WCC head to visit churches and leaders in Israel and Palestine

By staff writers
19 Jun 2007
Dr Samuel Kobia

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, will be visiting member churches and Christian communities in the strife-ridden occupied Palestinian territories and Israel from 21-26 June 2007.

Taking place immediately after the launch of the WCC-sponsored Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum in Amman, Jordan, the visit aims to express worldwide church solidarity with the churches in the Holy Land. It also intends to convey concern for the future of both peoples affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The member churches of the WCC believe that Christian communities in the Holy Land are an historic and essential part of the region and that their future and well-being is linked to the future and well-being of Muslims and Jews," says Dr Kobia.

Dr Kobia (a Methodist from Kenya) will meet the heads of churches in Jerusalem, preach at St George's Cathedral there and visit a number of biblical sites in the Jerusalem area and Galillee.

Meetings with Israel's Chief Rabbinates and the Higher Islamic Council and the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine are scheduled, as are high-level encounters with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian authority.

The WCC general secretary will visit Yad Vashem, a memorial to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the Western Wall, a remnant of the Jewish Second Temple. Kobia will attend a service at a synagogue and participate at a Sabbath meal.

A visit to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque is also on the agenda.

First-hand exposure to the hardships imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli occupation of their territories is part of the itinerary, which will include Palestinian towns and refugee camps in the West Bank.

Dr Kobia will meet volunteers serving in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). He will spend time with them in their daily work with refugees, Israeli peace groups, and at crossing points in the separation barrier.

The World Council of Churches brings together the major Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and indigenous churches across the globe, and cooperates closely with the Roman Catholic Church.

The WCC has called on Hamas and Fateh to end their confrontation in Gaza and the Est Bank. It has opposed illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, criticised ant-Semitism, advocated non-violence, and supported the right of both Jewish and Palestinian people to live in secure and fair borders.

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