At the close of this week’s “Consultation on 50 Years of Occupation and the Ecumenical Response,” held in the Holy Land, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said input received at the meeting will influence the WCC as it refines its strategies and programmes related to just peace in Palestine and Israel.
The WCC will study and analyze an open letter from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine describing the state of injustice in the Holy Land, in particular the coalition’s recommendations for how churches worldwide could potentially help bring justice and peace to Palestine and Israel.
“As we at the WCC consider our plans for 2018 and beyond, we want churches in Palestine to know that their perspective is heard and it is vitally important,” said Tveit.
The WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs has been asked to contribute a thorough analysis of the changing political landscapes and dynamics in the Holy Land with an eye toward developing a more specific advocacy strategy that works through nations and organizations with significant influence.
“Although this consultation has come to a close, we will continue with the same passionate spirit to work on specific objectives, strategies and partners for advocacy to end the occupation and to work for just peace in Palestine and Israel,” said Tveit.
Strategies discussed during the meeting included how to continue to raise public awareness of daily life under occupation. The WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel is already valuable from this perspective and others, but other initiatives will be explored as well, said Tveit.
This week, the WCC started an online campaign, Seek #JusticeAndPeace in the Holy Land, that features profiles of peacemakers and cries for justice for all the peoples in Israel and Palestine.
The WCC also plans to explore theological reflections, studies and projects that will bring a perspective on just peace in the Holy Land from all parts of the world, particularly the global south. This work can be pursued through the Bossey Ecumenical Institute and Faith and Order.
Finally, the WCC plans to strengthen its communication about the situation in Palestine so that it can help churches and other ecumenical partners address their constituencies and governments in a more systematic way to advocate for just peace in the Holy Land. As part of this effort, WCC plans to develop a set of principles and practices of responsible pilgrimages of justice and peace to the Holy Land.
Rifat Kassis, Kairos author, said that Palestinians were moved by the warm reception from the WCC leadership, as well as from the churches and Christian organizations present in the meeting. “It was very inspiring and encouraging to see the level of commitment and engagement from the members to continue the struggle to end the long suffering and achieve justice for the Palestinians,” said Kassis.
In a closing prayer, Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice moderator of the WCC central committee, thanked God for bringing many people together in the Holy Land with feelings of both thanksgiving and lamentation. “We came from the east and the west, from the south and the north, from seashores and mountains, from valleys, from cities big and small,” he said. “We came from many cultures and different church backgrounds, speaking in various languages.”
But people at the meeting were united as an ecumenical movement determined to bring justice to the Holy Land, said Metropolitan Gennadios. “We are grateful that you helped us, that you gave us the courage to open our minds. We were in these days in a ecumenical family in fellowship, and we are united in our commitment that justice for the Palestinians is not lost.”
The WCC leadership will bring the revised strategies and plans to the next meeting of its Executive Committee in November in Amman, Jordan.