Ecumenical group issues Advent appeal for peace in Middle East

 Churches for Middle East Peace have issued the following statement: Christians the world over are engaged in a holy season of preparation and reflection - a time of hope and of expectation for the Prince of Peace. Advent also focuses our awareness on areas of our lives in which violence and injustice continue to prevent the birth of real peace and reconciliation. We acknowledge that Advent this year is not a time in which God's peace and justice prevail. However, it is a time when God's spirit can lead us to the paths that turn away from war and toward the vision of peace we see in Jesus of Nazareth. We confess our complicity in those things that have worked to prevent peace and reconciliation from becoming a reality in our world and particularly in the Middle East. We appeal to others -- governments and individuals -- to take a fresh look at the ways in which their policies, perceptions, and actions harm the people of the Middle East and make impossible the fulfillment of justice and true peace for Palestinians and Israelis, for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We call upon the people of the United States and the government to take actions to prevent war with Iraq, to work with the United Nations and other international bodies to ensure Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, to take steps to help bring about Palestinian self-determination and the formation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, and to be cautious in the "war on terrorism," making certain that our actions promote peace and security and do not instead intensify hatred, violence, injustice, and poverty among citizens of our world. We call upon the people and the government of Israel to begin immediate preparations to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, to cease military operations in these territories, to withdraw from settlements developed in the territories, and to implement peaceful steps that will allow the realization of the vision of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. We call upon the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority to take the necessary steps to end immediately the violence against citizens of Israel and others, whether it occur in the state of Israel itself or in the occupied territories, to undertake measures that will ensure the long-term security of Israel and will allow the full development of a new Palestinian state alongside Israel. We call upon the Iraqi government to work openly and truthfully with the United Nations weapons inspectors to reveal any research and development of weapons of mass destruction, to end violent and oppressive practices against any of its own people, and to work with other nations to develop the means for becoming again a fully cooperative and participating member of the community of nations. We call upon people of faith from these disparate places to embrace a vision of peace and justice in their own lives, to exhort their governments to avoid the easy but destructive rhetoric and conduct of war, to maintain patience and to struggle nonviolently in the face of violence and suffering, and to renew their commitment to work for peace and justice for the diverse and interconnected peoples of the Middle East. Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a Washington-based program of the American Friends Service Committee, 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 Fathers and Brothers, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. Holly Byker, Office Manager Churches for Middle East Peace 100 Maryland Ave NE, #313 Washington, DC 20002 Telephone (202) 488-5600 x7139 or (202) 488-5613

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