NILI with Council of Religious Leaders of the Holy Land

There is much more to share about the experiences of the NILI delegation in Israel and the West Bank. Over the coming days I will reflect on the days of the mission in a series of posts. In the meantime, I am proud to share the Delegation’s statement from our trip.  Since our first NILI meeting in 2003, we have been able to achieve a remarkable consensus on the path to peace. We have weathered the challenges of these years by refusing to give in to cynicism or hopelessness and remaining focused on the goal: that the suffering of all Israelis and Palestinians be relieved through a comprehensive peace that is just and lasting.  We hope that we can contribute to this through our work.

National Interreligious Leadership Initiative

for Peace in the Middle East

(360) 652-4285 or E-Mail:


For Immediate Release                                                      For More Information Contact:

December 30, 2009                                                    Ron Young E-mail:

or (425) 327-7545

Interfaith Delegation of American Jewish, Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders

Travel, Pray Together and Meet with Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians;

Delegation Asserts Urgency Of U.S. Leadership in 2010 to Achieve Negotiated Peace

Following a week of praying together and meeting Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians, a delegation of 15 U.S. Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders returned home united in pursuit of peace, with a new, shared sense of urgency. They called for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership in the New Year to restart negotiations for a two-state solution, involving an end to occupation and security for Israel and Palestine. They repeated NILI’s goal to build on the Arab Peace Initiative for comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, including peace agreements between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. Leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace (NILI) that organized the trip said they will seek high level meetings with the Obama Administration to offer their support for U.S. leadership for peace.

The delegation included Christian leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), National Baptist Convention, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church, and United Methodist Church; Jewish leaders of Reform Judaism, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; and Muslim leaders of the Islamic Society of North America, Clergy Beyond Borders, and the President Emeritus of the Council of Mosques.  (The List of Participants follows below.)

Believing steps on the ground are needed to restore hope, the NILI delegation united in calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to be catalysts, in cooperation with Egypt and other parties, for achieving an effective, sustainable ceasefire, including international measures to prevent resupplying of rockets; for allowing the flow of urgently needed humanitarian and economic assistance to the people of Gaza; for continuing good efforts to improve the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to increase security and economic development; and for further reducing the number of checkpoints and freezing all settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC, said, “We heard two messages repeatedly from Palestinians and Israelis with whom we met: first, that time is running out for a viable two-state solution; and second, that people on both sides know the difficult compromises that will be necessary for peace and most people are prepared to accept them.”  Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, added, “Even on the most emotional issues of refugees and Jerusalem, we believe most Palestinians understand that they will have to accept a negotiated solution regarding refugees that does not jeopardize the Jewish majority in Israel; and most Israelis understand that they will have to accept a negotiated solution regarding sharing Jerusalem that includes provision for both Israel and Palestine to have their capitals in Jerusalem.”  Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America, said, “Of course, it is the parties themselves that must make the negotiated agreements for peace, but most people we met believe that active, fully engaged U.S. leadership is essential to making that happen. We are united in support of such U.S. leadership for peace.”

The delegation of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders were encouraged by negotiations for freeing Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006, in exchange for release of some number of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.  Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said, “We all pray to the One, merciful God that these negotiations will succeed and that prisoners will be released; and we call on our government to work urgently to restart negotiations and move forward in 2010 toward Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

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National Interreligious Leadership Initiative

for Peace in the Middle East

NILI Delegation – List of Participants

December 2009

Christian Leaders

His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick

Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Chairman

Committee on International Justice and Peace

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Fr. Mark Arey, Director

Office of Ecumenical Affairs

Greek Orthodox Church in America


Dr. J. William Shaw, President

National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins

General Minister, President

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Bishop Margaret Payne

ELCA New England Synod

ELCA Middle East Ready Bench

Representing Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky

Bishop, Denver Area

United Methodist Church

Representing the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church

Bishop Barry Beisner

Bishop of Northern California

Representing The Most Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Jewish Leaders

Rabbi Paul Menitoff

Executive Vice President Emeritus

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Dr. Carl Sheingold

Executive Vice President

Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

Rabbi Amy Small

Past President

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly

Muslim Leaders

Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed

National Director

Islamic Society of North America

Dr. Shaheer Yousaf

Islamic Society of North America

Islamic Center of Southern Maryland

Imam Yahya Hendi

Muslim Chaplain

Georgetown University*


Dawud Assad

President Emeritus

Council of Mosques, USA


Ronald Young, Consultant   E-Mail:

National Interreligious Leadership Initiative

For Peace in the Middle East