Prayers, advocacy and action need to continue so Israelis and Palestinians can exist side by side, and live in peace, wrote World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in a letter to WCC member churches this week.
The World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel (WWPPI), an annual event, will be observed this year beginning on 18 September. Churches throughout the world will join in prayer for the sake of peace based on justice for the peoples of Israel and Palestine. The theme for this year’s WWPPI is “Dismantling Barriers.”
The region is still marked by lack of peace, occupation, violence in many forms, violations of human rights and lack of trust and confidence between two peoples and three religions, noted Tveit.
“In the Israeli-Palestinian context, references to barriers bring up images of the separation barrier dividing Israelis from Palestinians and many Palestinians from their families, farms, and communities,” he wrote. “It is a tragic monument of failures to establish a just peace.”
The WWPPI will focus not only on the separation barrier but on many barriers between Israel and Palestine: barriers of mistrust and hostility; barriers of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; and barriers of self-centeredness and entitlement, reflected Tveit. “Many member churches of the WCC have made peace with justice in Israel and Palestine a matter of our highest concern and of our prayers,” he wrote. “The global church effort to promote awareness and advocacy informed by the perspectives of Christians in Palestine and Israel is growing.”
WCC and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) held a joint consultation on the Holy Land on 12-14 September in Virginia (USA). A joint statement issued by the WCC and NCC called for the cycle of violence to be broken. “We call for an end to the occupation and the illegal extension of settlements on occupied land, with all its grave and deteriorating dimensions for the Palestinian people, but also for Israel and the whole region beyond,” the statement read. “We ask for full respect and protection of human rights defenders, for the rights to tell the truth, to express concern, and to take democratic, non-violent actions for justice and peace.”