US Religious Leaders Call for Comprehensive Peace in Middle East

The leaders of 29 Christian, Jewish and Muslim organisations in the US have issued a joint call to the Bush administration and the new Congress to make peace Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace a top foreign policy priority, reports Catholic newspaper The Universe.

The leaders appealed to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier in the week to meet with them to discuss the "urgent situation" in the Middle East and the need for "active, fair and firm leadership by the United States" to promote a comprehensive peace in the region.

The leaders have united on the issue, saying that peace is "an essential of faith" in all three religious traditions.

In a joint statement and separate letter to Rice earlier this week, the leaders were hopeful for a positive outcome, saying that the current crisis could actually be an opportunity for change and that the current Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire offers hope for restarting negotiations.

"The crisis in Gaza and the war in Lebanon and northern Israel remind us that the status quo in the region is unstable and untenable," they said in the seven-page statement. "Military action will not resolve the conflict."

"The only authentic way forward is a negotiated settlement built on difficult, but realistic, compromises and security arrangements with international guarantees," they added. "The path to peace requires a rejection of violence and an embrace of dialogue."

The Rev Michael E. Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches, and leaders of 12 Orthodox or Protestant denominations or national organisations signed the letter and statement.

Catholic signatories on the letter and statement included Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, recently retired archbishop of Washington; and Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Among the 12 Jewish signatories were Rabbi Harry K. Danziger, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The seven Muslim signatories included Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America's Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, and Naim Baig, secretary-general of the Islamic Circle of North America.