• April 11, 2002
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    Baptist group joins call for peace in Mideast
Baptist group joins call for peace in Mideast WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (ABP) -- The Alliance of Baptists endorsed an ecumenical "Christian Call for Peace" in the Middle East April 6. The statement, drafted by a Washington-based grassroots organization called Churches for Middle East Peace, calls for recognition of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel and an end to Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

It further calls for a shared Jerusalem as "a symbol of reconciliation" among Christians, Muslims and Jews; supports a negotiated end to violence between Palestinians and Israelis; advocates international observers as a means of discouraging further violence; and urges leaders of the United States "to do all in their power to prepare the road for a just and durable peace."

The Alliance, celebrating its 15th-anniversary convocation April 5-7 at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., voted to amend a longer statement proposed by its board of directors by deleting a phrase citing encouragement over "the U.S. government's most recent efforts to promote peace in the Middle East."

"I am not encouraged by the U.S. government's recent efforts," objected Shanta Premawardhana, pastor of Ellis Avenue Church in Chicago. He said unconditional support for Israel had caused America to "lose credibility" in the worldwide community.

Cathy Tamsberg of Raleigh, N.C., who chaired a committee that helped draft the resolution, said the Alliance had often been critical of the U.S. president and government, and leaders felt it only fair to give credit for President Bush's recent announcement that he would send Secretary of Defense Colin Powell on a Mideast peace mission.

Alliance members overwhelmingly voted to drop the phrase, however, after Vic Green of Greenville, S.C., said he was "uncomfortable" with language that might be "open to misinterpretation" in the event of any future developments that might occur in U.S. Mideast policy.