In Jerusalem and around the world, a week of church action for Middle East Peace begins

In Jerusalem and around the world, a week of church action for Middle East Peace begins

World Council of Churches launches a worldwide week of action for peace in the Middle East.

Today in Jerusalem, at the launch of a worldwide week of action for peace in Israel and Palestine, different churches have come together for an ecumenical service giving thanks for “every church and parish around the world that is praying with us this day for peace”.

In dozens of countries, 4-10 June 2008, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox parishes will join them in praying for a land “much in need of peace”. They are using a prayer from the heads of churches in Jerusalem that asks for political leaders “courageous enough to sign a treaty […] that puts an end to the occupation imposed by one people on another, granting freedom to Palestinians, giving security to Israelis and freeing us all from fear.”

Meanwhile, an array of wishes and prayers is arriving in Bethlehem for use during the week. These signs of support have been sent from 16 countries so far including Cuba, Bangladesh and New Zealand. Some will be read aloud at a ceremony on June 8 in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, where a ‘Living Clock’ will commemorate the 60 years that Palestinians have lived uprooted and as refugees.

Participants in the action week are urging national leaders to play a more active role in promoting a just resolution of the conflict. Churches are speaking to foreign ministries and parliamentarians in places like Australia, Hungary, Scotland and South Africa. In Norway the foreign minister and a Palestinian church leader will address a multi-religious peace service.

Raising church and public awareness about the Israel-Palestine conflict is a major aspect of the week. A mission society in Germany has invited 23 partner churches in ten countries to take part, reaching out as far as Ghana and Japan. The Church of Ceylon is working to educate its parishes. Young people in the Philippines will debate and sing peace songs at a youth café. Church groups in the Netherlands are sponsoring intercultural concerts, inter-religious seminars and international documentaries to air different points of view about the need for peace.

Participants tell the World Council of Churches, which is convening the initiative, that they welcome the opportunity to act together after so many years of growing concern at the course of events. They stress that justice must be done for the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis, a theme echoed in the week’s message.

Action week activities are reported so far in 23 countries, plus the Pax Christi network and World Vision International. The initiative is known as ‘International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel, 4-10 June 2008‘. The Jerusalem prayer and message have been distributed to parishes and individuals in up to 100 countries. Resources are available in German, French and Spanish from the WCC, and Arabic, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and Italian from national participants.

International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel: