A conference in Bern this month will discuss the often thorny concept of the "Promised Land" and related theological issues with a view to helping more churches become advocates for a just peace in the Middle East.
The organisers say that the challenge for churches addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the fact that it takes place in a land that different religions consider holy in different ways and with different outcomes.
The international theological conference will take place in Bern, Switzerland, from 10 to 14 September 2008. Some 65 theologians from World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches in different regions of the world will participate.
Convened by the WCC, the meeting is hosted by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches and the Reformed Churches in Bern-Jura-Solothurn. The event is part of the international inter-church advocacy initiative Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum of the WCC.
"One of the main goals we hope to achieve is to deepen church understanding of biblical promises concerning the land and its peoples. This will require a holistic approach to the biblical message, promoting common understanding of how theological issues may be related to the conflict," says Michel Nseir, programme executive for the WCC special focus on Middle East.
He added: "Different approaches to biblical and theological issues should not prevent common action for a just peace."
The conference will start a process of developing a handbook for congregations and parishes, aimed at facilitating their reflection on issues like the Promised Land, the Church and Israel, justice and peace. The material would invite Christians to become more active as advocates of peace with justice for both peoples in the conflict.