Christian leaders in Jerusalem are calling for worldwide support of the International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel campaign to mark 40 years of Israeli occupation of Arab territories captured during six days of fighting in 1967.
The patriarchs and church leaders on 29 May 2007 urged support for the 3-9 June week of prayers and action, a campaign led by the World Council of Churches, its member churches and related organizations.
"This year marks the 40th anniversary of the occupation by the Israelis of land previously held by Palestinians," said the Christian leaders. "It is totally unacceptable for the situation to continue where the Palestinians endure daily hardships and humiliations with deprivations of international human rights, allegedly to ensure the safety and security of the Israelis, whereas we believe the security of Israel is dependent on the freedom and justice of the Palestinians."
At the same time, on 29 May, the Geneva-based WCC described the goal of the campaign as being "to raise awareness in churches and civil society and to impress upon governments the need for new efforts to end the conflict and negotiate a just settlement".
In their statement sent to Ecumenical News International the Jerusalem church leaders said, "Now we sincerely believe it is time to intensify action, particularly through negotiation, to end occupation, establish an independent Palestinian State" consistent with UN resolutions and with clearly defined borders, "thus giving both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians alike, human dignity, security and equal opportunities".
They noted, "Many injustices have to be reversed not least the restoration of land to lawful indigenous owners and the so-called security wall demolished. For us as Christians, this land is unique since God chose to reveal his love for human beings here when he gave his Son to be born in Bethlehem; to die on the Cross."
Among the 13 church leaders who signed the message are: Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the highest ranking Roman Catholic in the Holy Land; Coptic Orthodox Bishop, Anba Abraham; Maronite Archbishop Paul Sayyah; Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan.
They stated, "All of us, together, must clearly affirm we are God's children and so give specific support to work diligently for peace now."
[With grateful 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]