Following up on an interfaith statement developed among national religious leaders, Iowa Christian Bishops and Muslim faith leaders issued a recent statement encouraging President Obama to take “bold new initiatives” to advance a just peace in Israel and Palestine. This is a most timely push from the faith communities with the President scheduled to travel to Israel and Palestine in March.

The AFSC Iowa office worked with the Catholic Diocese and other ecumenical and Islamic allies to bring forth this collaboration among Christians and Muslims. The statement asserts “We are committed to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace. We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.” This is an important commitment from the faith communities; AFSC Iowa will continue to work with the faith communities to advance this commitment.

The religious leaders deserve our support for stepping forth on this important issue.

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Statement of Iowa Religious Leaders

Urging a Bold New U.S. Initiative for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

February 2013 

Twilight of Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace:

“We urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership for a peaceful solution.”

Twilight has fallen on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  As religious leaders committed to peace, we urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution.

We recently witnessed shadows of dusk.  We mourn for the lives lost and shattered during the violence that gripped southern Israel and Gaza. What we have seen, recently and before, will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate.  The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians.  Now is not the time for another cycle of recriminations.  It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace.

The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity.    These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement.

As people of faith, we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible.  Egypt and the United States helped achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace.  A new dawn is possible.

We affirm President Obama’s support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.

We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new Administration in 2013.  We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides. Our nation has unique leverage and credibility in the region.  Indeed, no past progress towards peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support.   Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.

We are committed to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace.  We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.

Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains.  Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement.                                     

List of Endorsers (Organizations for identification only):      

Most Rev. Richard E. Pates - Bishop, Diocese of Des Moines, and Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Waddah Akili - Chair / Board of Darul Arqum Islamic Center of Ames                               

Most Rev. Martin Amos – Bishop of Davenport, Iowa

Bishop Michael L. Burk - Southeastern Iowa Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Mohammed Fahmy - an individual of faith, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Most Rev. Jerome Hanus – Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa

Rev. Dr. Marshall Peters - Executive Minister, Mid-American Baptist Churches (The American Baptist Churches of Iowa and Minnesota)

Rev. Dr. Rich Pleva - Iowa Conference Minister, United Church of Christ

Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe - Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble - Resident Bishop, Iowa Area, The United Methodist Church

Bishop Steven L. Ullestad - Northeastern Iowa Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Dr. Sameer Yaseen - member Board of Trustees of Islamic Center of Des Moines

Note:  This “Iowa Statement” by Iowa religious leaders is based closely on a statement that was first issued Jan. 25, 2013, by 30 national Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders who are members of NILI, the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.  For the original statement and signers, go to: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5575/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1234619 .        

Bishop Richard E. Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, signed the Jan. 25 letter as Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.