Friday, January 21, 2005

National Council of Churches USA Delegation to the Middle East to Urge: Make Peace a Reality

January 21, 2005, NEW YORK CITY – The question “How can we make the current opportunity for peace a reality?” will be central to the mission of a National Council of Churches USA official delegation to the Middle East Jan. 21-Feb. 4.

Bishop HoytThe 11-member group, led by the NCC’s President, Christian Methodist Episcopal Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., left, and NCC General Secretary Robert W. Edgar, below, right, will press their conviction that Bob Edgargovernments and people of faith must seize the opportunity presented by recent developments – for example, election of new Palestinian leadership and Israeli government movement on the settlement issue – to get the Middle East peace process back on track.

“We will ask the question, ‘Is this the opportunity for peace?,’ state our conviction that it is, and explore ways communities of faith can help,’” Dr. Edgar said.

Added Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary for International Affairs, “During and following the delegation visit, we will be exerting our moral pressure for peace.”

The delegation leaves the United States on Jan. 21 for Beirut, Lebanon (Jan. 22-24), Cairo, Egypt (Jan. 24-27), and Israel/Palestine (Jan. 27-Feb. 4). Along their way, they will meet with the Middle East Council of Churches and senior Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and with grassroots and interfaith organizations working for peace.

Meetings have been confirmed with senior members of the Israeli government and have been requested with officials in the Palestinian Authority.

Along with peacemaking, the group’s other top concern is the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, and the ongoing exodus of Christians from the region. “Many in the United States aren’t aware that there are indigenous Christians in the Holy Land, from all Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and others,” Dr. Kireopoulos said.

“During these increasingly difficult days, and even as we express our hope in the new opportunity that exists for peace,” Dr. Edgar said, “our visit will be important because it demonstrates our solidarity with our brothers and sisters who live in the Holy Land.”

The last two NCC delegation visits to the Middle East were in May 2003 and April 2002.

Members of the 2005 delegation are:

* His Grace Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Officer, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Washington, D.C., and NCC Secretary.

* Dr. Sylvia Campbell, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; a speech-language pathologist in private practice, and a member of the Alliance of Baptists. She serves on the NCC Justice and Advocacy Commission.

* The Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young, an NCC Vice President; Director of Christian Education, Holy Temple Baptist Church, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., Oklahoma City, Okla; Former President of the PNBC Women’s Department.

* The Rev. Seung Koo Choi, General Secretary, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Anaheim, Calif., a member of the NCC Governing Board.

* The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA, New York City, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

* The Rt. Rev. (Bishop) C. Christopher Epting, Ecumenical Officer, The Episcopal Church, New York City, a member of the NCC Governing Board.

* Ms Ann Hafften, Weatherford, Texas, Coordinator for Middle East Networking Division for Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

* The Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President, National Council of Churches USA, and Bishop, Louisiana and Mississippi, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Shreveport, La.

* The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, Professor of Mission, Peace and Ecumenical Studies, Eden Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Chair of the NCC Justice and Advocacy Commission.

* Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace, New York City, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

* Mr. James Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church, Washington, D.C.

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