The World Council of Churches has expressed “deep concern and disappointment” at the recent veto by the USA of a UN Security Council resolution condemning continued settlement construction by Israel in the Palestinian Territories.
The move from the WCC came at its recently concluded Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The US veto of the resolution on 18 February 2011 – which was co-sponsored by 130 countries and supported by 14 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council – “contradicts the statement” made by President Barack Obama in Cairo in June 2010 that “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
The Central Committee resolution called the US veto “a deeply regrettable mistake” and called upon the US government “to intensify efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in the region with respect to law and justice.”
The resolution reaffirms the longstanding position of the WCC acknowledging the right of the State of Israel to exist in security within internationally recognised borders, but insists that “the settlement policy of the State of Israel violates international law and obstructs the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians”.
The Central Committee – which met 16-22 February – also made a series of recommendations to its member churches through a “minute” addressing concern about the situation of Christians in the Middle East. The document was called “Minute on the Presence and Witness of Christians in the Middle East”.
It called for “convening an ecumenical international conference in 2012 to address the new challenges Christians are facing in the Middle East, in collaboration with the churches in the region”, and invited churches and their agencies to offer support in the “re-envisioning and re-invigoration process of the Middle East Council of Churches.”
The minute urged the 349 WCC member churches to show solidarity “with Christians in Iraq in multiple ways,” including support for the newly formed Christian Council of Church Leaders in Iraq.
During the meetings a delegation of Iraqi leaders told Central Committee members that there is an urgent need to create an atmosphere of security in Iraq if the church is to survive there.
The document also urged member churches to study and disseminate the Kairos Palestine document which was developed in 2010 by Palestinian Christians, and it further encouraged them to follow up “on the substance and proposals” of a November 2010 consultation called “Transforming Communities: Christians and Muslims building a common future.”
The minute acknowledged that recent events in the Middle East offer an “opportunity for peaceful positive changes in the societies and encourages all people in the region, including Christians, to continue to play their part in the common longing to secure human rights, peace and respect for all people of the region.”