Category Archives: Iran

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Tell your elected officials to support peaceful solutions with Iran, in Syria

from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy

NOTE: Pax Christi USA is a member of the Faith Forum. This is the “Third Thursday for Israel-Palestine” action for April. 

3rd Thurs graphic

Tell your elected officials to support peaceful solutions with Iran, in Syria: Don’t stand in the way of Iran negotiations, and do support urgent help for Yarmouk refugees

The first week of April brought great cause for celebration among all who support diplomacy as a path to a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.  On April 2, a framework agreement was announced between Iran, the United States, and the other five countries – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – that have been working diligently to secure an arrangement that would block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and pave the way for the lifting of sanctions on Iran.   This historic milestone is to be followed by continued talks intended to culminate in a final, comprehensive deal by June 30.

This will be a stronger agreement to the extent that it enjoys the full support of our government — the congress and the administration.   Urge your members of congress to speak out in favor of the framework agreement and of ongoing talks to produce a final deal.    Ask them to refrain from sponsoring or voting for legislation that could jeopardize the talks by threatening new sanctions or otherwise tying the hands of the administration in the negotiations.

While Iran has taken center stage in congressional foreign policy debate, the Israeli-Palestinian situation has languished to the detriment of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Advocates must continue to press for constructive engagement aimed at ending the Israeli occupation and securing a just peace for both peoples.  At the same time, the real need for a livable situation on the ground must be addressed regardless of progress on a political solution.

The tragic plight of the refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria is a reminder of the importance of lasting peace not only for the Palestinians but for all the people of the region.  Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp are part of the roughly five million Palestine refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who live in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.  In the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian resolution, they remain stateless and unable to return to their original homes.

The situation in the Yarmouk camp is dire, as IS militants battle Syrian government forces, and civilians are trapped in the middle. Describing Yarmouk, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon reportedly said, “a refugee camp is beginning to resemble a death camp,” and he called for an end to the fighting, humanitarian access and safe passage for those wanting to leave.

UNRWA describes the horrific circumstances inside the camp:

Since 1 April, this residential area of Damascus where some 18,000 people have already been trapped for over two years has been engulfed by intense fighting.  The lives of civilians in Yarmouk have never been more profoundly threatened. Men, women and children – Syrians and Palestinians alike – are cowering in their battered homes in profound fear, desperate for security, food and water, deeply concerned by the grave perils that may yet come, as hostilities continue. It is virtually impossible for civilians to leave Yarmouk as any attempt to move in the open brings high risk.

Ask your elected officials to urgently support the UN secretary-general’s call. Ask them to do all they can to demand an end to the fighting, humanitarian access, and safe passage for those trapped in the Yarmouk camp.

Use this link from our partners at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to contact your Members of Congress now.

For more information:

Sample Letter/Script:

Dear Senator/Representative,

I am writing to express my concern about two critical issues related to Middle East peace:  The negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and the dire situation of refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.  In both cases I urge you to support peaceful solutions – in the former by supporting the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and the latter by supporting urgent help for the Yarmouk refugees.

First, as a person of faith who hopes for a peaceful world, I am heartened by the reaching of an historic framework agreement by Iran, the United States, and five other countries regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  As you know, this historic milestone is to be followed by continued talks intended to culminate in a final, comprehensive deal by June 30.

This will be a stronger agreement to the extent that it enjoys the full support of our government — the congress and the administration.   I urge you to speak out in favor of the framework agreement and of ongoing talks to produce a final deal.  I ask you to refrain from sponsoring or voting for legislation that could jeopardize the talks by threatening new sanctions or otherwise tying the hands of the administration in the negotiations.

Second, while the Iran issue has taken center stage, the Israeli-Palestinian situation has languished to the detriment of both Israelis and Palestinians.  In that regard, I bring to your attention the tragic plight of the refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.  Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp are part of the roughly five million Palestine refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who live in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.  In the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian resolution, they remain stateless and unable to return to their original homes.

The situation in the Yarmouk camp is dire, as IS militants battle Syrian government forces, and civilians are trapped in the middle.   Describing Yarmouk, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon reportedly said, “a refugee camp is beginning to resemble a death camp,” and he called for an end to the fighting, humanitarian access and safe passage for those wanting to leave.  I ask you to do all you can to urgently support the secretary-general’s call.

Thank you for hearing my concerns about these two important issues for Middle East peace.

With gratitude for your service,

Your name

Use this link from our partners at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to contact your Members of Congress now.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA signs onto faith leaders’ statement on Iran Framework Agreement

missile_2353892bPax Christi USA has signed onto a new statement initiated by Sojourners regarding the April 2nd Framework Agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Leaders of the faith community are playing significant roles in helping to give this diplomatic process a chance to succeed. The statement is titled, “Hope but Verify: Christian Leaders Support the Iran Framework Agreement”, and was run as a full-page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper catering to Members of Congress.

The statement begins:

As Christian leaders in the United States, we welcome and support the Framework Agreement, announced by seven nations on April 2, to dramatically restrain the capacity of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. We believe this diplomatic path and process should be ardently pursued and given a chance to succeed. We do so not as politicians but as those whose deep faith commitments compel us to speak clearly, with moral and practical wisdom, about any possibility that restrains the threat of war and opens pathways toward peace. Indeed, the One whose words and life we follow said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew 5:9).

As followers of Christ, we begin with the things that Jesus instructed us to do. Whenever Christians are responding to situations of conflict, to issues of war and peace, Jesus must always be our starting point. On matters of both personal relationships and public policy, we must start with the question, “What can we best do to make peace?”…

Click here to see the ad and read the entire statement.

IRAN: What you need to know about the Iran nuclear negotiations

from The Huffington Post

Iran-nuclear-deal-1024x576International negotiators in Geneva have just over two weeks left to bring years of talks between Iran and six world powers to fruition by reaching a framework for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Representatives of Iran and the so-called P5+1 group — the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — have set a March 31 deadline to reach a basic understanding for a nuclear deal. The parties then have until the end of June to hammer out the remaining details.

The talks stem from international powers’ concern that Iran is using its nuclear enrichment program to build a nuclear weapon. Iran insists the program is only for peaceful purposes.

The WorldPost spoke with Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group‘s senior analyst on Iran, about the ongoing talks…

Click here to read the interview.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Tell your senators, “Support a negotiated deal with Iran”

from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy

NOTE: Pax Christi USA is a member of the Faith Forum. This is their “Third Thursday for Israel-Palestine” action for March. 

3rd Thurs graphic

A peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue is in the best interest of its neighbors in the region – including the Israelis and Palestinians – as well as the best interest of the United States and the world.  The U.S. and five other nations are currently engaged in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, with the hope of reaching a framework agreement this month and a comprehensive agreement by the end of June.  Such an agreement would offer a mechanism to monitor Iran’s compliance, a major accomplishment that could pave the way for much more robust and deliberate efforts to focus on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking without distraction.

As negotiations proceed, two bills in the Senate threaten to undermine diplomatic efforts.   S. 269 calls for new sanctions if a deal with Iran isn’t reached. S. 615 would require a delay in implementation if a deal is reached, require Congressional approval or disapproval of the deal, and add Congressional oversight on implementation of a deal.    Passing either of these bills could undermine negotiations at this important juncture.

Urge your Senators to support a negotiated solution with Iran. Call on them to oppose S. 269 and S. 615.

Read here a letter from 50 organizations urging the Senate to reject S. 615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

For more information on the proposed legislation, see Americans for Peace Now’s Legislative Round-Up.

Contact your Senators today – urge them to support a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Click here to get their contact information.

Sample Letter, Email, Call Script:

Dear Senator,

As a person of faith who seeks a peaceful world, I urge you to support the current diplomatic effort by the U.S. and five other countries to engage with Iran to reach a resolution regarding its nuclear program.

As negotiations proceed, two bills in the Senate threaten to undermine diplomatic efforts. S. 269 calls for new sanctions if a deal with Iran isn’t reached. S. 615 would require a delay in implementation if a deal is reached, require Congressional approval or disapproval of the deal, and add Congressional oversight on implementation of a deal. Passing either of these bills could undermine negotiations at this important juncture.

I urge you to oppose S. 269 and S. 615, in order to give room for diplomacy to work and to address this important regional issue.  Progress in these negotiations could result in renewed energy and focus on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Your name

IRAN: Bishop Cantu reiterates bishops’ support for dialogue over Iran’s nuclear program

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—Congress should avoid measures that jeopardize the prospects of a diplomatic solution over Iran’s nuclear program, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

iran-nuclear-weapons-1
In his January 13 letter, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, reiterated his committee’s support for the United States and its P5 + 1 partners in their ongoing dialogue with Iran.

“Our Committee urges Congress not to take any actions that could undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multi-party agreement more difficult to achieve,” wrote Bishop Cantú. “Given the long history of acrimonious and tense relations, it is vital to continue to foster an environment in which all parties can build mutual confidence and trust in order to work towards a final accord that enhances genuine peace.”

Bishop Cantú noted Pope Francis’ expression of support for the negotiations the day before, as well as the Vatican’s statement affirmation of diplomacy in the matter from September 2013…

Read the entire letter here.

TAKE ACTION: Protect nuclear diplomacy with Iran! Netanyahu stay home!

from United for Peace and Justice

[Pax Christi USA is a member organization of United for Peace and Justice.]

The last thing the world needs is another Middle East confrontation. Yet there are politicians in both political parties, who seem determined to create one. Although the international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have made significant progress, Senators Kirk and Menendez are reviving legislation that would threaten Iran with new sanctions.

President Obama made it clear in his State of the Union Address that such legislation would kill the prospects for a deal.  The EU and UK also have called on the U.S. Congress to use restraint so as not to undermine negotiations. Although President Obama is threatening to veto the bill should it be passed in both Houses,there is areal danger that there may be enough Aye votes in the Senate to override a veto. The only way to prevent this outcome is for massive grassroots pressure.

Speaker Boehner’s decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the Congress on this subject and the latter’s acceptance of this invitation attests to the toxic role, which this right-wing Israeli government and its American allies, including AIPAC are continuing to play in American politics. It is high time that thisaggressive intervention in American foreign policy cease. Even if you have already called, pick up the phone and call your Senators again.

DC Congressional Switchboard is 202-224-3121 Ask to be connected toboth your Senators.  Let them know:

  • You are opposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intervention in American national security policy.

  • You support the Obama Administration’s diplomacy with Iran and believe it is in the best interest of the United States and the rest of the world.

  • You are strongly opposed to the Menendez-Kirk effort to push a sanctions bill through the Senate.

When you make this call ask the staff member where the Senator stands on these issues. Please pass along any responses to rustiangael@unitedforpeace.org.

REFLECTION: Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States’ fault, that is, at least not entirely.

The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their interests after World War I, and that ruthless dictators past and present have often oppressed their people are major reasons why much of the Middle East is broken and bleeding.  

But the U.S. has made several bad situations in the Middle East far worse.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

In Egypt, according to the Congressional Research Service, since 1987 the U.S. has given that nation $1.3 billion per year in military aid despite the fact that it was long ruled by the dictator Hosni Mubarak.  

Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, its refusal to allow subjugated Palestinians to form an independent nation, and the strangling blockade and brutal invasion of Gaza would not be possible without the approximate $3 billion in annual American aid and the United States’ refusal to demand that Israel reverse course here.

While it is a sad truth that under the dictator Saddam Hussein many Iraqis suffered, it is an even sadder truth that the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, caused even greater suffering to countless Iraqis.

After nearly nine years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, women and men are dead, over 4,480 American troops were killed, and Iraq overall is in a far worse state.

Furthermore, the U.S. war with Iraq unleashed deadly Islamist attacks upon thousands of Iraqi Christians.

In a CBS 60 Minutes segment, Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican priest who has a long history of ministry in Iraq, said the situation there was clearly worse for Christians than under the Saddam Hussein regime.

And according to a Fox News report earlier this year, Fr. White said that in the past five years 1,096 of his own parishioners were killed.

He said that out of the 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003, only around 200,000 remain.

And now with the Islamic State controlling a large part of Iraq, the remaining Christian population is suffering even worse.

There can be no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq made a bad situation far worse. 

Please help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ by giving a generous donation to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (www.cnewa.org).  

And urge your congressional delegation and President Obama (www.whitehouse.gov) to grant emergency asylum to at least 300,000 Christians and other minorities fleeing the barbarism of the Islamic State. Yes, this would be a major undertaking, but the U.S. is capable of doing it. It’s mostly just a matter of will – good will.

To its credit, tiny Lebanon, with a population of approximately 6 million people, has according the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, taken in well over 1 million mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers – with over 500,000 more expected by year’s end. That would be equivalent to the U.S. taking in over 50 million refugees and asylum-seekers.

Three years ago, the U.S. led an aerial attack against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi leaving that nation awash in weapons which continue to help fuel the warring militias that have since been unleashed.

While U.S. bombing helped end Gaddafi’s brutal reign, it didn’t stop the suffering of the Libyan people.

Bombs kill. They do not address the root-causes of conflict. Rather, they perpetuate the cycle of violence. Knowing that full well, and in response to President Barack Obama’s threats to bomb Syria last year, Pope Francis called on people of faith to observe Sept. 7, 2013 as a day of prayer and fasting.

On that day the Holy Father said to over 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and to all of us, “Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.