To CMEP's Shared Jerusalem network

NCC/CWSW STATEMENT ON MIDDLE EAST VIOLENCE,
October 11, 2000

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World
Service and Witness have observed with grave concern and deepening dismay
the escalating cycles of violence involving Israeli forces and Palestinians,
and now Lebanese.

Since demonstrations began in Jerusalem following Member of Knesset Ariel
Sharon's entry into the walled compound known to Muslims as the Noble
Sanctuary (Haram al-Sharif in Arabic) and to Jews as the Temple Mount (Har
haBayit in Hebrew), each day has brought new reports of death and injury.
We express our sorrow over the loss of human life and offer our sincere
condolences to the grieving families.

We call on all parties to cease immediately all acts of violence and
provocation to violence.  We urge that the international community, acting
singly or together, assist the parties in de-escalating their conflict and
in finding alternative ways to address their increasingly bitter grievances
with each other.  All must pull back from the brink of uncontrollable
violent confrontation, where every incident and each life lost only fuels
further violence and loss of life.

At the same time, we decry the severity of the Israeli response, and condemn
their disproportionate use of force.  The massive and one-sided loss of life
and infliction of injury and property damage belie Israeli claims to
legitimate self-defense.  We call upon Mr. Barak to practice restraint, as
we urge Mr. Arafat to do all in his power to stop the violence.

The fundamental source of the present violent confrontation lies in the
continued failure to make real the national rights of the Palestinian people
to a sovereign independent state in their own homeland and to create just
security arrangements in the region.  The Oslo Process has failed thus far
to achieve the implementation of the rights of the Palestinian peoples and
meet their aspirations, resulting instead in continued human rights
violations, the destruction of property and the economic emmiseration of the
majority of the population.  Neither has the process provided for the
security, acceptance and normalization of relationships so strongly desired
by the Israelis.  The goals of both parties can be achieved only through the
observance of international law and the implementation of relevant
resolutions.

The present outbreak of violence was provoked by a heavy-handed
demonstration of Israeli power and assertion of Israeli claims to exercise
exclusive sovereignty of Jerusalem, in an affront to the sensitivities of
Muslim believers.  The NCCCUSA's "City of Holiness and Hope: A Message on
Jerusalem" stated that Jerusalem realizes its vocation as holy city when
there is justice and peace for all its peoples, and that Jerusalem therefore
must be shared between the two peoples, Arab and Jew, and among the three
religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that call it home.  Respect must
be shown by adherents of each faith to the other two, and no action should
be undertaken that would assault their religious beliefs and sensitivities.
Never should any of them be disturbed at prayer and worship, neither by
physical nor emotional assaults, be it the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall
or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Let all be at peace within these holy
precincts.

We urge all parties to commit themselves to a negotiating process, resolved:
to recognize all human life as being of sacred worth; to establish stable
communities, nations, and lasting peace as common goals; and, to call upon
all people to respect differing religious traditions, and acknowledge the
right for peaceful coexistence as core values of personal and communal
faith.

All three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, rightly can be
called religions of peace.  We pray that God will open the eyes that have
been blinded by power and privilege, by the passions of fear and anger, pain
and rage.  Let all believers now soften their hardening hearts, hearkening
again to the voice of the one God Who loves them all as children, and Who
will guide all who are willing onto the paths of righteousness and peace.

Rev. Robert Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. John McCullough
Executive Director
Church World Service and Witness

October 11, 2000