Representatives from local churches attended the “handover” ceremony, a traditional part of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, during which the departing group lit candles to pass to their successors.
The Ecumenical Accompaniers from around the globe also spent time past week celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by visiting Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches in Jerusalem.
The accompaniers served in the midst of an increasing cycle of violence in Jerusalem, and they expressed their inspiration to help others across the world learn about the hopes and injustices taking place in the region.
This particular group witnessed a record-breaking number of incidents—492. The previous groups recorded 301 incidents, which at the time was a record as well, and the group before that recorded 290. “We are seeing a new trend in the targeting of Palestinian civilians,” said Jack Munayer, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. “More Palestinians have been killed so far than there have been days in the year, and our Ecumenical Accompaniers have had to reflect on many families that have been forced to leave their homes.”
Remembering the people they helped, the departing Ecumenical Accompaniers prayed together for a world without discrimination, for a world with freedom of religion for all, for a world without occupation. They prayed for no more displacement, no more violence. They shared their hopes for a future with equal rights, security, and peace. They return to their home countries with grave concern for the communities in which they have walked, prayed, dined, slept, and lived.
Guest speakers included representatives from the White Fathers, Church of Scotland, Rabbis for Human Rights, United Nations, and other organizations. Bishop Dr Munib Younan, former president of the Lutheran World Federation, offered special reflections, and Rev. Sally Azar, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, closed the ceremony with a blessing.
Ecumenical Accompanier Anne Heikkinen said it was great to see Christians together during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. “People were welcoming,” she said. “They gave us encouraging comments and thanked us. While going from one church to another and hearing the different sermons, It was good to hear the different perspectives of justice.”