Statement of ELCA Presiding Bishop follows the Episcopal letter.

Letter from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church to President Clinton

October 9, 2000

Statement of ELCA Presiding Bishop follows the Episcopal letter.

Letter from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church to President Clinton

October 9, 2000

The President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

I am appalled to read and see daily accounts of the violence that has been unleashed in the Holy Land these past days.  As Israel attempts to celebrate its holiest day, Yom Kippur, we find the home for the three Abrahamic faiths aflame in violence. The paradox is all too striking.

The provocative visit of Ariel Sharon to the Al-Aqsa Mosque has unleashed the rage and frustration of the Palestinian people who have suffered from occupation and its accompanying misery.  I have longed for the day when Israel could live at peace with her neighbors and I salute the bravery of her leaders who have taken bold steps to bring about that peace. This action by Mr. Sharon undermines the heroic efforts of Israel's peacemakers and is cause for outrage and grief.

I know you are energetically working with all sides to stem the violence and restore the peace process. Even as you do this, I call upon you to include the following immediate steps:

- Call upon Israel to refrain from the use of a disproportional military response to the violence, especially the use of heavy military equipment. Teenagers and children armed with sling shots and rocks do not deserve to be shot dead in cold blood.  They are, at the end of the day, the victims of the failure to find a true peace rooted in justice.  The presence of Israeli forces in both the liberated areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, as well as their presence anywhere in the remaining Occupied Territories serves to fuel the crisis. They should not be there.  Please implore Mr. Barak to practice restraint as you urge Mr. Arafat to do all in his power to stop the violence.

- Insist that the safety of all the people in the area on both sides be protected and the Palestinians' right to self-determination be honored.  This episode must not be used as an excuse to perpetuate the injustice of occupation.  The sad spectacle of seeing the destruction of Joseph's Tomb is the result of pent-up rage from years of occupation that will only be healed through recognition of the right of Palestinian people to self-rule.  I also certainly affirm the responsibility of both sides to respect and protect all those sites deemed sacred by the three Abrahamic faiths.

- Support an international investigation into this tragic outbreak of violence that threatens to destroy the peace process.  Knowing the full truth of how this episode was ignited will be a necessary beginning in rebuilding trust and confidence.

- Support enforcement of United Nations resolutions pertinent to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Our country has insisted on enforcement of UN resolutions related to Iraq. We cannot be seen as weak on enforcing resolutions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We must be above political pandering and know that people of good will on both sides of the conflict will support just actions, both Israeli and Palestinian.

I have been in communication with the Right Reverend Riah Abu El-Assal, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and am grateful for his courage and forcefulness in speaking out on the situation.  I appreciate the efforts of all religious leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths who are working to restore calm while insisting on a just peace that will provide a balm on the sore wounds of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The violence and its resultant loss of such young life, and the grief which accompanies it, is the most clear evidence that neither side can abandon the search for an honorable peace.  Your tireless work on behalf of that peace, along with your counterparts in the process, must be allowed to resume and succeed as soon as possible, for the sake of the children and the cause of justice and peace.  You are in my prayers, Mr. President, as you lead our nation into the ways of peacemaking on behalf of two noble and courageous people.

Sincerely,

Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

---------------------------------------------
 
October 3, 2000

STATEMENT OF ELCA PRESIDING BISHOP ON AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL

We are saddened by the deaths and injuries of so many people, both Palestinian and Israeli, in clashes prompted largely by the dispute over the future status of Jerusalem.  We call on all sides to end the fighting.  We urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to negotiate a lasting disengagement and cease-fire of armed forces and to use their authority to promote an end to the violence.

We protest the disproportionate and excessive use of lethal force by Israeli forces, their increasing use of live ammunition, their firing of rubber-coated bullets into the faces and heads of Palestinian youth, and their disregard for humanitarian institutions, such as the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives.  We wish to express the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's strongest objection to the use of the Augusta Victoria Hospital premises by Israeli forces September 29 and 30, and demand that Israeli troops not use the perimeter of the hospital nor the property of the Lutheran World Federation for military activity.  Their presence is provocative and may lead to additional clashes and casualties.

Progress in the negotiations concerning Jerusalem is crucial in both the short and long term.  On September 6th, on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I joined a number of other heads of churches here in the United States in writing to President Clinton about the churches' campaign to promote the principle of sharing Jerusalem between the two peoples and three religions.  This effort is based on our steadfast commitment to an equitable, negotiated solution for Jerusalem that respects the human and political rights of Israelis and Palestinians as well as the three religious communities, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. The churches' concern, brought to the fore again by the recent violence, extends to the living communities of believers as well as to the holy sites.

In the letter to President Clinton we raised a number of issues that still must be addressed by the Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. negotiating teams.  The current situation of the closure of Jerusalem to Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, unless they obtain a permit for entry from Israel, is made all the more painful when that closure is extended to ambulances or private cars  attempting to bring wounded children, women and men to Augusta Victoria Hospital and other hospitals in Jerusalem.  A report received this morning indicates that access to Augusta Victoria Hospital is still being blocked by Israeli forces.

On behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America I would like to express my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in these recent clashes and ask God to comfort them in their time of grief.  We will continue to work and pray for an end to the violence, seek to bolster those who search for a negotiated end to the conflict, and support those who provide pastoral care, emergency medical assistance, and other services in this time of crisis.

H. George Anderson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
October 3, 2000

STATEMENT OF ELCA PRESIDING BISHOP ON AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL

We are saddened by the deaths and injuries of so many people, both Palestinian and Israeli, in clashes prompted largely by the dispute over the future status of Jerusalem.  We call on all sides to end the fighting.  We urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to negotiate a lasting disengagement and cease-fire of armed forces and to use their authority to promote an end to the violence.

We protest the disproportionate and excessive use of lethal force by Israeli forces, their increasing use of live ammunition, their firing of rubber-coated bullets into the faces and heads of Palestinian youth, and their disregard for humanitarian institutions, such as the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives.  We wish to express the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's strongest objection to the use of the Augusta Victoria Hospital premises by Israeli forces September 29 and 30, and demand that Israeli troops not use the perimeter of the hospital nor the property of the Lutheran World Federation for military activity.  Their presence is provocative and may lead to additional clashes and casualties.

Progress in the negotiations concerning Jerusalem is crucial in both the short and long term.  On September 6th, on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I joined a number of other heads of churches here in the United States in writing to President Clinton about the churches' campaign to promote the principle of sharing Jerusalem between the two peoples and three religions.  This effort is based on our steadfast commitment to an equitable, negotiated solution for Jerusalem that respects the human and political rights of Israelis and Palestinians as well as the three religious communities, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. The churches' concern, brought to the fore again by the recent violence, extends to the living communities of believers as well as to the holy sites.

In the letter to President Clinton we raised a number of issues that still must be addressed by the Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. negotiating teams.  The current situation of the closure of Jerusalem to Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, unless they obtain a permit for entry from Israel, is made all the more painful when that closure is extended to ambulances or private cars  attempting to bring wounded children, women and men to Augusta Victoria Hospital and other hospitals in Jerusalem.  A report received this morning indicates that access to Augusta Victoria Hospital is still being blocked by Israeli forces.

On behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America I would like to express my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in these recent clashes and ask God to comfort them in their time of grief.  We will continue to work and pray for an end to the violence, seek to bolster those who search for a negotiated end to the conflict, and support those who provide pastoral care, emergency medical assistance, and other services in this time of crisis.

H. George Anderson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America