Church Leaders Call for Ending Illegal Occupation of Palestinian Territories

Fri, 06/22/2007

By Linda Hindi

AMMAN — Church leaders representing 550 million Christians worldwide on Wednesday announced their “Amman Call,” which “defiantly rejects” the possibility that the occupation of Palestinian territories will continue.

More than 130 participants attending the World Council of Churches (WCC) three-day international peace conference endorsed the central committee’s decision to launch the “Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum”.

The forum will “catalyse and coordinate new and existing church advocacy for peace, aimed at ending the illegal occupation in accordance with UN resolutions, and demonstrate its commitment to inter-religious action for peace and justice that serves all the peoples of the region,” according to a statement issued by the WCC.

“Churches have woken up to the issues in the Middle East like never been before. Another time we woke up is when we fought apartheid in Africa, this is another apartheid,” WCC General Secretary Reverend Samuel Kobia told The Jordan Times.

“The WCC core group will reconvene before late September to begin making appeals for immediate action… I think we will start to see direct or indirect changes in the coming months… in the next two years we want to be able to say that the big changes are the fruits of our labour,” he added.

The WCC brings together more than 340 churches, denominations and church fellowships in over 100 countries and territories throughout the world, representing some 550 million Christians.

In their “urgent plea,” which stresses that UN resolutions are the basis for peace, the church clerics and affiliated associations vowed to take action as a united front.

“Enough is enough. No more words without deeds. It is time for action,” the statement said.

Bishop Munib Younan, who heads the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Jerusalem, told The Jordan Times that the conference “sends a strong message to people living in Palestine who are feeling alone… this tells them that they are not abandoned, that we will work together to preserve Arab Christianity in the entire Middle East.”

The bishop noted that the WCC is looking for justice and peace and speaking with a free conscience not affiliated with international community,” Younan said.

Following the closing session of the conference yesterday, participants visited the Baptism Site on the banks of the Jordan River, also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

The church leaders, who brought soil from six continents, planted an olive tree given by Christians in Palestine as a symbolic launch of their new international efforts.

“It will draw nourishment from the earth we have brought from our homes. It will be watered from the river in which Christ was baptised. It will grow into a symbol of peace, and in due season, it will bear good fruit,” the WCC general secretary said.

Amman call

The WCC joint statement includes:

Challenges:

• Raise your voices along with ours as we speak “truth to power” and name with courage the injustices we see and experience. The illegal occupation has stolen two generations of lives in this tortured place, and threatens the next with hopelessness and rage.

• Risk the curses and abuse that will be aimed at you and stand in solidarity with us and with our Palestinian brothers and sisters of all faiths as we defiantly reject the possibility that occupation will continue.
• Insist with us that all dispossessed peoples, all refugees, have the right to return.

• Together we will act and pray and speak and work and risk reputations and lives to build with you bridges for an enduring peace among the peoples of this tortured and beautiful place — Palestine and Israel — to end these decades of injustice, humiliation and insecurity, to end the decades of living as refugees and under occupation. Time has not served the cause of peace but has served the cause of extremism.

• Partner with us as we seek peace and pursue it. Peace is possible. Christians and Muslims and Jews have, can and will understand one another and live together as neighbours.

Imperatives:

• Jerusalem must be an open, accessible, inclusive and shared city for the two peoples and three religions.

• UN resolutions are the basis for peace and the Geneva conventions are applicable to the rights and responsibilities of the affected people.

• Palestinians have the right of self-determination and the right of return.
• The Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal, and constitute an obstacle to peace.

• The “Separation Barrier” constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is a grave breach of international law and must be removed from occupied territory.

Peace building measures:

• Furthering theological and biblical perspectives and Christian education resources around those issues central to the conflict.

• Defining and promoting measures, including economic ones, that could help end the occupation and enhance sustainable growth and development.

• Developing strategies that will support the processes of justice and reconciliation, including inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
• The Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal, and constitute an obstacle to peace.

• The “Separation Barrier” constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is a grave breach of international law and must be removed from occupied territory.