The urgent need for a settlement to the impasse between Israelis and Palestinians is being highlighted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel - write Judith Sudilovsky and Peter Kenny.
The Geneva-based WCC describes this as a "joint action for just peace" and it takes place from 29 May to 4 June 2010, focusing mainly on the issue of Israeli settlements that are encroaching into Israeli-occupied Palestinian areas.
"We see the settlements, and the roads [serving them] and all other infrastructure associated with the settlements as the main obstacle for peace," said Yusef Daher, executive secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre.
He added: "Our message will be for all churches to pray with us and to educate their communities about what is really happening here and advocate for peace and justice."
The week for peace comes as Israel has been preparing to prevent a flotilla of up to nine vessels carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian and peace activists bearing supplies headed for Gaza, the coastal enclave that is run by Hamas, but blockaded by Israel.
The flotilla, organised separately to the WCC peace week, has members of Christian and Muslim groups as well as politicians and activists, including some Israelis. Those taking part are seeking to break the sea blockade of Gaza maintained by Israel, which they say is inhumane.
Annette Groth, a federal lawmaker from Germany's Left Party told ENInews, "The Israeli government has already announced it intends to put the 700 passengers (among them Swedish author Henning Mankell) in a detention warehouse in Ashdod Port which is against all human rights' conventions."
Israeli views the European flotilla as provocative. The Jerusalem Post newspaper reported on 27 May that the European "Freedom Flotilla" would be met by another fleet of boats organised by the Israel advocacy group, StandWithUs, which was set to leave the coastal harbours of Ashdod and Herzliya on 28 May.
In its fourth year, peace week is the initiative of the World Council of Churches, joined by the Roman Catholic Group Pax Christi International, and they invite member churches and related organisations to join a week of "advocacy and action for a just peace in Palestine and Israel".
"At a time when both Palestinians and Israelis continue to suffer from the occupation of Palestinian territory, the World Council of Churches has designated this week as a time to pray for a lasting peace that would secure the legitimate rights and justice for both peoples," said the Rev John Calhoun, the convener of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.
"During the week, churches in different countries send a clear signal to policy-makers, interested publics and their own parishes about the urgent need for a peace settlement that secures the legitimate rights and future of both peoples," the WCC said in a statement.
The Heads of Church, representing different Christian traditions in Jerusalem also have invited churches worldwide to pray what is called the Jerusalem Prayer, on the WCC website, at their worship services on 30 May.
Internationally, events are scheduled to take place in churches of various denominations in some 19 countries including Australia, Austria, Cuba, Ireland, Kenya, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Canada and the United States. Some of the events will include study of the Kairos Palestine Document, a Palestinian Christian call to end the occupation, which was issued in December 2009.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]