Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Amman conference: Churches together for peace and justice in the Middle East

World Council of Churches - Update

For immediate release - June 19, 2007


Doing justice to the Palestinian people would bring about security for Israel, while delaying the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories feeds extremism and terrorism, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah told participants at a church conference for peace in the Middle East yesterday.

Convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and attended by over 130 participants representing churches and Christian organizations from six continents, the conference "Churches together for peace and justice in the Middle East" is being held 18-20 June in Amman, Jordan.

Speaking on behalf of the heads of churches in Jerusalem, Sabbah affirmed that "occupation means violence, Israeli and Palestinian, killing and hatred". According to him, while "justice must be done to the Palestinian people," it is "human dignity that must be restored to those who kill and to those who are killed". Both occupier and occupied, he said, "are in the wrong inhuman position of harming or being harmed". In both cases, they "need to be saved".

At the same session, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III described the features of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as "violence, aggression, hatred and bigotry, which produce unrest and insecurity". However, "the conflict and hatred can be turned into durable and just peace," he said. With this goal in mind, Theophilos affirmed "the great importance attached to the involvement of the churches of Christ from all over the world".

Those churches "are waking up" WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia said in the opening address of the conference. They "are impatient to see the end of the occupation and eager for real progress toward peace." And so they are called to "mobilize the larger ecumenical family around the imperative of a just peace".

For this to happen, the members of the ecumenical family need to overcome the "luxury of disunity" in which they have lived regarding the "root causes of the conflict" as well as the "kind of solidarity" that is required. "We must engage each other theologically and ethically," Kobia said, in addressing both the "real concerns about growing anti-Semitism" and the "urgent need to end the occupation".

In a time when bold prophetic witness and action are needed, the specific Christian contribution consists in "bringing spiritual, theological and ethical perspectives to bear on the conflict," Kobia said. While it is necessary to measure "all peace proposals against the precepts of biblical justice," today the "best approximation" to them appears to be "compliance with the relevant international laws".

Beyond "passive concern," churches are called to a "costly solidarity" with the Palestinian Christian community. "If Christians were to disappear as effective witnesses within Arab societies, their unique contribution towards open and democratic states would be lost."

The concern for the diminishing Christian community in Middle East was shared by Middle East Council of Churches general secretary Mr Guirguis Saleh. Christian migration from the region "is a serious issue, as it affects Christian presence in a significant way," Saleh told participants in his welcome address.

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum, which will be launched on the final day of the conference, aims to be a "new opportunity for coordination and collaboration," Kobia explained, as well as an "open, permanent and urgent invitation to the widest possible circle of ecumenical partners to move forward in new ways".

Media contacts in Amman:
Juan Michel +41-79-507-6363
Wafa Goussous +962-795-52-90-68

The text of Kobia's conference opening speech is available at:

See WCC press release of 12 June 2007 on Amman conference on "Churches
together for Peace with Justice in the Middle East" at: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/all-news-english/display-single-english-news/article/1637/churches-to-gather-for-in-1.html

More information on the WCC and Palestine/Israel is available at:

Website of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel
(EAPPI): http://www.eappi.org

This material may be reprinted freely.

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 347 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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