World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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E-mail: media

25 June 2001

WCC Delegation to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

An ecumenical delegation will be visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories 27-30 June 2001 on behalf of the World Council of Churchesí (WCC) general secretary. The delegation will meet with the patriarchs and heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem as well as with key local clergy and laity, church-related and ecumenical organizations, including Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace activists.

The visit is part of the WCC's long-standing concern for a "comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East", and follows on recommendations from the WCC Central Committee meeting in February 2001 which called on the WCC general secretary and staff to:

  • continue their support of efforts towards a negotiated peace in the Middle East, based on international law, paying special attention to the future status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the increasing number of settlements, and measures to enforce all relevant UN resolutions, including those regarding the withdrawal from all occupied Arab lands;
  • continue to analyze and to keep the member churches regularly informed on the evolving situation;
  • accompany the churches of the Holy Land and their members, and advocate for their rights;
  • support local Israeli and Palestinian grassroots peace-building efforts; and promote and /or cooperate with church, ecumenical and other initiatives to strengthen broad international support for a comprehensive peace based on justice and security for all peoples of the region.
The Central Committee February declaration deplored a "pattern of discrimination, routine humiliation, segregation and exclusion which restricts Palestinian freedom of movement, including access to the Holy sites and the disproportionate use of military force by Israel, the denial of access to timely medical assistance, the destruction of property including tens of thousands of olive trees, and which [...] establishes 'cantonization' of the land [...] - a pattern very reminiscent of policies that the WCC has condemned in the past."

The ecumenical delegation's visit is part of preparations for an international ecumenical consultation to be held 6-7 August 2001 in Geneva, convened by the WCC general secretary in response to the Central Committee recommendations.

Members of the delegation include:

Rev. Dr Maake Masango, Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa, member of WCC Executive and Central Committees
Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ, USA, member of WCC Central Committee
Rev. Dr Emmanuel Clapsis, Ecumenical Patriarchate, member of WCC Decade to Overcome Violence reference group
Rev. Mark Brown, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Church World Service and Witness Middle East Forum, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
M. Peter Weiderud, Church of Sweden Mission/Church of Sweden Aid - International Affairs
M. Uffe Gjerding, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, Danchurchaid
Ms Salpy Eskidjian, Armenian Apostolic Church, programme executive for Peacebuilding and Dismarmament with regional emphases on the Middle East, WCC International Relations
Interviews with members of the delegation are possible after the visit. Please contact the Media Relations Office at Tel.: +41-22-791-6153.

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.