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Tony Hall writes: Religious leaders' unity improves peace prospects

Tony Hall writes: Religious leaders' unity improves peace prospects

"History has shown that the conflict in Israel and Palestine cannot be solved by political decisions alone. For 40 years there have been accords, treaties and resolutions that have not secured peace for Israel or political freedom for the Palestinians. I went to Sinai when Israel gave it back to Egypt, and I've been watching the problems increase there ever since. Politicians may represent the will of the people, but religions represent their heart. Noticeably absent from the White House lawn during the signing of the Oslo Accords was any religious presence to bless that famous handshake between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians. This spiritual absence likely created a vacuum into which religious extremists from both sides were able to sweep in and destroy the handshake's promise. An enduring political solution in the Holy Land will require the participation and consent of the religious leaders of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, impossible as that may seem. Thankfully, leadership toward that goal is actually transpiring in the Holy Land. For the past year, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and I have traveled to the Holy Land to meet with an emerging group of the top religious leaders. Those leaders have begun meeting together (through the help of the Norwegian Church). They are now going public with their message. This month, in Washington, we hosted the two chief rabbis of Israel, the patriarchs of Jerusalem, the top Islamic religious leaders of the Palestinian Authority, and many of their colleagues. Here these 15 men met for three days to share with American religious and political leaders their commitment to peace in the Holy Land and the steps they are taking to prepare the way for their political leaders. This Council of Religious Leaders is committed to religious freedom, access to holy sites, anti-defamation, promoting education for religious tolerance and the creation of a "hot line" to diffuse religious tension that might lead to violence. They are also committed to consider a reasonable solution for Jerusalem. They do not seek to create the political solutions themselves, only the environment in which those solutions can be found and then secured. The collective weight of their moral authority ought to be received as a peace offering to the current administrations in Israel and Palestine, and to the Quartet (the United States, France, Russia and the United Nations), which has worked as a group on some Mideast issues." Former Congressman Tony Hall of Ohio was ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand in the 1960's.

Tony Hall writes: Religious leaders' unity improves peace prospects

COMMENTARY: Religious leaders' unity improves peace prospects
By TONY HALL
Cox News Service
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

DAYTON, Ohio — As our country prepares to host the Israelis and Palestinians in Annapolis later this year for their next round of peace talks, it would make a lot of sense to consider what historically helps ensure that the leaders find a solution, and then secure it.

If there is ever to be peace in Jerusalem, then the politicians must include and encourage the religious leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths in the Holy Land to take parallel steps.

Longstanding political crises need local spiritual leadership to prepare the way for the necessary political sacrifices. Jawaharlal Nehru could not have led India's independence without Mahatma Gandhi. Bishop Desmond Tutu gave spiritual leadership alongside the political leadership of Nelson Mandela to end apartheid.

And Lyndon Johnson would never have been able to pass, let alone sustain, a civil rights act for the United States without the spiritual leadership, sacrifice and authority of Martin Luther King Jr.

History has shown that the conflict in Israel and Palestine cannot be solved by political decisions alone. For 40 years there have been accords, treaties and resolutions that have not secured peace for Israel or political freedom for the Palestinians.

I went to Sinai when Israel gave it back to Egypt, and I've been watching the problems increase there ever since. Politicians may represent the will of the people, but religions represent their heart. Noticeably absent from the White House lawn during the signing of the Oslo Accords was any religious presence to bless that famous handshake between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians.

This spiritual absence likely created a vacuum into which religious extremists from both sides were able to sweep in and destroy the handshake's promise.

An enduring political solution in the Holy Land will require the participation and consent of the religious leaders of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, impossible as that may seem.

Thankfully, leadership toward that goal is actually transpiring in the Holy Land. For the past year, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and I have traveled to the Holy Land to meet with an emerging group of the top religious leaders. Those leaders have begun meeting together (through the help of the Norwegian Church).

They are now going public with their message.

This month, in Washington, we hosted the two chief rabbis of Israel, the patriarchs of Jerusalem, the top Islamic religious leaders of the Palestinian Authority, and many of their colleagues. Here these 15 men met for three days to share with American religious and political leaders their commitment to peace in the Holy Land and the steps they are taking to prepare the way for their political leaders.

This Council of Religious Leaders is committed to religious freedom, access to holy sites, anti-defamation, promoting education for religious tolerance and the creation of a "hot line" to diffuse religious tension that might lead to violence. They are also committed to consider a reasonable solution for Jerusalem. They do not seek to create the political solutions themselves, only the environment in which those solutions can be found and then secured.

The collective weight of their moral authority ought to be received as a peace offering to the current administrations in Israel and Palestine, and to the Quartet (the United States, France, Russia and the United Nations), which has worked as a group on some Mideast issues.

Religion has so often been misused historically to justify war. Yet now the religious leaders of Israel and Palestine stand together to offer themselves and their religious authority as partners for peace.

Never before in the history of Jerusalem have the leaders of these institutions come together in this way. As one member of the delegation noted, "This is both pathetic and amazing; pathetic that it has not happened sooner, and amazing that it is happening now."

This newly found unity ought to be embraced, supported and strengthened for its potential to ease the burden of political sacrifice that must come by the people of the Holy Land if anything significant is going to come from Annapolis.

Former Ohio Congressman Tony Hall, working with the blessing of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has helped convene a coalition of leading Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders to work for peace in the Middle East.




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Headlines: November, 2007; RPCV Tony Hall (Thailand); Figures; Peace Corps Thailand; Directory of Thailand RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Thailand RPCVs; Diplomacy; Hunger; Religion; Ohio





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Story Source: Lufkin Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Thailand; Diplomacy; Hunger; Religion

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