”In an unprecedented move against the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement, WCC associate general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri was yesterday apprehended, interrogated and deported from Ben Gurion International Airport.”
In a statement issued on 6 December, following Israeli authorities’ detention, interrogation and deportation of WCC associate general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri upon arrival in Tel Aviv, the WCC ”deeply regrets the Israeli antagonism against the WCC’s initiatives for peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Phiri was travelling to attend consultations with church leaders in Jerusalem on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), one of the many programmes and activities supported by the WCC globally.
Noting that Phiri was the only African member of the WCC staff delegation, the only one denied entry, and that the reason given for her deportation was “Prevention of illegal immigration considerations,” the WCC has instructed its legal representatives to immediately lodge an appeal against “this patently unjust and discriminatory action against Phiri.”
“The accusations made against the WCC and the EAPPI programme in the interrogation of Dr Phiri and published in the media today are completely false” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “I am very surprised and dismayed that the Israeli Ministry of Interior is apparently basing its decisions on incorrect and unreliable sources.”
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI )is a concrete response to an appeal to the World Council of Churches from church leaders in Jerusalem in 2002. They wrote in a letter: “We would respectfully request protection of all people in order to assist the re-establishment of mutual trust and security for Israelis and Palestinians. Further, we would call on all peace-loving people from around the world to come and join us in a manifestation for just peace”.
Over 70 churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized ministries in 22 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America actively participate in the programme. Almost 1,800 accompaniers have participated.
Media contacts: Please contact WCC director of communication Marianne Ejdersten: firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 507 63 63.
WCC: Israeli treatment of representatives at airport unacceptable (WCC press release of 9 May 2016)
WCC general secretary reflects on peace in Palestine and Israel (WCC press release of 20 September 2016)
Statement on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Peace Process (by WCC Central Committee, 28 June 2016)