Churches prepare action for peace in Israel-Palestine

By agency reporter
May 15, 2008

Churches throughout the world are preparing to respond to six decades of conflict in Israel-Palestine with a week of actions for justice and peace, reports the World Council of Churches, which is helping to coordinate the event.

A common prayer and message for peace in Palestine and Israel is ready for use in about 100 countries, says the WCC. Churches in 17 countries, plus two international ecumenical organizations, are planning various education and advocacy activities.

These and more are part of a global week of action led by the World Council of Churches (WCC), 4-10 June 2008. This year marks 60 years since the partition of Palestine and 41 years of occupation.

After 60 years of peace denied in the Middle East, churches on five continents are demonstrating their concern together,' said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in announcing the week. 'It is encouraging to see so many churches speaking out together for peace. The message for the action week says It's time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.'

The International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel 2008 initiated by the WCC will see meetings between churches and their governments, a 'human clock' counting off 60 years in Bethlehem, a multi-cultural peace service with Arabic and Jewish music in Oslo, Filipino children affected by violence writing letters to their Palestinian counterparts, a big-city parish in the UK erecting a full-sized section of the Wall, Sri Lankan parishes studying the conflict and, in the Netherlands, concerts by a Palestinian-Dutch orchestra and documentaries on Israeli points of view.

The common prayer for the week, sent out by the heads of churches in Jerusalem, asks that God 'send us leaders ready to dedicate their lives to a just peace for their peoples.'

The action week message calls for equal rights for both parties to the conflict and an end to discrimination, segregation and restrictions on movement. 'It's time to respect human lives in the land called holy,' the message says, 'time to do away with double standards…time for healing to begin in wounded souls.' It was developed by participants in the week.

Interest in the initiative has grown in each of its three years. This year, churches in Germany, Ireland, Sri Lanka and Hungary, and World Vision International are taking part for the first time. One mission society in Germany joined and invited 23 partner churches in ten countries to join with it.

As it has each year, Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace movement, has helped plan the week and alerted it's 100 member organizations around the world to take part. Recommended activities are prayer, education, advocacy and public action based on long-standing ecumenical policies concerning peace.

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