New effort for peace from churches as Palestinians and Israelis mark 40 years of occupation

By staff writers
9 Mar 2007
Jerusalem

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is launching an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine - the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum - at a conference June 17-21, 2007, in Jordan.

The initiative is a major step toward WCC's goal of mobilizing churches around the world for peace with justice in the Middle East. Its launch will take place during this year's observances of 40 years under occupation for Palestinians. The plan was approved by the WCC Executive Committee in early March.

WCC member churches and related organizations from different regions of the world and especially churches from the Middle East will take part in the inaugural conference.

The forum they launch will coordinate existing church advocacy work and promote new joint efforts for peace.

Middle Eastern churches at the meeting will lay out their expectations of a just peace and their experiences of conflict. Churches from other regions will share lessons learned during other deeply rooted conflicts, for example, in South Africa, Sudan or Sri Lanka. The churches together will launch the new ecumenical advocacy forum for peace in Israel and Palestine.

At the time of the conference churches and civil society groups around the world will be marking the start of the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 and the 40 years of suffering, dislocation and loss that ensued. The occupation and its violence have also caused massive emigration, destabilized the region, generated strife in distant places and kept Israel from achieving security through peace.

Although their living roots in the region go back to the times in which the Bible was written, WCC member churches in the Middle East increasingly link their prospects for a continuing presence and witness in the region today to a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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