The Rev. Dr Jesse Jackson, on a visit today to the Geneva offices of the World Council of Churches (WCC), met with WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser for an exchange of views about an interreligious initiative on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Jackson's proposed initiative hopes to mobilize religious leaders in advocating active non-violent approaches to peace, justice, and reconciliation in the region. To this effect, a visit of a delegation of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders to Palestine and Israel is being considered.

Jackson is seeking ways to bring religious and other leaders to break the current state of what he calls "political paralysis" in Washington, D.C. and other capitals. The Palestinian and the Israeli peoples, both victims of violence, are locked in a "death grip" on each other. We must do something urgently to help them loosen that grip and step back to be able to see the humanity in the other, Jackson said. We cannot simply stand by and watch. Both need our help. International action is needed now more than ever before, since neither side can free itself alone.

Expressing his appreciation for the WCC's important role as a world ecumenical organization, Jackson said that he did not want to pursue his own initiative further without first learning more about the Council's thinking and present strategy in the region. In responding, Raiser emphasized that the WCC approach builds first and foremost on the witness of the local churches in Jerusalem and Palestine to promote an end to violence and occupation. Despite the efforts by the thirteen heads of churches and Christian communities of Jerusalem to speak to these issues, few people around the world have seen and even fewer heeded their statements and urgent appeals, Raiser said.

Jackson called for the formation of a "third force", led by religious and other leaders committed to the principles of active non-violence, as a way of holding up the "promise of peace" in a situation where few see any hope left. Raiser agreed, pointing to actions being taken now through the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel - a programme that was built on the Council's commitment to active non-violence through the Decade to Overcome Violence. It is encouraging, he said, to see that more and more people on both sides are committing themselves to such a "third way" as the only hope to break out of the rising spiral of violence in which both peoples are trapped.

Raiser welcomed Jackson's forthcoming interfaith delegation visit to the area as an important sign of international solidarity and hope for peace. Jackson and Raiser agreed to remain in touch in preparation for that visit, and exchanged views about possible further international and interfaith initiatives that could help strengthen the resolve of all those committed to the path of active non-violence in the midst of this terrible conflict.