Press Release

Washington, D.C. - February 15, 2024

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Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Executive Director Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon joined 22 church-based denominational leaders in a letter to President Biden. The leaders write, “The time for a comprehensive ceasefire is now. Every day of continued violence not only increases the death toll in Gaza and the cost to civilians but also fosters further hatred toward Israel and the United States and irreparably damages the moral standing of the United States in the broader Middle East.” Several signatories of the letter were in Washington, DC where they delivered the letter during meetings with staff at the State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and with Ambassador Rashad Hussain, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

A full copy of the letter is below.


Feb 13, 2024


Dear President Biden: 

We, the heads of churches, denominations, and church-based organizations in the United States, write with utmost urgency after over 100 days of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Too many people have suffered. Too many lives have been lost. We urge you to exhibit strong U.S. leadership and immediately call for a comprehensive permanent ceasefire, an end to the occupation, and lasting peace. 

The time for a comprehensive ceasefire is now. Every day of continued violence not only increases the death toll in Gaza and the cost to civilians but also fosters further hatred toward Israel and the United States and irreparably damages the moral standing of the United States in the broader Middle East. There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

We welcome the recent Order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Israel accountable for its actions andto take all measures within its power” to prevent genocide, in addition to reporting the steps it is taking to uphold its responsibility and ensure humanitarian aid is reaching the people of Gaza. Instead of claiming the merits of the case are unfounded, we call on your administration to honor its legal obligations as a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide and to take steps to enforce the ICJ’s Order immediately.  

To date, Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians, including more than 10,000 of whom are children, and the number continues to increase. We call on all parties to abide by the Geneva Conventions and customary international law and for the collective punishment imposed upon the civilians in Gaza to be brought to an immediate end. The United States must do more to ensure international protection for all civilians and help secure the immediate release of all hostages.

The ongoing severity of the death and destruction that continues day by day at the hands of the Israeli military is unacceptable. According to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, more than 24,000 children in Gaza have lost one or both parents. Save the Children reports that 75 percent of schools, colleges, and universities in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. UNICEF implores the world to respond, as 90 percent of children under two years old in Gaza are subject to “severe food poverty.” The United States must intervene by bringing an end to this war rather than sending more arms that only cause further death and destruction.   

Every day that this violence continues, the risk of further escalation in the region continues, making Palestinians, Israelis, and everyone in the Middle East less safe. We condemn the attack that killed three American service members on January 28 and urge the U.S. and all parties to de-escalate instead of taking retaliatory actions that would beget more violence and risk further escalation. More war and violence is not the answer and would only put all people in the region at further risk.

Amid the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, we are also alarmed that many donor states, including the U.S., have suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA is the primary international organization providing lifesaving aid for millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the region, and we are appalled by the impact of the suspensions. We affirm the efforts of the United Nations to investigate the allegations against the UNRWA staff who were allegedly implicated in terrorist activities and call for accountability measures. There is no other existing organization or mechanism that can provide the wide-scale humanitarian assistance urgently needed at this moment. 

We note the comments of NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby that the alleged actions of some of the staff of UNRWA “does not, nor should it, impugn the entire agency and the entire — all the body of work that they’re doing. They have helped save literally thousands of lives in Gaza.  They do important work.”  We call upon your administration to immediately resume full funding to UNRWA and encourage other donor states to follow suit. The United States government must do more to ensure the immediate and consistent provision of humanitarian assistance.  

As leaders of church organizations committed to peace, we call on your administration and Congress to support the demilitarization of the conflict rather than supplying additional military aid or arms to Israel. Continued military aid will only exacerbate the current violence and result in more suffering without bringing increased safety to Israelis or to anyone in the region. 

We agree with your administration’s stated commitment to ensuring Palestinians in Gaza can remain, and those who have fled must be able to return to their homes and communities once it is safe to do so. We recognize, too, that many homes and neighborhoods have been destroyed beyond repair. We call for robust support and prompt reconstruction so that people may have dignified shelter. We affirm the United States' opposition to calls by Israeli officials to illegally resettle Gaza with its citizens. And we support your administration’s efforts in working toward an immediate release of hostages held in Gaza in exchange for political prisoners

Israelis and Palestinians can no longer continue these ongoing cycles of war and violence. Mr. President, now is the time for you to support a permanent bilateral ceasefire that will bring a lasting end to the violence. The root causes of violence and suffering must be addressed, and we call upon all parties to work toward a lasting, just peace that protects all human life and ensures the long-term security and sustainability of all those living in the Middle East. 




Joyce Ajlouny 
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Rev. Eddy Alemán
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian 
Ecumenical Director and Diocesan Legate Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)

The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt
Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Bronwen Boswell 
Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Executive Director 
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

Rev. Emmett L. Dunn
Executive Secretary-Treasurer/CEO
Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention

Ann Graber Hershberger
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

John Hill
Interim General Secretary
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society

Sr. Teresa Hougnon, M.M.
Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic

Rev. Dr. Gina Jacobs-Strain 
General Secretary 
American Baptist Churches USA

Bridget Moix
General Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

The Rev. Dr. David Peoples 
Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc.

Elvira Ramirez
Interim Executive Director
Maryknoll Lay Missioners

Richard Santos
President and CEO
Church World Service (CWS) 

Andrea Smith 
Founder and Board Member 
Evangelicals4Justice (E4J) 

Rev. David Steele
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren 

Nikki Toyama-Szeto
Executive Director
Christians for Social Action (CSA) 

Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ (UCC) 

Stephen M. Veazey
Community of Christ

Archpriest Thomas Zain
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Reverend Elijah R. Zehyoue, Ph.D.  
Alliance of Baptists 



Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of more than 30 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.

Recent CMEP Statements:


February 7, 2024: Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Demands Action to Protect Christians in the Holy Land. On Saturday, February 3rd, a Christian priest and head of Dormition Abbey, Father Nikodemus Schnabel, was spit on by Israeli settlers while wearing clerical garb and a cross pendant by Zion Gate (or Bab al-Nabi Daoud) in the Old City of Jerusalem. CMEP strongly condemns these acts of violence against Christians occurring in the Holy Land. 

January 24, 2024: CHURCHES FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE (CMEP) BOARD AND EXECUTIVE LEADERS’ TRIP URGENTLY URGES FOR COMPREHENSIVE CEASEFIRE AND NEGOTIATIONS AFTER RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES FROM VISITS TO ISRAEL, OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, JORDAN, AND LEBANON. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) executive leaders returned to the United States this week after completing extensive visits with Patriarchs and Heads of Churches, pastors and local Christians, political leaders and heads of state, peace activists and human rights leaders in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Lebanon. CMEP leaders advocated for an end to all violence and called for a comprehensive ceasefire, highlighting the massive number of deaths and demanding an end to the bombing and ground invasion and its effects on civilians in Gaza. CMEP also advocated for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups and the release of Palestinian prisoners. In addition, CMEP demanded immediate and adequate humanitarian access be granted to Gaza so that basic needs like water, food, electricity, and health care be provided and not utilized as leverage for political aims.

January 23, 2024: Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) signs letter to Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo on Arms Export. CMEP joins 24 other organizations in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo “to suspend all firearms exports to Israel and implement strong firearms export controls globally.” These humanitarian, faith, and advocacy organizations are calling out, raising their concern over “the violence and human rights violations that have and will continue to occur as a result of these exports.”

January 12, 2024: JANUARY 13 CHRISTIAN-LED CANDLELIGHT PRAYER VIGIL FOR CEASEFIRE IN TANDEM WITH THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR GAZA. With many mobilizing in Washington D.C. for the March for Gaza, this Christian-led prayer vigil will be held as part of the Global Day of Action for Ceasefire in Gaza. Leaders, including some who have recently returned from Israel/Palestine, will offer prayers for a comprehensive ceasefire and demilitarization in Israel and Palestine. This event is held in solidarity with the calls in the November 9, 2023 letter from thirty American Christian leaders calling on President Biden and his Administration to support an immediate ceasefire, de-escalation, and restraint by all involved.


See all of our public statements and press releases.


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