Ref: WCC International Relations statement 21.06.01
WCC Press Release 25.6.01/PR-01-19

Update on the WCC delegation visit to
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
June 27- July 1, 2001

The WCC delegation to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories completed its four-day visit on behalf of the WCC General Secretary, following the recommendations of the February 2001 WCC Central Committee meeting. This visit was part of a preparatory process for an international ecumenical consultation to be convened by the WCC General Secretary on 6-7 August 2001 in Geneva.

The delegation met with the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem, local clergy and laity, and church-related and ecumenical organisations including Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace activists.

The delegation's mandate was to explore ways of assisting the development of an international ecumenical response to the Palestinian - Israeli conflict. In particular the delegation discussed the feasibility of facilitating an ecumenical witness for peace programme, supporting a non-violent resistance to the occupation and providing an international ecumenical presence for protection, monitoring and reporting.

All local churches and partners appreciated the WCC General Secretary's initiative and welcomed his delegation. They reiterated their gratitude to the WCC Central Committee, the General Secretary and his staff for their efforts to support a negotiated peace in the Middle East based on international law, their advocacy efforts for the protection of human rights, and the financial assistance provided to alleviate worsening human suffering. They especially welcomed the commitment of the WCC to "accompany the churches in the Holy Land and their members" and its willingness to strengthen its solidarity efforts.

The local churches and partners also expressed thanks to all those Christians around the world that have visited them, spoken out against human rights violations and have been working tirelessly for justice and peace in the Middle East. In addition they emphasized the need for the ecumenical movement to go beyond statements and resolutions. They pleaded for an action-oriented solidarity to the Palestinian struggle and quest for justice and peace, including proposals for developing, supporting and accompanying the church of Jerusalem and the wider Palestinian and Israeli civil society in a non-violent struggle against injustice.

The delegation recognised that this may be a kairos moment for the churches and church community in Palestine and world-wide. Fifty years of successive conflict and wars, thirty years of occupation and seven years of a protracted peace process have left a legacy of distrust, humiliation and frustration. Glimpses of hope have ended in despair. The recent escalation of violence has resulted in the loss of too many lives, mostly among the youth, and injuries and heartbreak to thousands, while the destruction of property and livelihoods have left both sides distrusting each other more than ever. The delegation repeatedly heard that hearts have hardened on both sides in the past few months and for many, despair is deepening. At the same time, the delegation experienced that both the Palestinian people and the people of Israel are yearning for peace and security. Some do recognize that a precondition for a just and durable peace is for everyone to work together for an alternative vision to all forms of violence, develop mutual confidence, secure a common future based on rights and respect for one another, and engage in a process of negotiations that would lead to sharing the land, the truth and the peace.

The delegation was told that the offensive and defensive measures taken by Palestinians are due to the international community's failure to respond to the impunity Israel continues to enjoy, and their flagrant violations of human rights and dignity, especially the present total siege imposed on the Palestinian territories. The cycle of violence continues to grow. Worrying trends include the instigation of violence by settlers, their protection by the Israeli army, the emmigration of Palestinian Christians, and the terrible economic hardships.

The delegation report will be ready for sharing and discussion at the August consultation in Geneva, where specific suggestions and key priorities for consideration will be presented. For further information please contact the WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security team.

Members of the delegation included:
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

Mr. Peter Weiderud, Church of Sweden Mission/Church of Sweden Aid - International Affairs
Mr. Uffe Gjerding, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, Danchurchaid,

Ms. Salpy Eskidjian, Armenian Apostolic Church, WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security programme executive.

10 July 2001

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