At a time when there are signs of hope emerging from the churches in the Middle East around the conflict in Palestine and Israel, a World Council of Churches delegation led by General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit will be travelling to the region to emphasise the need for a “just peace”.
While planning for the visit was initiated several months ago, it now coincides with the start-up of peace negotiations on 2 September 2010 in Washington DC United States.
“The purpose of this visit is to support the churches in the region and to encourage all actors involved to make needed changes to the situation there,” Tveit said prior to the visit.
The delegation, which includes WCC staff members and the moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, the Rev Kjell Magne Bondevik, will be visiting with WCC member churches, ecumenical partners and leaders from the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as WCC partner agencies and political leaders. The visit is 28 August to 2 September.
“We want to reaffirm that the WCC as a fellowship of churches is working and praying for peace and justice for all people in the Holy Land,” Tveit said. “The conflict in the region requires a political solution. All religious institutions and communities should work together for a just peace. This is essential for a reconciliation and healing process.”
“We are aware of the extreme difficulties facing the negotiations beginning 2 September,” he said. “We pray for those in charge of this important work and believe that the negotiations must be inclusive of all in the region who suffer because of this conflict and be based on principles of international law.”
During the visit ,Tveit will also say that the Kairos Document, which was developed by Palestinian Christians in late 2009, is resonating in WCC member churches around the world.
“The WCC member churches are viewing this document as [a] cry for justice coming from Palestinian Christians, whose human dignity is being diminished and denied,” Tveit said.
The WCC has been encouraging its member churches to develop and coordinate active advocacy plans to address government, international bodies, interfaith partners and churches in the region to end the occupation of Palestinian territories and the suffering of both Israeli and Palestinian people.
The visit is also one part of an overall effort within the WCC leading to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, to be held in Jamaica, May 2011, where nearly one thousand people will gather to move forward the Ecumenical Declaration for Just Peace.
The WCC delegation will visit with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which is a WCC-sponsored programme that brings people from around the world to Palestine-Israel to provide a protective presence to vulnerable communities. The ecumenical accompaniers monitor and report human rights activities and abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working for peace.