US Christian Leaders Condemn Israeli Government
On the heels of meetings with Christian groups and other faith-based organizations in the past eight months, US Secretary of State Colin Powell met with a delegation of leading Christian figures on the current crisis in the Middle East.
Delegates also hand delivered a letter signed by nearly 20 church leaders, lashing out at the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians.
In their letter, the delegation described the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as "a cancer that threatens the health of the whole region, U.S. relations with Arab and Muslim countries, and interfaith relations worldwide."
They called on the US government to take a "higher profile" in advocating peace in the region.
"Few things have done more to destroy the hope and pursuit of peace through negotiations than Israel's unrelenting settlement activity," the group said in the letter to Powell.
The delegation included Rev. Frank T. Griswold Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, Bishop Vicken Aykazian Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Officer from the Armenian Orthodox Church, and Rev. Brother Stephen Michael Glodek, S.M. President Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Mens' Institutes.
"Over these recent years, we have heard from our Palestinian Christian partners, and seen for ourselves, the destructive impact of Israel's settlement policy -- separating village from village, confiscating more and more Palestinian land, creating friction with its military checkpoints," they said.
Delegates lamented that while past administrations came out strong against further settlement expansion, nothing was done to halt Israel's disregard for international law and human rights.
"It is time for the United States to do what it must to bring Israel's settlement activity to an end," the letter stated, demanding "an immediate freezing by Israel of its settlement activity".
The Christian delegates urged Powell to exercise "considerable diplomatic pressure, and possibly economic pressure as well, to convince the government of Israel to recognize that this is a major policy concern of the United States".
Since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September of last year, many Christian groups in the United States have strongly opposed the Israeli military policy in the occupied territories.
While some groups were seen working jointly with Muslim organizations in the United States advocating justice for Palestinians, others such as the umbrella group Churches for Middle East Peace mobilized its efforts toward educating the American public on the often misunderstood realities of the warring region.
Nearly a month after the outbreak of violence in the region, a group of church leaders traveled to the occupied territories to witness the devastation inflicted by the Israeli army.
The delegation also demanded that the United States suspend the current sales of attack helicopters to Israel, pending an investigation of their use against civilian targets as well as assurances that they will be used in conformity with United States law.
Ramzy Baroud is a free-lance writer living in Seattle, Washington and a regular contributor to iviews.com.
Topics: Christianity, Foreign Policy, Palestine