President Barack Obama calls a foreign leader from the Oval Office on June 10. (Photo: Pete Souza, White House)
(BWA) – Several Baptist leaders in the United States signed a letter sent to President Barack Obama calling for a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the establishment of "two viable, secure and independent states."
The Baptists, who signed the letter along with several other Christian and Jewish religious leaders, stated that "now is indeed the time for immediate and bold American leadership."
In reference to the president's commitment to a two-state solution, the letter welcomed "your call for people on both sides to recognize the pain and aspirations of the other. Because of this conflict, many have lost the ability to see the other as human beings worthy of dignity and respect."
The Baptist signatories, who included David Goatley, president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, and Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, urged Obama to "go beyond the mere principle of two states and lay out a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples."
The letter expressed fear that "the window of opportunity is rapidly closing" because of "continued settlement growth and expansion" that are "rapidly diminishing any possibility for the creation of a viable Palestinian state." Also, "the targeting of Israeli civilians through ongoing rocket fire and the insistent rejection by some of Israel's right to exist" makes finding a solution to the ongoing conflict difficult.
"These actions, along with the route of the separation barrier, movement restrictions and continued home demolitions serve to undermine Palestinians and Israelis alike who seek peace."
Special concern was expressed for the small Christian community in Palestine, which is fast dwindling due to the conflict. "In the birthplace of our faith, one of the world's oldest Christian communities is dwindling rapidly … . Mr. President, it is apparent that unless there is an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Christians in the Holy Land may cease to exist as a viable community."
The letter also urged that immediate relief be offered to Gaza, even while calling for the end of rocket attacks on southern Israel. "The U.S. should also seek immediate relief for the population of Gaza — living in rubble and without basic necessities — by ending restrictions on humanitarian goods and opening the borders to reconstruction material, commerce and transit in a secure manner."
The religious leaders appealed to Obama "to provide a clear framework for an end to the conflict, help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve lasting peace and hold both parties to account when they fail to honor their commitments."
More than 50 religious leaders signed the letter that was sent to the White House in June. Other Baptist leaders signing the letter included T. DeWitt Smith and Tyrone Pitts, president and general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, respectively; William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc; and Jimmy Allen, coordinator of the New Baptist Covenant.