Ask President Obama to meet with religious leaders when he visits the Middle East next month; call for a halt to settlement activity; ask his delegation to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital

President Obama is scheduled to visit Israel, Palestine and Jordan next month, his first such visit as president. The president has often sought out the views of U.S. religious leaders through his White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and other meetings. It will be important for the President to hear the voices of faith leaders during his visit to the region as well. The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land consists of leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths, including Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and President of The Lutheran World Federation.

As you may be aware, the Council’s long-awaited study of the “Portrayal of the Other” in Palestinian and Israeli school books was recently released and generated much discussion, some of it critical. However, the Council’s researchers utilized identical, standardized scientific methods for this work. Now, as much as ever, the Council needs support from us and U.S. leaders for this effort as well as its overall mission to advance the sacred values of each faith, “to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict, and to promote mutual respect, a just and comprehensive peace and reconciliation between people of all faiths in the Holy Land and worldwide.”

Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to meet with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land during his visit.

As noted in a report issued late last year by the United Nations (U.N.) on the humanitarian impact of the Israeli settlement policy on Palestinians, since 1967, Israel has established about 150 settlements (residential and others) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; in addition to some 100 “outposts” erected by settlers without official authorization. Three new settlements were approved in 2012 by retroactively ‘authorizing’ such outposts. More than 500,000 people live in these settlements, which are against international law. Additionally, in 2012, one Palestinian was killed and approximately 1,300 injured by Israeli settlers or security forces in incidents directly or indirectly related to settlements, including demonstrations.

Furthermore, a recent U.N. report states that: “The establishment of the settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem is a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The settlements have been established and developed at the expense of violating international human rights laws and international humanitarian law, as applicable in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] as notably recognized by the 2004 ICJ [International Court of Justice] Advisory Opinion.”

Repeated warnings by U.S. officials to stop the growth of settlements have fallen on deaf ears, as settlement expansion has advanced at an accelerated rate and could render a viable two-state solution virtually impossible.

Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to urge him to demand, during his visit, a halt to all settlement activity.

The Lutheran World Federation has operated the Augusta Victoria Hospital for the benefit of Palestinian refugees since 1950. The ELCA and other churches around the world have been strong supporters of this effort to meet human need and be a sign of hope over the years. In addition, the U.S. government has supported the hospital’s work, particularly in the field of oncology through significant grants for crucial equipment. In March 2010, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice-president, visited the hospital during her husband’s visit to Jerusalem.

Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to have one or more members of his delegation visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital.

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