Churches for Middle East Peace
|Focus||Israeli-Palestinian conflict, peace, security|
|United States, Israel, Palestine|
|Reverend Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, Executive Director|
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. As a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches, CMEP works to influence American policy in ways that will bring justice and peace for all people and countries in the Middle East. In addition, Churches for Middle East Peace currently has over 100 partner churches, which are religious orders, congregations, church committees, regional church bodies, and church-related organizations such as peace fellowships that commit to working for Middle East peace, and can agree with CMEP’s mission and views.
CMEP has the following policy positions:
- 1) Pursue a just and durable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in which Israelis and Palestinians realize the vision of a just peace, which illuminates human dignity and cultivates thriving relationships.
- 2) Realize the vision of two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace within secure and recognized borders;
- 3) Pursue an end to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, to promote a solution that advances security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians;
- 4) Recognize settlements as illegal and an impediment to peace and ensure accountability for policies about settlements which disregard legal restraints and international consensus;
- 5) Promote a shared Jerusalem by Palestinians and Israelis, as well as full access to the Holy Sites by the three religious traditions -- Jews, Muslims, and Christians -- by those who call them holy;
- 6) Promote restorative justice, trauma healing, and multi-level peacebuilding efforts with a particular recognition of the contribution and role of women;
- 7) In order to defend free speech and religious liberty, uphold the right of churches and organizations to find appropriate and various ways to end unjust practices and policies that violate international laws and conventions, including exerting economic leverage on commercial and government actors;
- 8) Support the right for engagement in nonviolent resistance while raising concerns about all forms of violence regardless of actor;
- 9) Recognize the religious importance of the Middle East to Jews, Christians, and Muslims and others; to protect the religious freedom of all as well as support measures to ensure the viability of the historic Christian community in Palestine, Israel, and the entire region;
- 10) Encourage negotiated, just, and peaceful resolutions to conflicts in the region and the demilitarization of conflict;
- 11) Encourage needs and rights based development and humanitarian assistance to reduce inequality and promote human dignity, especially in the West Bank and Gaza while ensuring access and protection for aid agencies and others;
- 12) Respect for human rights of all in the region, including refugees and displaced people, based on full observance of the Geneva Conventions and other international law agreements;
- 13) CMEP opposes anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and anti-Christian sentiment and all other forms of racism or bigotry in rhetoric or actions that dehumanize, stereotype, or incite distrust or violence toward anyone.
CMEP emphasizes the important role that Christians have to play in prospects for pluralism and democracy in Palestinian society and supports a safe and secure state of Israel. It urges the United States to pursue the creation of a Palestinian state and the end of Israel’s occupation as integral to helping Israel achieve the security, recognition and normalization of relations with all countries of the region that it has long been denied.
CMEP has vocally supported the efforts of the Obama Administration to re-establish direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian parties. On August 30, 2010 they organized a letter to President Obama stating support for his goal of ending the occupation that has existed since 1967 and achieving a just and comprehensive two-state solution to the current conflict. Signed by the leadership of 29 national Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and historic African American denominations and organizations, the letter acknowledged the difficulties in achieving this goal, but pledged the U.S. Christian community’s efforts to expand the dialogue with American Jewish and Palestinian communities to help achieve this goal.
CMEP has also advocated for U.S. leadership in ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In June 2010 they issued a statement advocating for the relief of the blockade of Gaza. In doing so, they affirmed their position that Palestinians have the right to more than just humanitarian aid. They are entitled “to trade, travel, study, and engage in productive work, subject only to reasonable security requirements, and to take part in building a viable Palestinian state together with those who live in the West Bank. Israel has the right to self-defense and to prevent illicit trafficking in arms.”
CMEP takes an even handed approach, emphasizing the need for both sides to create the conditions for peace. During the 2008-2009 Gaza War, CMEP acknowledged that "Israel's massive military operation has taken a terrible toll on Gaza's population and public infrastructure, while ongoing indiscriminate rocket attacks against towns in southern Israel have made normal life there impossible."  CMEP has received praise for its bi-partisan and even handed approach, seeking only to move toward a negotiated peace for both Israel and Palestinians.
Management and Organizational Structure
Churches for Middle East Peace's Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is a minister, writer, and academic. She has authored several books, including Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World (IVP, 2009) and Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action (IVP, 2013) and was a co-author of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Zondervan, 2014). Cannon is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Her ministry and professional background includes serving as the Senior Director of Advocacy and Outreach for World Vision-US, the executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church (Walnut Creek, California), Director of Development and Transformation for Extension Ministries at Willow Creek Community Church (Barrington, Illinois), and as a consultant to the Middle East for child advocacy issues for Compassion International. She earned her doctorate in American History with the minor in Middle Eastern studies from the University of California – Davis, focusing her dissertation on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine. Cannon holds an M.Div. From North Park Theological Seminary, an M.B.A. from North Park University's School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University.
CMEP's governing board, which makes all policy decisions, is composed of staff from the national policy offices of the coalition members in addition to two independent members. This board makes all policy decisions by consensus. CMEP staff and the board implement these through concrete educational and advocacy actions. CMEP's Board Members include:
Statements about CMEP
"...Your organization's bipartisan efforts...to advocate for sustained U.S. leadership in the peace process are admirable...Your vision for a negotiated agreement to end the conflict, with a secure Israel living side by side with a viable and independent Palestinian state, is both valuable and timely...CMEP's advocacy work is important. Thanks to you and your members for your continued work to promote a just, lasting and comprehensive peace." -Sen Richard Lugar (Indiana) 
"The Arab – Israeli conflict is not primarily religious in nature. But I believe religious leaders – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – can play a critical role in finding solutions. Of course, the path to peace will be long and difficult. But we will find strength if we travel it together. I thank you for your commitment in this endeavor and congratulate you on a successful conference." -Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts) 
"While it is important to always pray for peace, your active commitment to peacemaking at the grassroots level is imperative to the success of the President's peace efforts" -Rep. Donald Payne (New Jersey-10) 
"CMEP is not a fair witness. The group has strong anti-Israel prejudices. Yes, I found a CMEP resolution that condemned terrorist attacks, but it is buried on a web page. But I heard no reference to terrorism at all at their conference. Israel was criticized at every turn. There is a binary mentality at the CMEP: Palestinians are the victims and Israel the perpetrators. Jewish concerns were largely ignored or trivialized. If only the occupation would end, we are to believe, the conflict would end. But wasn't there a conflict before 1967 and the start of the occupation? Perhaps, then, all of Israel is an "occupation"?" -Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen, Founder of The Vine and Fig Project 
"...these are good people. But if they are not the enemy, they are opponents. And while positions articulated often have some measure of truth, the general tone lacked balance and fairness; I said as much quietly, politely, but firmly. What was encouraging to me is that I think people were ready to listen. There was good will." -Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen, Founder of the Vine and Fig Project 
"Churches for Middle East Peace is grateful to Rabbi Kenneth Cohen for his sincere reflections about our annual advocacy conference. We hope that Rabbi Cohen’s commentary will open further dialogue between CMEP and the Jewish community." - Former CMEP Executive Director Amb. (ret.) Warren Clark in response to above statements.
"Churches for Middle East Peace presents opinions and information both to me and to my staff that are balanced and that I take seriously. On the thorny issues that are part and parcel of Middle East policy, CMEP gives clarity to the voice of the churches." –United States Senator Jim Jeffords (Vermont) 
"As one who believes that peace in the Middle East is possible, I applaud the work of Churches for Middle East Peace. I have found CMEP’s advocacy efforts in Washington to be indispensable, both in my role as general secretary of the National Council of Churches and as a former member of Congress." – Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, National Council of Churches 
Facebook:Churches for Middle East Peace
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
- Policy in Brief: http://cmep.org/about-cmep
- Episcopal Life Online, January 20, 2009, www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_104178_ENG_HTM.htm
"...Your organization's bipartisan efforts...to advocate for sustained U.S. leadership in the peace process are admirable...Your vision for a negotiated agreement to end the conflict, with a secure Israel living side by side with a viable and independent Palestinian state, is both valuable and timely...CMEP's advocacy work is important. Thanks to you and your members for your continued work to promote a just, lasting and comprehensive peace." -Sen Richard Lugar (Indiana)
- CMEP Advocacy Conference Statement, June 2010
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2012-10-22.