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Statement by Christian Clergy:
The Moral Responsibility in the Middle East

(May 28, 1967)

As the prospect of war in the Middle East became more evident, Martin Luther King and 11 other prominent Christian clergymen issued a statement on May 28, 1967, urging all Americans to “support the independence, integrity and freedom of Israel in the current crisis,” insisting that “men of conscience must not remain silent at this time,” and warning that the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran “may lead to a major conflagration.”

In the current crisis in the Middle East, men of good faith must recognize their moral responsibility to maintain freedom of passage at the Straits of Tiran. The following statement by a cross-section of prominent Christian clergymen and religious editors reflects the views of thousands of church leaders throughout the United States. It eloquently clarifies the full meaning of the moral responsibility in the Middle East, where Israel has worked so hard to achieve the right to live in peace.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” Psalms 122:6.

Men of conscience must not remain silent at this time. The Middle East is on the brink of war. President Nasser of Egypt has initiated a blockade of an international waterway: the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s sea-lane to Africa and Asia. This blockade may lead to a major conflagration.

The Middle East has been an arena of tension due to the threat of continued terrorist attacks, as well as the recent Arab military mobilization along Israel’s borders. Let us recall that Israel is a new nation whose people are still recovering from the horror and decimation of the European holocaust.

President Johnson has called the blockade “illegal and potentially disastrous” to world peace.

We therefore call on the United States government steadfastly to honor its commitments to the freedom of international waterways. We call on our fellow Americans of all persuasions and groupings and on the administration to support the independence, integrity and freedom of Israel.

Men of conscience all over the world bear a moral responsibility to support Israel’s right of passage through the Straits of Tiran.

The people of Israel have the right to live and develop in tranquility and without fear. The Middle East requires respite and peace.

“Seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms, 34:15)

The Rev. John C Bennett, President Union Theological Seminary.
The Rev. Robert McAfee Brown, Professor of Religion, Stanford University.
The Rev. Thurston N. Davis, S. J., Editor, America.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Dr. Franklin H. Littell, President, Iowa Wesleyan College.
Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, Professor Emeritus Of Christian Ethics, Union Theological Seminary.
James O’Gara, Editor, Commonweal.
Dr. Daniel Polling, Chaplain, Interfaith Memorial of the Four Chaplains.
The Rev. Alexander Schmemann, Dean, St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Seminary.
The Rev. John B. Sheerin, C. S. P., Editor, The Catholic World.
Bishop Stephen Gill Spottswood, Washington, D.C., Chairman, National Board of Directors, NAACP.
Bishop Lloyd C. Wick, Bishop, New York Area, Methodist Church; Former President, Methodist Council of Bishops
(Affiliations listed for identification only.)

Sponsored as a public service by Americans for Democracy in the Middle East, Charles E. Silberman, Chairman.

Source: Congressional Record, June 5,  1967 (DC: Government Printing Office, 1967), p. 14617.