New initiatives are now being taken to build peace in the Middle East. Concrete solutions to the issues of the borders of a future Palestinian State, the future of Jerusalem, and the rights of return of Palestinians can and must be achieved.
We, the Executive Committee of Religions for Peace, urge the Palestinian and Israeli political leaders to take bold steps to advance a just and durable peace. We also urge that other states-those in the region and those assisting in the peace process, notably the United States-redouble their efforts to support a practical and principled peace process.
Taking the political steps necessary to build peace will require great courage and political will of Israelis and Palestinians. This courage and will exist, but demand every support and encouragement. As the senior religious leaders of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land noted recently: Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security. Together, they urged, we must find ways of reaching these goals.
Today, both communities must take steps to break cycles of violence and offer tangible expressions of good will designed to build confidence. We urge the Israeli and Palestinian governments and peoples to withstand any violent attempts of extremists to hijack the peace process, and to summon the great courage necessary to build confidence. We note with appreciation the many grassroots efforts in this regard.
While a political solution depends on a just resolution of the legitimate political aspirations of Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, we, as religious leaders, also know that true peace and reconciliation will require the active participation of the religious communities. Jewish, Christian and Islamic believers are profoundly attached to the Holy Land. These spiritual heritages have shaped the history of the Holy Land, and their living faith is an irreplaceable force for advancing a just peace and reconciling communities deeply injured by decades of violent conflict.
We stand in full solidarity with the courageous and heartening signs of cooperation among the religious communities in the Holy Land. Concretely, the religious leaders there have identified respect for holy sites to be among their highest priorities. They are united in the conviction that all-political leaders and the diverse religious communities-must take active steps to ensure the integrity and independence of places of worship, and protect them against acts of desecration, aggression, or harm. The religious leaders are particularly committed to ensuring that their own holy sites are not misused for purposes that are opposed to the peaceful aspirations of their religious traditions. We pledge to support them in their related initiatives.
Confident that cooperation among the religions in the Holy Land is a unique and irreplaceable key to building peace, we call on relevant governments and those responsible for the political peace process to recognize the importance of inter-religious initiatives and to engage them appropriately. At the same time, we urge religious leaders in the Holy Land to intensify their efforts to facilitate communication and cooperation among their communities-designed to build understanding and confidence, relief from suffering, and the healing of deep injuries.
In this regard, we note with special appreciation the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. We are grateful for the multi-religious efforts in Israel-including our Religions for Peace affiliate there, the Inter-religious Coordinating Council of Israel-and for the recent establishment of the Religions for Peace Inter-religious Council in Palestine. We are further deeply heartened by the commitment of religious leaders to establish a Religions for Peace Middle East Council of Religious Leaders, designed to facilitate multi-religious cooperation for peace across the region. We stand in solidarity with these multi-religious mechanisms and commit ourselves to help support and strengthen them in taking concrete action to build peace.
On the global level, as leaders of the world s largest and most representative coalition of religious leaders who work together for peace, we commit ourselves-as a sign of solidarity-to accept the invitation of our religious colleagues in the Holy Land to meet as an Executive Committee at the earliest convenient time in Jerusalem, the city considered holy by three great religious traditions.
Religions for Peace is the largest international coalition of representatives from the world s great religions dedicated to promoting peace. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service, and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.