This week, labor and religious groups representing millions continued their support for a peacful solution and a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities as the beginning of the proccess for establishing a Palestinian state.

The AFL-CIO issued a statement urging that negotiations go forward with the Bush administration’s full support, saying, “The only solution in the Middle East is a peace process that ends in a political settlement.”

The statement said, “Israeli security and Palestinian statehood are inextricably bound together. Israel cannot achieve security with military force. The Palestinians will not achieve statehood with terrorist bombings. Palestinian statehood requires that Israel be made secure; Israel security requires that Palestinians be freed of occupation.”

The 14-million-member labor organization continued by describing the impact on the lives of working families. “The overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Israelis yearn for a securae and lasting peace,” the statement said. “The AFL-CIO joins with workers across the world in urging a halt to the violence and a return to the peace process.”

The National Council of Churches (NCC) General Secretary Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, last week spoke of the ecumenical organization’s support for for the Mitchell Plan, the Saudi iniative and the recent unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution as the next immediate steps towards peace in the region. In response to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Mideast trip, Edgar said, “Action by our government is critically needed to help break the terrible deadlock.”

The presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), Mark Hanson, called the members of the ELCA to, “pray fervently for peace for all people in the region, pray for U.S. leaders, that they may be filled with the wisdom to find a peaceful solution to the violence. and write to senators and representatives and President Bush urging them to use their offices to seek an immediate cease-fire and provide for an international presence to provide for and maintain a lasting peace.”

The Fellowship Of Reconciliation (FOR) is sending a delegation to Israel and the West Bank on April 14. They issued a statement on April 7 saying, “We condemn in the strongest terms those who kill and terrorize, whether suicide bombers or government-sanctioned, uniformed bearers of weapons”

The FOR statement continued, “We praise in the strongest terms the peacemakers whose work is mostly unreported on by the media. We include the Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace comprised of the Parents’ Circle in Israel and the National Movement for Change in the Palestinian Authority, all relatives of those killed in the conflict.”

“The United States has supplied arms on a massive scale throughout the region and to Israel in particular,” the FOR statement said. “The U.S. has provided the funding and weapons that have perpetuated the occupation and settlement expansion, which stand as roadblocks to peace.”

The U.S. government sends $3 billion a year in economic and military aid to Israel. Peace Action is organizing a write-in campaign to Congresspeople to cut off U.S. military aid and freeze pending arms sales until Israel stops the military attacks on the occupied ares of Palestine and withdraws to the 1967 borders.

Dennis Frado, U.N. representive of ELCA, told the World about churches’ efforts to mobilize their congregations. “We want to help the constutuencies of churches be more aware of the issues and to express their views to their elected officials,” he said. “This past week, all of our clergy and rostered leaders of church got information sent by e-mail. That was one of the first instances of e-mailing to such a large group.”

“It’s significant that the current crisis is the first occassion to get the views of the Presiding Bishop and Church Council out to people,” Frado said. “There has been some media coverage but not in depth about the churches in Bethlehem and Ramallah that were briefly occupied last week. We are also trying to move out that information [by e-mail]as well.”

In the past week, demonstrations for peace in the Middle East were organized in cities across the country. New Yorkers of many nationalities marched across the Brooklyn Bridge drawing thousands together, and in Los Angeles, over 5,000 demonstrators attended a rally organized by a by multi-ethnic coalition of over 50 religious and peace organizations.

“Living billboards” in San Francisco and Sacramento were met with honking horns, when drivers read the banners calling for a change in U.S. foreign policy.

In Chicago, 5,000 marched with American and Palestinian flags to the Israeli Consulate, representing a broad cross-section of the Arab and Muslim communities.

The writer can be reached at