NEW YORK (Jul. 4)
The National Council of Churches will convene a policy-making session here Friday to determine what the American Protestant movement might be able to do to promote a lasting peace in the Middle East. The session will include the first meeting of a newly-created Middle East Task Force, according to Dr. R.H. Edwin Espy, general secretary of the Council.
Dr. Espy said that the Protestant group was “neither pro-Arab nor pro-Israeli” and that its central goal was “the establishment of a just and viable peace throughout the Middle East.” He added that the “deepest concern” of the National Council “at this stage of the continuing crisis is for all those who are suffering in the existing situation.” He said that “in the Christian conscience.” suffering people, Arab and Israeli, “must take priority over traditional nationalism.”
Noting that the people of Israel “have suffered anxiety for their national security.” Dr. Espy continued that “it is our hope that this anxiety will now be relieved and that Israel will be generous in her victory in preparation for a new day of peace and understanding in the Middle East.”
Adding that “the work of reconciliation must be the task of everyone,” the Protestant leader declared that “this is not the time to acquiesce in unilateral action. Through the United Nations we support the search for justice by collective judgment. Through the World Council of Churches we join in major efforts to finance relief of the homeless and starving.”
He said that “at other times, through appropriate channels, we will address ourselves to substantial ways in which we believe reconciliation can be structured into economic, political and social institutions related to the Middle East.”
The July 7 meeting will be in the form of a special session of the executive committee of the National Council’s general board. The Rev. John C. Smith, general secretary of the Commission of Ecumenical Mission and Relations of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States, has been named chairman of the Task Force. Members include Dr. John S. Badeau, former American Ambassador to Egypt, and Ernest A. Gross, former United States representative to the United Nations.