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(photo credit: Ahmad K. Gharabli)
Many evangelical Christians throughout the United States support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and seek "justice" for both sides, reads an open letter to US President George W. Bush published in Sunday's New York Times.
The letter, signed by several dozen evangelical clergy and activists, urged the Bush administration not to "grow weary" in its attempt to negotiate a "lasting peace" in the region.
The letter's authors sought to correct what they called a "serious misperception" that all American evangelicals objected to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and said they hoped that the awareness of a large body of evangelical support for a permanent status agreement between Israel and the PA would "embolden" Bush.
Those who love [Israel] are not forced to withhold criticism, the letter argued, adding that "genuine love and blessing" meant promoting one's neighbors well-being.
According to the letter's authors, both Israel and the Palestinians had rights to the land of Israel that stretched back "millennia." Both sides, the letter said, had committed acts of violence.
Only a lasting peace agreement, the letter exhorted, would end bloodshed and ensure that each side had a "viable" state. To this end, the letter's authors expressed their support for the road map peace plan, and endorsed former British prime minister Tony Blair's efforts in his new role as the Quartet's Middle East envoy.
"We renew our prayers and support for your leadership... and justice and peace for all the people in the Holy Land," the letter concluded.
But other senior evangelical Christian leaders in the US blasted the letter as misrepresenting mainstream evangelical beliefs.
"The authors of this letter do not represent the views of the vast majority of Bible-believing mainstream evangelicals in America," said San Antonio-based Pastor John C. Hagee, a prominent Israel supporter.
"The problem in the Middle East is that Israel has no partner for peace, and Israel's neighbors refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist," Hagee said.
He added that the assertion by letter's writers that the Palestinians have a historic connection to the Holy Land is "absolutely incorrect."
Hagee's organization "Christians United for Israel" which has been dubbed the Christian AIPAC and which held its second-annual Washington summit last week with 4,500 delegates from across the US, is planning on sending US President George W. Bush its own letter voicing their opposition to American pressure on Israel for any further land withdrawals.
A list of the letter's signatories:
Ronald J. Sider, President
Evangelicals for Social Action
Don Argue, President
Raymond J. Bakke, Chancellor
Bakke Graduate University
Gary M. Benedict, President
The Christian & Missionary Alliance
George K. Brushaber, President
Gary M. Burge, Professor
Wheaton College & Graduate School
Tony Campolo, President/Founder
Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education
Christopher J. Doyle, CEO
American Leprosy Mission
Leighton Ford, President
Leighton Ford Ministries
Daniel Grothe, Pastoral Staff
New Life Church (Colorado Springs)
Vernon Grounds, Chancellor
Stephen Hayner, former President
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor
Member, Executive Committee of the NAE
Jo Anne Lyon, Founder/CEO
World Hope International
Gordon MacDonald, Chair of the Board
Albert G. Miller, Professor
Richard Mouw, President
Fuller Theological Seminary
David Neff, Editor
Glenn R. Palmberg, President
Evangelical Covenant Church
Earl Palmer, Senior Pastor
University Presbyterian Church Seattle
Victor D. Pentz, Pastor
Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Atlanta
John Perkins, President
John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development
Bob Roberts, Jr., Senior Pastor
Northwood Church, Dallas
Leonard Rogers, Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Andrew Ryskamp, Executive Director
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
Chris Seiple, President
Institute for Global Engagement
Robert A. Seiple, Former Ambassador-at-Large,
International Religious Freedom
U.S. State Department
Luci N. Shaw, Author, Lecturer
Regent College, Vancouver
Jim Skillen, Executive Director
Center for Public Justice
Glen Harold Stassen, Professor
Fuller Theological Seminary
Richard Stearns, President
Clyde D. Taylor, Former Chair of the Board
Harold Vogelaar, Director
Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice
Berten Waggoner, National Director