The WCC and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
A historical overview
The WCC has been deeply involved in efforts for peace in the Holy Land since 1948 when the state of Israel was created and the WCC formally established. Even before 1948, the WCC in-process-of-formation sought to help European Jews escape from Nazi-occupied territories in Europe and helped them emigrate to safe havens. It later assisted Palestinian refugees displaced as a result of Partition. The WCC has repeatedly called for a comprehensive peace agreement that would assure the rights, well-being and security of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
The WCC has encouraged dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims to promote tolerance and harmonious relationships. Already at its first Assembly, in 1948, churches of the WCC acknowledged both the state of Israel and the right of Palestinians to a state of their own. Ever since, the WCC has maintained close relations with member churches and Christian communities in Jerusalem.
From 1995 onward, the WCC focused attention on Jerusalem as a key to peace in the wider region, calling for the city to be an open city, shared between its two peoples and three faiths. With the breakdown of the Oslo peace process in the late 1990s, the provocative visit of Ariel Sharon to the Esplanade in Jerusalem and the resulting second Palestinian uprising, the WCC has intensified its international advocacy efforts on behalf of Palestinians living under occupation, Christian and Muslim. Meanwhile, more and more Palestinian Christians have been forced to emigrate as a result of Israeli occupation of their lands, discriminatory practices against Palestinians and in search of a new life far from the conflict.
In February , the WCC Central Committee called on the WCC general secretary and staff to strengthen efforts for a comprehensive peace based on justice and security for all peoples of the region.
As recommended by an ecumenical delegation that subsequently visited the Holy Land in June 2001 and an August 2001 consultation of churches and ecumenical partners from the region and beyond, the WCC started an "Ecumenical campaign to End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East" in 2002. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel also arose from this campaign.
Meeting in February 2005, the WCC Central Committee reminded the Council's member churches "with investment funds, that they have an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions" to the Israel/Palestine conflict. The WCC governing body encouraged the Council's then 347 member churches "to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent and non-violent". One way to work for peace is to avoid economic links to illegal activities related to the Israeli occupation.
A week of international church action for peace in Palestine and Israel, convened annually by the World Council of Churches, since 2006, mobilizes churches around the world to educate their members about the conflict, take public actions and advocate with political leaders for peace with justice.
In 2007 churches from every region of the world gathered in Amman, Jordan, to establish the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum. The forum's purpose is "to catalyze and co-ordinate" new and existing church advocacy for peace. Participating churches and related organizations are to work together to end the occupation of Palestinian territories in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and demonstrate their commitment to inter-religious action for peace and to justice that serves all peoples of the region.