Religious Leaders Appeal to Obama for Mideast

Say Peace Must Be Priority and Responsibility

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WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 15, 2008 ( Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders joined together to endorse a letter to president-elect Barack Obama, urging him to use U.S. leadership to promote Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, was among the leaders who signed the Dec. 4 letter, representing all members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI).

They wrote to Obama, «We have appreciated your clear and consistent commitment to making active U.S. leadership for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace a high priority from the beginning of your presidency.»

«We believe it is essential,» they continued, «that the leaders and people of Israel, the Palestinian territories and Arab states be assured that you intend to implement this priority with a sense of urgency following your inauguration.»

The letter stated that new signs of hope have encouraged the group, including «progress in direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, progress in indirect Syrian-Israeli talks, and the historic Arab Peace Initiative led by Saudi Arabia.»

The NILI asked for a follow-up meeting with Obama, as well as with Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, in order to continue the practice initiated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice «of our having regular high level meetings at the state department to learn what the administration is doing and to offer our ideas and support.»

Accompanying the letter was a consensus statement issued this month, endorsed by Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders as well as the leaders of more than 25 national organizations. Along with Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. episcopal conference, was among the signers.

The statement, «A Window of Hope for the Peace of Jerusalem,» affirmed the «common commitment to peace with justice for all God’s children» of all three religious groups.

The religious leaders stated their goal of working toward a «two-state solution that will bring both Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace […] and the peace of Jerusalem.» They acknowledged the setbacks and challenges they are facing, including the U.S. transition to a new administration.

They asserted, «This dangerous time demands clarity. […] We believe that concerted, sustained U.S. leadership for peace is essential.»

They added that the «unique and indispensable role» of the United States «gives our nation a special responsibility to pursue peace. Israeli-Palestinian peace must be an urgent priority for President-elect Obama from the day he takes office.»

«Our nation and the world will be much safer with the achievement of the peace of Jerusalem,» they concluded.

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