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Federation wants nonviolent solution in Middle East

4/25/2002 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By United Methodist News Service

The Methodist Federation for Social Action is officially calling for a nonviolent end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meeting April 18-21 in Chicago, the board of directors of the unofficial United Methodist group also wrote a letter to President Bush, calling for an immediate end to military action in Afghanistan and urging him to "halt our military aggression in the region."

The statement on the Middle East conflict affirmed the use of nonviolent resistance by both Palestinians and Israelis. "We believe the Palestinian people have the right to live in freedom and peace, in a nation unoccupied by an oppressive, foreign military force and in Israel's right to live within secure borders," it said.

To facilitate the return to pre-1967 borders, the removal of all Israeli settlements from the West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of Jerusalem as an international city, the statement called upon Israel to withdraw all military forces from the occupied territories.

The organization urged the United Nations to establish a peacekeeping mission there and the U.S. government to support such a mission and refrain from unilateral action. The statement also called upon the United States to "stop military assistance and arms exports to the region," as advocated by the 2000 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body.

The Middle East statement and Afghanistan letter were crafted as the MFSA board members spent long hours in dialogue about world events, according to the Rev. Kathryn Johnson, MFSA executive director. That dialogue included a presentation by Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of Chicago and a working session with the Rev. Martin Deppe, a retired clergy member in Northern Illinois.

On other social justice issues, the organization's board celebrated the recent release of former death row prisoner Ray Krone of Arizona and encouraged members and the church at large to continue working toward abolition of the death penalty; affirmed the recent U.S. Senate vote to refrain from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and condemned racism of all kinds, especially the use of racial profiling.

The Rev. Joe Agne of New York and Marcia Hauer of Oregon were elected as the organization's new co-presidents. At its annual Ball Awards banquet, the Rev. Stephanie Anna Hixon and Cecelia M. Long were honored for their past decade of work with the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

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