World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Open Letter on the Status of Jerusalem

Expressing alarm about new political developments which adversely affect the status of Jerusalem, the director of the WCC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs issued an open letter reiterating the position of its member churches and calling for "an open and inclusive Jerusalem, a city of shared sovereignty and citizenship, a city of two peoples and three faiths, of Christians, Muslims and Jews".

31 March 2005

31 March, 2005

The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned about actions by the Government
of Israel which threaten the achievement of a just peace for both Israel and Palestine
by pre-empting negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem within the framework
of international law. This letter reiterates the position of the WCC on a matter
of critical importance.

• While world attention is drawn to its Gaza withdrawal plans, the Government
of Israel has intensified unilateral programmes to consolidate control over
Jerusalem and other occupied territory. These include:

• Creating a new de facto border by construction of the Wall on occupied territory,
cutting all of annexed Jerusalem off from the West Bank in contravention
of international law and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court
of Justice in 2004.

• Cutting the West Bank in two by adding 3,500 housing units to Maale Adumim
settlement. This decision mocks prospects for a viable, contiguous Palestinian
State with a shared Jerusalem as its capital.

• Repeated declarations by the government's top leaders that large illegal West
Bank settlements and all of Jerusalem will belong to Israel in any final agreement.

• Ongoing violations of human and civil rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem -
illegal Jewish settlements are built in their neighborhoods while construction
permits for Palestinians are denied, family homes are demolished, requests for
family reunification are denied.

• Threats and more threats, including an absentee property law allowing confiscation
of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and a new regulation to require permits
for Jerusalem residents entering the West Bank.

The WCC has long affirmed that the final status of Jerusalem must be part of a
comprehensive peace settlement and be negotiated without delay; that the unilateral
annexation of Jerusalem by the Government of Israel puts regional and
world peace in jeopardy; that alterations of boundaries, population and settlements
which change the religious, cultural or historical character of Jerusalem
without the consent of the parties involved and the approval of the international
community are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Irregular transfers of church-held land from one side to the other only add to the
alarm of those who hope for justice; all such transfers must be annulled.

The WCC calls for an open and inclusive Jerusalem, a city of shared sovereignty and
citizenship, a city of two peoples and three faiths, of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Now is the time to cease actions that pre-empt peace in Jerusalem and to begin negotiation
of Jerusalem's final status within the framework of international law.