Conference Brings Supporters to DC to Learn and Act; Violence Flares Again; CMEP Meets with Hale, Erekat
2012 Advocacy Conference Success
CMEP supporters representing almost 25 states gathered at Catholic University in Washington, DC this week to pray and learn to effectively advocate for peace in the Holy Land at the annual Advocacy Conference. On Monday participants received updates about the situation on the ground from some of the most knowledgeable people in the field and learned how to work in their communities around the country.
On Tuesday, attendees gathered at the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church for the Congressional Prayer Breakfast. House of Representatives Chaplin Father Patrick Conroy and California Congresswoman Lois Capps expressed the importance of faith while being a peacemaker.
With updated information and renewed faith, participants took their messages of peace to the halls of Congress, where they met with almost 80 representatives and senators. They spoke about continuing funding to the Palestinians, opposing policies that stand in the way of a shared Jerusalem and supporting the Palestinian Christian community. Each office received an invitation from the Jerusalem Churches in the Holy Land inviting them to “come and see” the local Christian communities and listen to voices often drowned out in the conflict.
Also on Tuesday, the distinguished Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat sat down with a small group of prominent retired diplomats, politicians, church leaders, business people and other influential members of the community that sit on the CMEP Leadership Council. Mr. Erekat highlighted the efforts the Palestinians are taking to lay the groundwork for a future state and the status of negotiations. He thanked CMEP for being a steadfast supporter of peace.
The busy calendar of events concluded at the State Department when Leadership Council and board members met with Ambassador David Hale, the U.S. Envoy for Middle East Peace. Those gathered at the meeting were encouraged by signs that the peace process is still moving forward. Ambassador Hale listened to the concerns of those around the table including the ongoing terrorist activity from Gaza and Sinai affecting Southern Israel, pending actions by the Congress that would be barriers to peace, challenges facing Palestinian Christian clergy and worshipers, and planned demolitions in Area C, specifically in the Susiya village in the South Hebron Hills.
The CMEP staff and board would like to thank all of the participants for taking the time to come to the conference. The energy of our supporters sustains us every day as we work to lift up Christian voices calling for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes justice, dignity and security for all peoples. Please help us continue our work by giving a gift for peace.
During the conference, CMEP supporters received a sad reminder about how urgently the people in the region need peace.
On Monday three militants crossed from the Sinai Peninsula into southern Israel and opened fire on construction workers building the security fence along the border. Two workers were injured in the attack and a third, an Arab-Israeli citizen, was killed.
Soldiers killed two of the militants, one Egyptian and one Saudi, who claimed to be members of a group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Israeli officials are not sure whether or not this incident was related to the two rockets fired from Sinai into Israel over the weekend.
Violence also emanated from Gaza after 130 rockets were shot into leaving several Israelis injured and damaging apartment buildings. Thus far, Israeli reprisal airstrikes have killed eight Palestinians including a 14-year-old civilian.
Interestingly, for the first time in more than a year Hamas resumed carrying out rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas sat out the last round of violence in March and worked to broker a cease-fire.
Abu Dhabi English-language paper the National published an editorial condemning the resurgence of violence by Hamas by saying that the violence is “counterproductive.”
In the West Bank village of Jaba, vandals painted threatening slogans on a mosque and then torched it in what is thought to be the latest “price tag” attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the perpetrators “intolerant and irresponsible hooligans” and said they will be brought to justice.
The morning after meeting with CMEP Leadership Council, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss renewing negotiations and the ongoing changes in the region.
Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz also visited Foggy Bottom on Wednesday. He is advocating for a resumption of negotiations that will lead to an interim agreement on borders and security. On Thursday Mofaz met with President Barack Obama and displayed cautious optimism that talks will restart “soon.”
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region.