To express solidarity with churches and people in Israel and Palestine, the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee has undertaken a visit to Israel and Palestine from 7 to 12 March.
The delegation with Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice-moderators of the Central Committee, and Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, highlighted the WCC's focus on supporting peace initiatives in the troubled region, underlining the on-going presence and witness of the churches’ engagements.
The visit has been an expression of the pilgrimage of justice and peace, affirming the WCC's commitment to support the peace process in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and to reflect on the on-going and clear wish for a just peace.
The WCC delegates met with representatives of the WCC member churches, including Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land among other church leaders. The meeting was held in Jerusalem hosted by Patriarch Fouad Twal at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
The WCC delegates also met with former Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, as well as representatives of the Presidential Committee for Church Affairs and other ecumenical organizations.
The delegation participated in meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders and members of human rights groups (including both Palestinian and Israelis).
The delegation was hosted by the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre, an initiative of the Jerusalem churches in association with the Middle East Council of Churches and the WCC. The Centre is a coordination point for ecumenical action in and for Jerusalem and its churches.
The WCC delegation learned about the role of the churches in the region, including the work of the WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The EAPPI aims to work alongside Palestinians and Israelis in their nonviolent actions for peace and to carry out concerted advocacy to end the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories.
“Since 2002, over 1,500 volunteers have come for three months to be the Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs). That has been one concrete initiative for the WCC to show solidarity and support to local and international efforts to bring a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a just peace based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions,” said Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee.
Despite being a religious minority in Israel and Palestine, Christians are strongly active and visible in public life.
“Our role is to give Christian witness to the world and work for justice and peace,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit as he explained how the WCC accompanies peace and reconciliation initiatives in the Middle East and beyond.
Tveit underlined: “We believe peace can be achieved only together with the other. We are called as the fellowship of churches to take action in support of peaceful solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Among members of the WCC delegation were Georges Lemopoulos, deputy general secretary, Dr Isabel Phiri, associate general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia, Marianne Ejdersten, the WCC’s director of communication and Rev. Garland Pierce, senior assistant to the WCC general secretary.