obama Administration’s posture, the Letter went on to say:
“That hope is grounded in the growing consensus across the Christian community that supports a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the new leadership that you bring, both of which will make more possible a real, just and lasting two-state solution and an end to conflict in the region that upholds the security and freedom of both Israelis and Palestinians”.
The Letter ended by saying “as members of your administration have already suggested, we share a concern about how Israeli settlements make that solution less and less possible. Furthermore, we are concerned that a way be found immediately to open the Gaza borders in a manner that respects both humanitarian and security concerns”.
Bishop Dawani on his return to Jerusalem stated: “I was deeply impressed with the upbeat spirit at the Conference and especially in President Carter’s strong belief in the two State Solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict”.
The Bishop who had presented a Conference Paper titled “Traditions of the Christian Community in the Land of the Holy One and Threats to its Continuing Presence”, went on to say:
“While I fully recognize the complexities, I believe, as I stated in my Paper, ‘that Christians have historically played a very important leadership role in the spiritual leadership and politics of the region as well as the various public and private sectors of the economy.'”
The Bishop in his Paper outlined a series of positive and helpful steps that can be taken as interim measures until a permanent peace is established. Such initiatives will provide bridges for communal well being and conciliation. In this venue he stressed that:
“The education and values of local Christians help to create respectful and constructive dialogue among people of different faiths and economic conditions. The urgency to preserve an indigenous Christian community in the Holy Land is crucial to its ability in continuing to serve as a moderating and reconciling element in the social and cultural fabric of the Middle East”.
Guest of the Diocese of Atlanta:
Following the Carter Center Conference Bishop Dawani stayed on in Atlanta as the guest of the Right Rev’d Dr. John Neil Alexander, Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta. On Sunday (May 17th) he was the Preacher at the Cathedral Church of St. Philip at the invitation of the Very Rev’d Dr. Samuel G. Candler, and the speaker at the Dean’s Adult Forum. The Cathedral is reputed to be among the five largest Episcopal congregations in the United States.
Bishop Dawani in his Sermon and at the Forum spoke of the historic Christian presence – the “Living Stones” since the first Pentecost in the Hold Land. While facing many difficult challenges, they remain a vibrant ‘Community of Hope’.
“Christians” he said, “as a community and individually, can and do play an important role in building bridges of dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. And, these bridges” he stressed, “are vital for the dignity and security of all people in the region”.
In facing up to the regional social, political and religious realities, the Bishop, concluded by saying,
“While the challenges are sometimes overwhelming, we have chosen not to fall into thinking of ourselves as victims who are powerless. …. We see ourselves as servants of the “Risen” Christ, empowered to share His love in support of our people and our neighbors. …. The inspiration of the Resurrection gives us the Peace in our Hearts that God’s Word is full of Hope and Truth.”
(Note: The Press Release below came through Carter Center, Atlanta and is on their Web Site)
Christian Leaders Appeal For Peace With Justice in Holy Land
May 18, 2009
National Christian leaders meeting at The Carter Center on May 14-15 sent the following letter to President Barack Obama following two days of discussions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Citing a growing sense of despair in the Holy Land, the letter conveys to the President support for his efforts to push for a two-state solution and calls for an immediate opening of the Gaza borders.
The diverse group included the Rev Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Jim Wallis, president and chief executive officer, Sojourners; the Rev. Dr. William Shaw, president of National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem; Ambassador Warren Clark, executive director, Churches for Middle East Peace; Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., founder and senior pastor, North Wood Church; and others. In response to requests from leading members in the Christian community, The Carter Center agreed to host the conference. Planning for the conference began prior to the election of 2008. Anticipating the arrival of a new administration in Washington, the Carter Center’s Human Rights Program agreed to convene a conference Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land.
Its purpose would be to present to the new administration the collective conviction and Christian understanding among the participants of the importance of immediate action to seek “peace with justice in the Holy Land”.
At the close of the two day conference, the participants crafted a brief letter , which was sent to President Barack Obama Friday. The text of the letter and the names of those who signed it follow:
May 15, 2009
Dear President Obama,
We are a diverse group of Christian leaders convened in Atlanta, who have been meeting for the past two days. As you prepare for meetings with Israeli, Palestinian, and other Arab leaders, we offer you our support, encouragement and commitment. We have heard testimony consistent with the experiences of our churches in the Holy Land about a growing sense of despair. Yet, at this meeting we sense a rising hope. That hope is grounded in the growing consensus across the Christian community that supports a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the new leadership that you bring, both of which will make more possible a real, just, and lasting two-state solution and an end to conflict in the region that upholds the security and freedom of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Our pledge to you is to continue to build constituencies that will advocate for a just political settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We request that you call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to embrace the principle of a two-state solution. As members of your administration have already suggested, we share a concern about how Israeli settlements make that solution less and less possible. Furthermore, we are concerned that a way be found immediately to open the Gaza borders in a manner that respects both humanitarian and security concerns.
We are committed to an ongoing conversation with you about achieving the solution we can no longer postpone. Know that we are praying for you in these critical meetings.
- The Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, Presbyterian Minister, Executive Director of AMIS, Inc, and Moderator of the 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- The Rev. Dr. Jimmy R. Allen, Coordinator, New Baptist Covenant
- The Rev. Dr. Randall C. Bailey, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Hebrew Bible, Interdenominational Theological Center
- The Rev. Bruce Burnside, Bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Ambassador Warren Clark, Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace
- Dr. Elizabeth Corrie, Director of the Youth Theological Initiative and Assistant Professor of Youth Education and Peacebuilding, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
- The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
- Dr. Joy Fenner, Former President, Baptist General Convention of Texas
- James Fine, Legislative Secretary for Foreign Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Ms. Beth Fogg, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
- The Rev. Dr. David Goatley, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention
- Dr. Marsha Snulligan Haney, Professor of Missiology and Religions of the World, Interdenominational Theological Center
- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and President, Lutheran World Federation
- Lynne Hybels, Advocate for Global Engagement, Willow Creek Community Church
- The Rev. Charles Jones, Area Director for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society
- The Rev. John McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
- The Rev. Dr. Kathy Nelson, Pastor, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and F.I.S.H. Foundation, Inc.
- The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly Stated Clerk for the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
- The Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, Canon for Global Justice and Reconciliation, Washington National Cathedral
- Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., Founder and Senior Pastor, North Wood Church
- Leila Sansour, Executive Director, Open Bethlehem
- The Rev. Dr. William Shaw, President of National Baptist Convention, Inc.
- Ronald J. Sider, Professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and President of Evangelicals for Social Action
- The Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention
- James M. Wall, Contributing Editor, Christian Century and former Editor
- Jim Wallis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners
- Ambassador Phil C. Wilcox, Jr., Director, Foundation for Middle East Peace
- The Rev. Robina Marie Winbush, Associate Stated Clerk and Director, Department of Ecumenical and Agency Relations, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)