NCC Urges 'Workable Solutions' in Middle East search for peace

Washington, July 22, 2013 – As violence and unrest continue to destabilize the entire Middle East, the National Council of Churches supports the U.S. State Department effort “to seek workable solutions and maintain open channels of communication” among all parties. 
 
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, applauded ongoing diplomatic efforts, including Secretary of State John Kerry’s multiple visits to the Middle East since assuming office in March.
 
“As violence and instability intensify in the Middle East, we are particularly concerned that U.S. diplomats feel support from all U.S. citizens, including churches and faith organizations,” Kireopoulos said. “We want them to know that it is our conviction that such efforts by the U.S. are essential to establishing peace in the region.”
 
Kireopoulos, who previously led the NCC’s international affairs work, continues to monitor the situation in the Middle East, especially with regard to Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim relations. 

Peacemaking, particularly in the Middle East, is a priority of NCC Interfaith Relations under the Council’s new structure, Kireopoulos said.

“The concern of the NCC and its member churches for peace in the Middle East is rooted in our theological, historical, and ecclesial connections to the Holy Land,” Kireopoulos said. 

Noting that U.S. Christian churches have a particular concern for the plight of Christians in the region, Kireopoulos said “our witness to the need for vigilance in brokering peace extends to our concern for all people in the region, whether they be Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’is or others, and whether they be Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, or others.”

NCC member churches have affiliated churches throughout the Middle East. These include communities from the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, Peace and Anglican traditions. Similarly, these relationships extend to NCC non-member churches from other traditions, such as the Roman Catholic. 

“Given the complexity of the context in which these churches have lived for generations,” Kireopoulos said, “the NCC witness for peace in the region brings those churches’ perspectives to bear on discussions of U.S. policy alternatives.”

The NCC has consistently voiced its support for a 2-state solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, affirming both Israeli security concerns and the Palestinian right to a state, according to Kireopoulos. For this reason, it has expressed its deep concerns about Palestinian violence aimed at Israeli civilians, Israeli actions that perpetuate the Occupation (settlements, the barrier, checkpoints), and outside influences that serve only to destabilize attempted peace talks. 

Among the latter destabilizing influences is the extremist Christian view known as Christian Zionism. The 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches have decried Christian Zionism “as a dangerous movement that distorts the teachings of the Church, fosters fear and hatred of Muslims and non-Western Christians, and has negative consequences for the entire Middle East.” In 2008, the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission issued a brochure, “Why We Should Be Concerned About Christian Zionism” (http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/christianzionismbrochure.pdf.)

In its narrowest form, Christian Zionism advocates preserving control of historic Palestine, including Gaza and the West Bank, for the Jewish people alone, rejecting any peace settlement based on a two-state solution. “The destabilizing efforts of Christian Zionists are the last thing Secretary Kerry or others need as they seek ways of restoring peace with justice to all residents of the Middle East,” Kireopoulos said.


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 646-853-4212 (cell), [email protected]