The al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. (Photo: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia)
Faith leaders from around the world have called for continued prayers for peace in Israel-Palestine amid escalating tensions and increased violence surrounding new security measures for the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Pope Francis addressed the tension and violence on June 23, speaking to those gathered at St. Peter's Square in Rome for his Sunday message.
"The Pope said he is following 'with trepidation the grave tensions and violence of the last days in Jerusalem,'" Vatican Radio reported. "'I feel the need to express a heartfelt appeal for moderation and dialogue,' Francis said, and he invited all faithful to join him in prayer so that the Lord may inspire all sides to come together with proposals for reconciliation and peace."
A letter to President Trump from 35 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders in the U.S. was issued on June 19, praising the president's meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and urging commitment to work for peace via a two-state solution.
"We believe a two-state solution still represents the most realistic way to meet essential interests of both peoples and to resolve the conflict," the letter stated. "While there are those among both the Israelis and the Palestinians who argue that one state is preferable ... recent polls show that the majority of peoples still yearn for two states. ... Pursuing either side's version of a one-state solution would likely lead to more years of violent conflict."
Signatories included Elizabeth A. Eaton (presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), Bruce R. Ough (president, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church), David Saperstein (director emeritus, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism), David E. Stern (president, Central Conference of American Rabbis), Sayyid Muhammad Syeed (national director, Islamic Society of North America) and Imam Mohammed Magid (past president, ISNA).
Saperstein gave the keynote address at the Religious Liberty Council Luncheon of the Baptist Joint Committee in June during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's 2017 general assembly. Both Syeed and Magid appeared in EthicsDaily.com's 2010 documentary, "Different Books, Common Word," on Baptist-Muslim relationships.
The World Council of Churches launched on June 20 its #JusticeAndPeace initiative - a social media campaign highlighting 12 people working to bring justice and peace to Israel and Palestine.
The day prior, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit invited global Christians to participate in the "World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel" (Sept. 17-24), calling it "yet another opportunity to remind the world about the unsolved conflict in Palestine and Israel and to show solidarity with peace-seeking people suffering under occupation."
The Mennonite Church USA passed a resolution in early July focused on peacemaking in Israel and Palestine.
The resolution affirmed support and partnership with "Palestinians and Jews who work for justice and peace for all, rejecting violence and oppression," and called for Mennonites to "to avoid purchases and investments directly related to the military occupation of Palestinian territories."
Alex Awad, a Baptist leader in Palestine, commented on the Mennonite resolution in a July 20 article for Sojourners: "Currently, the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is worse than critical, and the Christian leadership in Palestine is openly calling on their brothers and sisters in the United States and in Canada to commit to nonviolent actions that end the mayhem."
He added, "Christians from all denominations should not only celebrate this landmark resolution, but also consider emulating the strategies Mennonites used to reach such a refreshing achievement."