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Report of delegation to Israel/Palestine

The WCC general secretary sent an ecumenical delegation to Jerusalem and the West Bank from 27 June to 1 July 2001 to meet with the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem as well as key local clergy and laity, church-related and ecumenical organisations including Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace activists. This was an exploratory and consultative mission as part of a preparatory process for an international ecumenical meeting to be convened in Geneva.

06 August 2001

JUNE 27 - JULY 1, 2001

Released on 6 August 2001


I. Introduction

1. On 5 February, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee adopted a statement, "On the Situation in the Holy Land after the Outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising", which urged WCC member churches "to increase their efforts to condemn injustice and all forms of discrimination, to end Israeli occupation, to pray for and promote a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East." To help inform and strengthen those efforts, the statement called the WCC General Secretary and staff of the Council to:

  • continue their support of efforts towards a negotiated peace in the Middle East, based on international law, paying special attention to the future status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the increasing number of settlements and measures to enforce all relevant UN resolutions, including those regarding the withdrawal of all occupied Arab lands;
  • continue to analyze and to keep the member churches regularly informed on the evolving situation;
  • accompany the churches of the Holy Land and their members, and advocate their rights,
  • support local Israeli and Palestinian grassroots peace-building efforts; and
  • promote and/or cooperate with church, ecumenical and other initiatives, to strengthen broad international support for a comprehensive peace based on justice and security for all peoples of the region.

    2. In pursuance of this statement, the WCC General Secretary sent an ecumenical delegation ("the delegation") to Jerusalem and the West Bank from 27 June to 1 July to meet with the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem as well as key local clergy and laity, church-related and ecumenical organisations including Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace activists. This was an exploratory and consultative mission as part of a preparatory process for an international ecumenical meeting to be convened in Geneva on 6-7 August 2001. The main purpose of the August consultation will be to provide a space for sharing, joint planning and strategizing, as well as attempt to facilitate better co-ordination and co-operation among all church and ecumenical actors. The delegation was not on a fact-finding mission. Rather, its key objectives were:

  • To learn of local ecumenical strategies and plans of action(s) in the context of the Second Palestinian Uprising from the heads of churches and different groups of civil society (church related, ecumenical organisations, peace and human rights advocates) that go beyond statements and appeals;
  • To share further with these local partners on WCC initiatives and the consultation process;
  • To consider together an international ecumenical plan of action and response, including proposals for developing/supporting/accompanying initiatives of the churches of Jerusalem and the wider Palestinian and Israeli civil society such as:
    • An ecumenical witness for peace programme, including providing an international ecumenical presence for protection/monitoring/reporting and awareness building;
    • non-violent resistance and direct actions.

    The delegation included:
    Rev. Dr Maake Masango, Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa / WCC Executive and Central Committee member;
    Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ-USA / WCC Central Committee member;
    Rev. Dr Emmanuel Clapsis, Ecumenical Patriarchate / WCC Decade to Overcome Violence Reference Group member;
    Rev. Mark Brown, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs / Chairperson of Churches for Middle East Peace and Church World Service and Witness Middle East Forum;
    Mr Uffe Gjerding, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, Danchurchaid / APRODEV Middle East Working Group member;
    Mr Peter Weiderud, Church of Sweden, Church of Sweden Mission / Church of Sweden Aid - International Affairs; and
    Ms Salpy Eskidjian, Armenian Apostolic Church, WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security programme executive for Middle East affairs.

    3. The delegation held its first meeting in Geneva on 26 June 2001 with the WCC general secretary, director of WCC Cluster on Relations, co-ordinator of WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security and a member of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) in order to discuss its mandate, methodology and programme of action. It then visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah from 27 June to 1 July 2001 (The full programme of the delegation is (annexed). On the evening of its arrival in Jerusalem, the delegation visited the Orient House to attend the memorial service of Mr Faissal Husseini, head of the Orient House and responsible for the Jerusalem portfolio of the Palestinian Authorities until his recent death. There they had the opportunity to meet informally with key members of Jerusalem's civil society. The delegation then met with the two staff members of the Ecumenical Outreach Programme of the Catholic Relief Services, who had facilitated appointments, meetings and all local arrangements to review the three-day programme. The delegation met with the Patriarchs, Metropolitans and Bishops of the Armenian, Latin, Greek, Episcopal and Lutheran families, respectively. The delegation also held meetings and discussions with local clergy, lay leaders of Christian communities in Ramallah and Bethlehem, representatives of church-related and ecumenical organisations, including international church representatives, Palestinian and Israeli human rights and peace groups, the UN Deputy Special Co-ordinator, the Director of UNRWA West Bank Field Office, the spokesperson of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, and high-level diplomats from South Africa, Sweden and Denmark. The annexed programme includes the list of all those who were invited to the different meetings.

    4. The delegation held an evening discussion with those temporarily responsible for the Middle East Council of Churches Jerusalem Liaison Office, including the MECC Executive Committee member from Jerusalem, in order to be updated on the present status of the office, its activities, plans and vision.

    5. The delegation used as a basis for its work the full report of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Inquiry Commission, reports of international and local human rights and peace organisations, as well as letters and appeals of the heads of Churches in Jerusalem, recent observations and recommendations of North American and European church delegations to the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Israel, and other ecumenical statements and reports, e.g. YMCA and Pax Christi International. The mandate of the delegation was to assist the development of an international ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by providing a report to the WCC General Secretary as he prepared for the convening of the WCC August consultation in Geneva. The delegation drafted its report in Jerusalem on Saturday, June 30, 2001 after extensive debriefing sessions and finalised the first draft on July 4. The General Secretary will make the report public immediately prior to the August consultation.

    II. General observations

    1. The delegation was welcomed by all those it met. Appreciation was expressed to all those Christians around the world that had visited, spoken out against all human rights violations and had been working for justice and peace for this land and its people. All local churches and partners underscored the need for the ecumenical movement to focus on an action-oriented response to the plight of the Palestinians. Statements and resolutions were appreciated but all those the delegation met repeated that the Palestinians were tired of words without action and active solidarity.

    2. The delegation was told that the offensive and defensive measures taken by Palestinians are due to the international community's failure to respond to the impunity Israel continues to enjoy, and the present total siege imposed on the Palestinian territories. While the international community may choose only non-violent actions, it is important that it recognises that the loss of the right to resist is the last step before complete submission or expulsion. The cycle of violence continues to grow. The instigation of violence by settlers, and the protection of settlers by the Israeli army, is a worrying trend. Local partners fear that Palestinians are moving towards a large-scale massacre. Some believe that at this stage activities with Israelis must halt unless those activities are aimed at ending the occupation. During the meetings, the territorial compromise by the Palestinians was reiterated and Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized borders was acknowledged. The call was to struggle against occupation, not Israel's existence.

    3. The delegation affirmed the full report of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission whose elements are still very valid and applicable to the realities on the ground. It was disappointed to note that despite the WCC advocacy efforts, the findings or the report itself were not known widely among local NGOs, churches and the church-related organisations with whom it had meetings.

    4. Church leaders: The Jerusalem church leaders regretted that the existing realities, especially the absence of a Greek Orthodox Patriarch, had made it difficult for them to meet to develop a joint strategy of action in the context of the present Intifadah - the Palestinian uprising to end military occupation. They had met, however, to develop statements to "cry our pain" and to state the position of the churches. The church leaders welcomed the WCC challenge and invitation to the August meeting, which they strongly supported. Several church leaders indicated a willingness and intention to meet soon to discuss the issues raised in the context of the meetings with the WCC delegation. The delegation was convinced that it is important to develop a strategy that Jerusalem church leaders can support or at least accept. Leaders stated that together the Jerusalem churches and the WCC should go beyond words to concrete actions.

    5. International church representatives: The majority of the international representatives in Jerusalem and the West Bank are seconded by WCC member churches from North America and Western Europe, where they work in different types of ministries. They reacted enthusiastically to the WCC's call for a meeting, indicating that they met jointly for the first time in response to the WCC's request. The delegation's initiative affirming their role and ministry as well as the WCC General Secretary's call for an ecumenical meeting in August was welcomed. Strengthening cooperation and communication links with the WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security department as well as other partners in Europe and USA, e.g. Churches for Middle East Peace and Church World Service Middle East Forum in the USA and the APRODEV family in Europe, was a priority for them. The delegation found the encounter very useful indeed, one that needs to be further nurtured in any ecumenical follow-up activities.

    6. Local clergy/Lay leaders/Human Rights & Peace Organisations: The delegation was grateful to all those who made time to meet with them, as well as to the Ecumenical Outreach Programme for organising the delegation's visit so efficiently in a short period of time. The insights, analysis and partnership of all were invaluable. However, the delegation was disappointed with the small number of participants at its meetings specifically with the Palestinian Human Rights organisations, Israeli peace and human rights groups as well as at its meetings with clergy and lay leaders in local communities, where the absence of Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy was specially felt. Generally the delegation noted the lack of a joint strategy of planning and action among the respective groups it met with, but it welcomed the beginnings of joint initiatives among different groups in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah that focussed on active non-violent resistance. It especially noted the energy among the few women and most of the non-governmental organisations it met, especially those that included young people and women. Even though most of the Palestinian NGO's were either run by Christians or had Christians as active members, a gap was observed between them and the church structures at most levels.

    7. Church-related and Ecumenical Organisations: The delegation welcomed the level of organisation and vision among some of those it met, especially those related to grassroots movements and groups. It noted a gap between some of the ecumenical grassroots organisations and the church hierarchy and even an absence of joint communication, coordination and strategizing among one another. As for the structures related to the Middle East Council of Churches, the delegation noted weak capacity, lack of strong creative vision and leadership. The present Jerusalem Liaison office caretakers repeated the need to move slowly and very carefully in fostering ecumenical relations in Jerusalem and saw no immediate role for itself in accompanying the local churches in joint action that could be the core for an ecumenical accompaniment/solidarity agenda.

    III. Priorities for an International Ecumenical Response Suggested to the WCC Delegation

    The WCC delegation was welcomed by all partners, especially its mandate and the commitment of the ecumenical movement "to accompany the churches in the Holy Land and their members".

    The following suggestions were offered to the WCC as priorities for consideration by the international ecumenical family, as it develops an international ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    1. Human Rights and Humanitarian crisis

  • Provide humanitarian support, particularly food and medicine, for those Palestinians having difficulty making it from one day to the next due to the faltering economy.
  • Develop economic emergency plans.
  • upport programs to curtail unemployment as part of the emergency response and support trauma counselling programs for Palestinian victims of violence, especially the youth.
  • Address all violations of internationally recognized human rights norms and international humanitarian law and condemn all such violations including those of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Address the deprivations caused by the denial of social and cultural rights through closures, curfews, restrictions on movement and destruction of property.
  • Ensure that any emergency needs are coupled with long-term strategies that address a variety of economic, political, social, development, and justice issues.

    2. Israeli military occupation and a Sustainable Palestinian State

  • Address and condemn the Israeli military occupation and affirm the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to injustice and foreign occupation.
  • Condemn violence against civilians and support non-violent resistance.
  • Insist on the application of international law as it applies to the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian right to resist that occupation, and all efforts for a negotiated peace settlement.
  • Address the right of Palestinians to self-determination on a sustainable sovereign state, side by side with Israel.
  • Bring international pressure to bear on Israel to end the occupation and on other governments, particularly the United States, to compel Israel to end the occupation. There should be a focus on international pressure as the way to achieve a just peace. This could include economic steps against the occupation and the boycotting of settlement goods.
  • Empower the local churches to define their vision of a Palestinian State while struggling to overthrow occupation.

    3. Accompaniment/International Presence and Protection
    The United Nations Security Council has so far rejected a plan for a protection mechanism for Palestinians. The Temporary International Protection of Hebron (TIPH) program is seen to be inadequate because all its reporting must be kept confidential among the governments of the six nations participating in the program. Christian Peacemaker Teams are often questioned about their effectiveness, but also encouraged not to leave; their presence is a point of hope. An accompaniment program would help to: pull people away from the edge of despair and the slide toward extremism; provide a sense of solidarity and protection to the Palestinians; give timely alternative information including an active non-violent option to internationals as well as Palestinians and Israelis - particularly youth - as a powerful tool in the struggle against occupation.

    An accompaniment programme should:

  • Serve as a powerful way of informing congregations abroad about opportunities for non-violent, negotiated solutions to Palestinian-Israeli grievances and motivate them to be in active solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli non-violent efforts for peace.
  • Enable the churches in Jerusalem and other local congregations to develop and actively support non-violent efforts with other Palestinians and Israelis as well as internationals.
  • Enable the local churches and congregations abroad to be in dialogue with and work with Jews and Muslims locally and internationally who support a non-violent movement for peace in the Middle East and promote a proactive, non-violent vision for the resolution of the conflict and reconciliation.
  • Promote international presence/protection and use the concept of accompaniment in a holistic way, including the following activities: observing, recording, photographing, videotaping, and reporting publicly occupation-related events in the West Bank and Gaza; exposing human rights violations; deterring violence/promoting restraint; reducing fear and anxiety, instilling confidence, alleviating sense of desperation and isolation; promoting human contact between Palestinians and international community; accompanying people in daily activities, such as harvesting and going to the market; supporting the local economy; and preparing communicators/advocates. The reports of this program must be public immediately and widely distributed. There is a need for a more complete and systematic spread of international personnel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. International presence should help to promote religious freedom.
  • Include strategies to: maintain a continual flow of visitors and participation in an ongoing non-violent presence to resist/defy occupation; coordinate and promote events (such as conferences, candlelight marches, rallies, and demonstrations) in Palestine and Israel that would draw large crowds and media attention; and organize high-level, high-profile delegations that would be involved in non-violent direct actions and that would be engaged in an intensive media strategy. The period between November 25 and December 10 may be a special emphasis for international presence because of the International Day to Combat Violence Against Women (Nov. 25), the International Day of Solidarity with the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (Nov. 29), and International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10). May 15, the commemoration of the Nakba, could be an opportunity for the international community to specifically focus on the right of return.
  • Promote and provide training for non-violent resistance to the military occupation of Palestine through various activities, including: removing dirt roadblocks; demonstrating at checkpoints; resisting house demolitions, the building or expansion of settlements, the building of settlement roads, and the uprooting of trees. Assist in recovery activities, including rebuilding homes and replanting trees. A diverse response to the occupation is needed. Non-violence training and briefings should be mandatory for all participants in non-violent resistance. Training should take place in the country of origin and in Palestine/Israel.
  • Utilize and work with existing international Christian presence in the Occupied Territories and Israel.

    4. Advocacy/Campaigns and Prayer Vigils within the Decade to Overcome Violence framework

  • Develop a common, coordinated campaign, including a clearinghouse for information, to foster a strong ecumenical solidarity movement. The Churches of Jerusalem to consider calling the first Decade to Overcome Violence Campaign to "END THE VIOLENCE OF OCCUPATION" and ask the WCC to identify 2002 as a year to focus everyone's attention on ending the occupation of Palestine.
  • Develop a multi-faceted advocacy program at the local, national, regional and international levels. Such a program should advocate for governmental policies which support:
    • the end to Israeli occupation;
    • a shared Jerusalem by the three monotheistic religions and the two peoples; the promotion and protection of human rights, including the recommendations of the Human Rights Inquiry Commission and especially a freeze on Israeli settlement building and expansion;
    • the lifting of the closures;
    • investigations into the use of U.S. weapons, including attack helicopters and F-16s, and a halt in the use of such weapons;
    • a higher level of discipline and accountability by Israeli police and soldiers; investigations into police and military human rights violations and use of appropriate, non-lethal crowd control measures; and
    • the right of Palestinian self-determination.
  • As a methodology, the ecumenical movement should be informed from its own strategies and tactics struggling against injustice. The regional and international ecumenical structures should be empowered and encouraged to participate in every way possible. Local priests/pastors as well as international journalists must be briefed in order to build awareness, mobilize or simply be the voice of those in the struggle. A possible approach is to use the language and images of apartheid and develop strategies of solidarity based on movements like the anti-apartheid or civil rights movements. Any campaign or advocacy programme should have practical and achievable goals. It should encourage all to work ecumenically and inter-religiously, including work with appropriate Israeli peace groups as well as with Jewish and Islamic peace groups internationally.
  • Maintain and broaden the USA churches-initiated prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East as part of this international campaign.

    5. Communication and Alternative Information
    Any ecumenical programme should include a clear emphasis on communication including different media strategies.

     

  • Communicate effectively the realities of occupation: publish stories of everyday life, promote editorials, combat distortions of the image of Palestinians, utilize paid ads and hold press conferences.
  • Invite journalists and Christian communicators to visit the region and be part of every ecumenical activity.
  • Hold seminars for communicators in the region.

    Additional considerations
    In addition to the above the WCC and the wider ecumenical fellowship should bear in mind the following:

    6. Christian Presence: Even though Palestinian Christians are a diminishing minority, their contribution to the Palestinian society surmounts their numbers. Christians serve the community through a variety of ways, including hospitals, schools, community service centers, youth and women's centers, etc. The efforts of the churches to provide humanitarian assistance and pastoral care are threatened and undermined due to policies of the government of Israel, including the imposition of inappropriate taxes, extensive permit requirements, and long delays at checkpoints. The ecumenical family should consider:

  • Urgently helping the local Christian community to maintain a presence in Palestine:
  • Assisting the international community to learn about the Palestinian Christian communities and encourage them to be in active solidarity. This could be done by providing Palestinian presence at international meetings, providing funding for Christian projects and humanitarian support, encouraging congregation to congregation linkages, convening international meetings in the Holy Land.

    7. Coordination and Cooperation: The coordination role of the WCC was welcomed and needed, especially in providing an ecumenical witness for peace program that would include churches and ecumenical organizations from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as North America and Europe. A need for more cooperation was underlined by all. It was clear that coordination is not only needed at the international level, it is also needed with and on the local level; between and among church leaders, clergy and lay leaders, church-related organizations, non-governmental organizations, particularly women, youth, and human rights organizations, peace groups and international personnel.

    IV. Conclusions

    1. This may be a kairos moment for the churches and church community in Palestine, as well as for the world-wide church community. Fifty years of successive conflict and wars, thirty years of prolonged occupation and seven years of a protracted peace process have left a legacy of distrust, humiliation and frustration. Glimpses of hope have ended in despair. The recent escalation of violence has resulted in the loss of too many lives - mostly among the youth - injuries and heartbreak to thousands, and destruction of property and livelihoods. Both sides distrust each other more than ever, and think the worst of one another. We heard over and over again that hearts have hardened on both sides in the past few months and for many, despair is deepening. At the same time, we experienced that both the Palestinian people and the people of Israel are yearning for peace and security, and that some do recognize that a precondition for a just and durable peace is for everyone to work together for an alternative vision to violence, to develop mutual confidence, to build a common future based on rights and respect for one another, international law and a process of negotiations that would lead to sharing the land, the truth and the peace.

    2. The delegation was asked constantly, "If the church is not the voice of the voiceless, who will be ... the extremists?" We must, however, be aware that the churches also live under occupation and that, for historical reasons, different parts of the ecumenical family will need to address the problems of occupation in different ways. At the same time as the WCC has launched the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010), calling on its member churches to be involved in overcoming violence in its many forms in the world, violence in many forms continues in the land of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a clear humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed immediately coupled with long-term strategies that address the root causes of this crisis. The suffering of the people is very real right now, with the borders closed. The shelling of Christian communities in places such as Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Ramallah has intensified. Many people have no food, and many have lost their jobs. Children are traumatized. There is a real crisis in the church-related institutions, as schools cannot charge their students tuition when families have no income, and therefore have no money for teachers. Some institutions, such as hospitals, are also being squeezed by the Israeli government around tax concerns. There is also a desperate need for a Christian voice to be heard other than that of the fundamentalist Christian community which gives unquestioning support to the government of Israel. Finally, the difficult question of what would it mean for the world if there were no Christian Palestinians left in the Holy Land needs to be quickly addressed. The rapidly increasing emigration of Palestinian Christians is a signal that the situation has become intolerable for them. The fear that the holy sites of Christianity become museums is a very real one, as two to three Palestinian Christian families leave every week.

    3. Statements by the worldwide church community have been important, but the time for statements seems to be over. There is a clear need for implementation of all UN and other relevant resolutions. An action-oriented and organized response of accompaniment and solidarity is required of the ecumenical movement. Over and over again we heard a call for advocacy on behalf of the Palestinian community, particularly in the US and Europe, as well as a call to Christians in Africa, Latin America and Asia to join these advocacy efforts. There is a need for both Israeli and Palestinian peoples to hear first-hand of other non-violent movements struggling against injustice. To understand that easing tensions, calming passions and getting back to the negotiating table does not mean submission and that there are alternative ways where the international community as well as Palestinians and Israelis can set the terms of the negotiations and ensure a just outcome.

    4. In the absence of a UN international presence, most believe that an ecumenical international presence would help protect the people, deter violence, and, most of all, provide hope to Palestinians and Israelis struggling together for a just peace in their land. It would help people from other countries to understand the occupation in a very real way. The Palestinian community feels that they have not been seen as a part of the Christian family by many in the ecumenical family who do not even know there are Christians in Palestine. There seems to be an affirmation of the presence of international observers and activists that would participate in non-violent resistance. The Christian Peacemaker Teams have some experience that can be built upon. In addition, the churches already have international presence through those assigned to work in Palestine and this must be used and further developed.

    5. At the same time, there was concern voiced by some that we must be cautious that churches do not impose political solutions. Pastoral concerns that arise from occupation must not be ignored either. Families in crisis, psychological and spiritual concerns must all be attended to by the churches. Ways must be found to help address the sense of hopelessness felt by many. Short-term and long-term strategies are both needed to end the occupation and prepare the people for life afterwards in a sustainable, democratic, just Palestinian state. It is important to the Palestinian community that the world sees them as fully human, not as terrorists. There is a desperate need for people around the world to put a human face on a people struggling against occupation.

    6. The WCC needs to consider a much more organized coordination and facilitation role in any international ecumenical response. Its call to convene a consultation in August was reaffirmed. There was no doubt that there is a need for an international ecumenical consultation on this question. However there should be recognition that not all churches have full-fledged solidarity action plans.

    Recommendations

    1. International Ecumenical Consultation, August 6-7, 2001: The August International Ecumenical Consultation convened by the WCC General Secretary needs to encourage member churches and ecumenical partners to consider a comprehensive, multi-faceted accompaniment/solidarity program. It should provide the space to reflect and begin an action-oriented response to the Palestinian struggle for justice and may need to focus on the immediate needs as a start. The consultation should consider and discuss the reports of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission and the WCC delegation. It should also hear of local and international ecumenical and peace initiatives. To be a functional meeting, there should be no more than 30 to 40 participants who are actively engaged in advocacy work for peace in the Middle East, including the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem as well as a selected number of Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. WCC General Secretary and International Affairs, Peace & Human Security staff should be in touch with the church leaders the delegation met with, to discuss the purpose of this initiative and ensure that the churches present a local strategy for the international ecumenical community to respond to and build upon. Throughout this process the delegation should act as a core, advisory group to the WCC and will work directly with the WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security team. All recommendations should be considered by the WCC General Secretary and Officers for presentation to the WCC Executive Committee in September 11-14, 2001.

    2. The WCC should designate 2002 as the year to focus attention of all member churches on Ending the Violence of Occupation in Palestine, under the Decade to Overcome Violence. This would offer churches world-wide a wide range of possibilities and multi-layered ways of participating e.g. advocacy and accompaniment programs, delegations, speaking tours, visits to government leaders, media campaigns, prayer vigils, humanitarian and development support etc. Initially the ecumenical family should focus on the human and humanitarian crisis. The WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security team should convene a meeting of the delegation members in the fall to consider all recommendations of the August consultation and further design an international ecumenical plan of action.

    3. The WCC General Secretary should convene ecumenical gatherings such as the one planned for August on a yearly basis to ensure continued cooperation and effective coordination among its member churches, ecumenical partners and local churches. 4. The WCC and its churches worldwide need to ensure that international law and in particular UN resolutions are the basis for any peace negotiations. To address the present situation, all parties should implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Inquiry Commission, whose report is still valid and needs to be lifted up, addressed and implemented.

    5. Advocacy at national, regional and international forums must be a priority. The same message should be used to lobby governmental, intergovernmental and international bodies, including the UN. The specific role of the WCC through its International Affairs, Peace & Human Security team should focus on political advocacy at the international level and coordinating its member churches and ecumenical actors pursuing the same objectives at the national and regional levels. High-level church visits with government officials in US and EU nations should be facilitated. Cooperation needs to be established between staff of regional and national councils, ecumenical partners and churches in different capitals with WCC offices in Geneva and New York, and others like APRODEV headquarters in Brussels and Churches for Middle East Peace in Washington DC. In addition efforts should be made to increase the humanitarian assistance as well as address the longer-term reconstruction and development needs of the local Christians. ACT and WCC Regional Relations should be empowered to be more active and supportive to the needs of the churches.

    6. WCC should place special emphasis on reaching out to its member churches in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Information leaflets need to be developed in appropriate languages for awareness building. As a first step WCC should consider a South African church delegation to visit the Occupied Territories.

    7. For such efforts to succeed, funding partners and WCC member churches need to provide the WCC with the necessary funds and support to carry out these objectives.

    In addition to these recommendations:

    8. The WCC needs to find ways to facilitate the space for the local churches and church-related organizations to work together and build their own short-term and long-term strategies. The local churches need to be empowered to recognize that their power lies not only in numbers, but in the significant contributions they make to the whole Palestinian society through their presence, institutions and leadership they provide to the Palestinian civil society at large. The Israeli society needs to be helped to acknowledge and support this as well. The challenge is how to accomplish this without a viable ecumenical structure in Jerusalem. The WCC General Secretary is encouraged to have open discussions with the MECC leadership with regards to the local MECC Jerusalem Liaison Office and try to develop a common agenda and strengthen its witness in order to serve all in the ecumenical movement, including the WCC.

    9. The WCC needs to identify, listen to and lift up the alternative and moderate voices on both sides of the civil society who are struggling to find a common vision and future and seek ways to bring them together with church leaders and church-related organisations. Local human rights and peace organisations should be sustained to continue their ministry. A special emphasis should be placed on Palestinian and Israeli women and youth.