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Letter to WCC member churches in Israel and Palestine

Letter to WCC member churches in Israel and Palestine, by the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, expressing concern over the renewed wave of violence in Jerusalem.

19 October 2015

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ – our Lord and Saviour, the Prince of Peace, the child of Bethlehem.

I write to you at a time of renewed violence between the peoples in the land of Christ’s birth, to commend the witness of our Christian sisters and brothers in Palestine and Israel, and to express the concern and solidarity of the global ecumenical fellowship represented in the World Council of Churches. We are following with increasing dismay events throughout the region and especially in the Holy City of Jerusalem, which we hold in our hearts and prayers as an open city of two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians) and three faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). We continue to work and pray for a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, promoting respect for the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem as an important contribution to reducing current tensions.

As Christians, we must all seek an end to violence against any of God’s children, just as we seek an end to occupation and the injustices that present such formidable obstacles to peace in Israel/Palestine. Violent attacks are an unacceptable and counter-productive means of seeking justice. Proportional security measures and the rule of law are the appropriate instruments for responding to such attacks, not extra-judicial killings.

The WCC stands firmly with Christians in the Holy Land in our conviction that the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories must be brought to an end – not as a pre-condition for an end to violence, but as an essential foundation for any long-term, sustainable and just peace in the region. We lament the abject failure to provide any real political horizon for the realization of Palestinian national aspirations and for the implementation of the widely-affirmed two-state solution. The international community has stood by as successive restrictions, impositions, acquisitions, settlements and prevarications by the government of Israel have forced the prospect of a viable two-state solution to vanishing point. We lament the obvious lack of effective focus and commitment, either in Israeli domestic politics or in the international community, for addressing the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Though frustration and disillusionment are consequently at a critical level within the Palestinian community, I appeal for political and religious leadership for the reduction of violence. And I affirm and commend Palestinian Christians in their commitment to nonviolent resistance, as they participate in the struggle for justice and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

I am calling on our global fellowship to strengthen Christians in the Holy Land as they seek justice, dignity and peace for all communities. The Christian voice is more essential now than ever, to help counter the increased risk of portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in religious rather than political terms. While some may gain strategic advantage from framing the issue in this way, we know it to be a terrible threat to the future of the Middle East, the Holy Land, and its many diverse communities. I call on all political and religious leaders to resist instrumentalizing holy sites in the political struggle between the Palestinian people and the Israeli occupation.

I extend my call to all people of faith and good will around the world, to support you in your costly witness and discipleship, providing the means of sustaining hope among the members of your congregations and communities.

During this Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace – on which the ecumenical movement re-embarked at the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan – and especially as we approach the 2016 pilgrimage ”station” of the Middle East region (focusing particular attention on Israel and Palestine), we are committed to moving together with you on this difficult path.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)  

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary