US churches ask Bush to respect court view on Israel's separation wall

 US churches have appealed to their government to support the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion on Israel's separation barrier. The court said on Friday that it is against international law for Israel to build its barrier in the occupied territories and that it should be dismantled. For nearly a year, the US churches that work together through Churches for Middle East Peace have advocated for the United States government's intervention to stop Israel's building of the barrier beyond the 1967 "green line" on occupied land in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon, director of Franciscans International (an NGO at the United Nations in New York), noted that Franciscans have had custody of Christianity's traditional Holy Land shrines for 800 years. She appreciated the Court's emphasis on the role of the United Nations in negotiating a just and lasting peace in that land sacred to all the children of Abraham. She said: "For the past 50 years, the United States has been a trusted friend of the state of Israel while also caring about the Palestinian people's welfare, and more recently their political rights. Our government needs to use these historic ties to push both sides toward serious negotiations without further delay." She urged the United States: "to be a partner with the global community and work within the United Nations' system to bring security to both peoples. We cannot have two sets of standards for upholding international law." "We are grateful that the humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian people of this massive barrier are no longer being ignored," said Episcopal Bishop Barry Howe of the Diocese of West Missouri. Howe was part of a delegation of bishops who viewed the barrier on a trip to Palestine and Israel in May. He said "The International Court opinion as well as that of the Israeli Supreme Court ruling on June 30 emphasizes the humanitarian dimension as well as that of the rule of law." Recognizing that the Israelis argue that they needed the barrier for protection from violent terrorist acts, Bishop Howe continued: "The security that Israel seeks, and deserves, will be found in resolving the conflict through a negotiated solution with all concerned and the establishment of a Palestinian state with peace and security for all in the region." Dennis Frado, Director of the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations, said: "All Members of the United Nations should respect today's advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. This is a particularly important principle for all of the parties seeking an end to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians." Referring to the Lutheran churches' historical involvement with Namibia, he said, "We recall the ICJ's opinion in 1971 that South Africa was illegally occupying Namibia. That dispute unfortunately continued to take too many lives and cause unnecessary hardships on both sides before it was resolved. The religious community is called to redouble our efforts for peace with justice in this region as well." Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Mission Service, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM) .

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