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Presbyterian Leaders Say Meeting with Hezbollah was "Misguided"
Posted: October 26, 2004

Note: Following a meeting of a group of Presbyterian leaders with leaders of the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, which was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a host of Jewish organizations and the Israeli government, church leaders in the United States issued the following statement to Jewish leaders expressing "distress" over the meeting and calling for continued dialogue. ADL welcomed the statement as an acceptable response to the Presbyterians' meeting with Hezbollah.

October 21, 2004

Dear Jewish Leaders:

We, along with John Detterick, Executive Director of the General Assembly Council, who was unable to be with us in New York, were distressed to learn of the visit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)ís Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to the Khiam Detention Center and the meeting with Hezbollah leaders. We were particularly distressed about this, given our meeting with you in New York last month.
The time we spent with all of you in New York moved us very deeply, and we made several commitments as a result of our time together. One was to commit ourselves to a continued dialogue with those of you whom we met on the national level, as well as with our Jewish colleagues at local levels. We were particularly moved by the comments during our meeting about the importance of listening to, respecting, and including the Jewish narrative as we lift up our concern for peace in Israel and the Middle East.
Another commitment we made was to press as hard as possible with our colleagues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to investigate and take advantage of any and all pressure points that we might have as a denomination to make our opposition to the use of terror tactics by Palestinian organizations. We are convinced that such possibilities for pressure must exist, and that the only credible stance that we as a denomination can take is to make absolutely clear our conviction that Palestinian violence is never acceptable and that citizens of Israel must be able to live free of the fear of terrorism.

The recent visit of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to the Khiam Detention Center and its meeting with Hezbollah there was misguided, at best. The groupís specific itinerary was not authorized by any of us; in fact, once we learned of it, we asked the group to drop this visit from their plans. Furthermore, the comments attributed to Presbyterians there, as we understand them, are reprehensible.

As a church, and as individuals, we know at the core of our souls that terrorism, especially terrorism against civilians, is one clear source of the lack of peace in the Middle East. Even when we identify and condemn the occupation as another key source of violence and lack of peace, we in no way condone the terrorism of groups such as Hezbollah, or of individuals or other actors in the region. Terrorism in all of its forms is morally abhorrent and completely inexcusable in our eyes.

Our prayer is for the following. First, that you will continue to work with us to create avenues of communication for that dialogue. Second, that we will find a way to communicate directly about this matter rather than confining ourselves only to what is being communicated through the media. Third, that we as a denomination will find ways to continue our insistence that we side both with Palestinian victims of the occupation and its violence, and with Israeli and Jewish victims of violence and terrorism.

We trust that we have a great deal more to learn, and we believe that our continued relationship with you is critical for that learning to take place.

With faith in our common God,

Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator, 216th General Assembly (2004) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

John Detterick, Executive Director, General Assembly Council

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