GENERAL BOARD OF CHURCH AND SOCIETY
STATEMENT ON THE MIDDLE EAST
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church
Spring Meeting, March 13-17, 2002
Herndon, Virginia, USA

 



Eighteen months of escalating violence in the Holy Land prompted leaders of
churches in Jerusalem to address Palestinians and Israelis with these words:
"There is a time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down,
a time for building;  ...a time for throwing stones away, a time for
gathering them; ...a time for war, a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:3-8)
Now is the time for peace.

With the patriarchs and heads of churches in the Holy Land, we are dismayed
by the "spiral of violence directly affecting the lives of people." With
them we are "saddened to see more widows, orphans, and mourning fathers and
mothers on both sides" and ask "Is this the future that we all want for our
children?" (Jerusalem, March 9, 2002)

Palestinian and Israeli children have a right to live securely and at peace
in the land where Christ blessed the children and proclaimed peace.  Each
day terror tears at the hearts of Palestinian and Israeli children.  One
third of those who have died as a result of the recent violence are
children.  Terror and violence must end so that children can sleep safely in
their own beds, go to school freely and without fear, and receive medical
attention when needed.  In the spirit of the One who said, "Inasmuch as -you
have done it to one of the least of these...," we speak on behalf I of
children caught between bombs and bullets in a dispute over land.

The state of Israel has a recognized claim to the land it inhabited prior to
June 1967, but currently illegally occupies the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
(including East Jerusalem), territories to create a viable, contiguous
Palestinian state.  The United Methodist Church has called for the
implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions #242, #338,
#194, #267, #465 and #681 as first steps in settling the issues of borders
and security, Jerusalem, refugees' right of return and compensation, Israeli
settlements, water resources, and release of political prisoners and
detainees.

Israel will find peace and security through ending the illegal occupation of
Palestinian and Arab territories.  Palestinian security and peace and
economic stability will be found behind secure borders in a civil and
democratic society.  Within both Israel and Palestine, courageous leaders
are at work to achieve these ends.  They need our support and prayers.

Within the Holy Land, the peace of Christ is realized in the lives of
individuals who seek to shield children from terror through play and
creative education, who bring conflict resolution skills to broken
relationships, who teach the Bible and train tour guides to walk where Jesus
walked, who teach in church-related schools, who pray in churches, and who
every day live incredible lives of non-violent direct action in the middle
of a war-torn land.  These persons want and need our prayers.  They want us
to tell their story so that it does not get lost in attention-grabbing
violent headlines.

Therefore the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist
Church affirms the recent action of the United States in advancing and
supporting the United Nations Security Council resolution that envisions "a
region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within
secure and recognized borders."'

We also encourage continued United States and United Nations efforts towards
a
cease-fire and the resumption of peace negotiations.

Since United States' aid has been used by Israel to prolong the illegal
occupation of Palestinian land, we call for that aid to be formally
monitored so that its use complies with United States law, prohibiting its
use in situations where it does not comply.  Furthermore, we renew the
United Methodist General Conference call, "to deduct annually from any
Israeli loan guarantees an amount equal to all Israeli settlement spending
every year, including spending for settlements in and around Jerusalem (Book
of Resolutions 2000, #293, pp. 731-732).

"We request that the U.S. government reevaluate the entire structure of aid
to the Middle East." We also ask for consideration of "economic support for
the efforts of nongovernmental organizations, including religious
institutions, human rights groups, labor unions, and professional groups"
(Book of Resolutions 2000, #295, pp. 733-734).

We insist "that the United States Government immediately release the
remaining portion of humanitarian aid it promised to the Palestinian people
in 1993, and encourage other nations to do the same" (Book of Resolutions
2000, #295, pp. 733-734).
 
 

We urge the United States and all other member states of the United Nations
to make clear Israel's obligation to end the occupation and to abide by
United Nations Resolutions #242 and #338 and all other relevant resolutions
(Book of Resolutions 2000, #305,p.761).

We call for the creation of an independent Palestinian state as soon as
possible.

We urge the United Nations to send an international peacekeeping force, and
encourage regional and intergovernmental bodies, such as the European Union,
to send human rights monitors to the region.

We call upon all entities that serve as mediators in this conflict to seek
the recognition and implementation of international human rights and
humanitarian laws, for the sake of humanity and not primarily for any one's
own national interests.

We endorse the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Program
in Palestine and Israel and encourage United Methodists to participate in
and support the program as a faithful response to Christ's call to be
peacemakers.

We encourage United Methodists to sign the Churches for Middle East Peace
[CMEP] document "A Christian Call for Peace" and to become more informed
about how they can help to end the suffering of people in Palestine and
Israel through prayer, education, advocacy and personal and spiritual
involvement.

Finally we ask you, in the name of the Living God, whom we worship, and in
the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace, our Savior, to raise your voices
with the Spirit's cry for justice, peace, and reconciliation for all the
peoples of the world.  Our prayers and actions for peace are urgently needed
now.

General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church
Spring Meeting, March 13-17, 2002
Herndon, Virginia, USA