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  • 26.02.04

    Book review: What is wrong with suicide bombings? A Palestinian Christian perspective

    Not many readers would be in a position to confront the type of 14-year-old boy I did on a recent visit to Palestine. He said to me with pride: "My father was a martyr and my cousin was a bomber and blew up Jews in Jerusalem." Had there been time for more sustained conversation, the booklet by Dr. Naim Ateek entitled Suicide Bombers: "What is Theologically and Morally Wrong with Suicide Bombings? A Palestinian Christian Perspective" would have shown me the direction to take.

  • 23.02.04

    Executive committee reviews whole spectrum of WCC activities

    Key initiatives on inter-religious dialogue and HIV/AIDS, plans for the WCC's ninth assembly, and statements on critical international situations were some of the main areas of discussion at the WCC executive committee meeting which ended in Geneva on 20 February 2004. A special ceremony and prayer service marked the formal installation of the new WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, earlier in the week.

  • 20.02.04

    WCC demands to halt construction and dismantle Israel barrier

    The executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has issued a powerful appeal to the Israeli government demanding that they "stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"

  • 13.02.04

    EAPPI continues its work with 15 new accompaniers

    The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel welcomed 15 new ecumenical accompaniers (EAs) as it continues working with Palestinians and Israelis on peaceful solutions to the conflict. The new arrivals join six workers staying on from previous groups, bringing the total number of EAs currently on the ground to 21

  • 12.02.04

    HIV/AIDS, 2006 assembly, and public issues on WCC executive's agenda

    Two highlights at the next 17-20 February 2004 meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee will be an in-depth presentation of WCC work on HIV/AIDS, and the formal installation of the council's new general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. The committee will also review the progress of work to prepare the next WCC assembly, and consider actions on public issues

  • 9.01.04

    La Palestine, Israël et Genève: les Eglises oeuvrent pour la paix

    Séance d'information pour la presse et apéritif pour la nouvelle année

     

    mercredi 14 janvier 2004, 11h00 à 12h30

    au Centre universitaire protestant, 2, avenue du Mail, 7ème étage

     

    Le but de cette séance est de donner à la presse l'occasion d'entendre des témoignages de première main sur l'engagement des Eglises pour la paix, dans deux contextes différents. Elle est organisée par le bureau des Relations avec les Médias du Conseil oecuménique des Eglises (COE) et par le Rassemblement des Eglises et Communautés chrétiennes de Genève (RECG).

     

    Cette séance introduira à la célébration de la Semaine de Prière pour l'Unité des Chrétiens (18-25 janvier, voir invitation incluse), dont le thème cette année est « Je vous donne ma paix ». Ce thème a été proposé par des Chrétiens de différentes confessions réunis au Moyen Orient. Un apéritif pour célébrer la nouvelle année suivra la séance d'information.

     

    Les intervenants:

    Larry Fata, journaliste et enseignant catholique, originaire des Etats-Unis, parlera de son expérience en tant que bénévole du Programme d'accompagnement oecuménique du COE en Palestine et Israël. Il montrera comment des chrétiens du monde entier ont rejoint des Eglises locales, des Palestiniens et des Israëliens, dans leur engagement et leur témoignage non-violent en faveur de la paix en Terre sainte. (Interpretation en français fournie.)

     

    Evelyne Gosteli est Major de l'Armée du Salut, Directrice du « Coeur des Grottes », Foyer d'accueil pour femmes seules ou avec enfants en situation de précarité. Elle montrera comment des chrétiens se révèlent des messagers de paix dans la société contemporaine marquée par la violence, notamment conjugale et familiale.

     

    Louis Christiaens, prêtre jésuite et président du Rassemblement des Eglises et Communautés chrétiennes de Genève, décrira l'oeuvre pastorale des Eglises locales.

     

     

     

    —---------------

     

    INVITATION

     

    Semaine de prière pour l'Unité des Chrétiens 2004

     

    Le Rassemblement des Eglises et Communautés chrétiennes de Genève (RECG) et le Conseil oecuménique des Eglises (COE) vous invitent à une rencontre de réflexion et de prière sur le thème: "Je vous donne ma paix " (Jean 14,27).

     

    Dans l'esprit de la décennie lancée par le COE "Vaincre la violence : les églises en quête de réconciliation et de paix", l'occasion est donnée aux Chrétiens de Genève de s'accueillir dans la diversité de leurs traditions et de prier ensemble Celui qui est " notre paix " (Ephésiens 2, 14).

     

    Cette rencontre oecuménique nous permettra de mieux nous connaître grâce à une présentation des Eglises et Communautés chrétiennes de Genève dans le hall d'accueil du COE et lors d'un partage fraternel sur nos désirs personnels de paix là où nous vivons.

     

    Un temps commun de prière pour la paix dans le monde ouvrira nos coeurs au trésor de notre héritage commun : le Christ Jésus, Fils de Dieu, notre Père.

     

    Dimanche 18 janvier 2004, 15h00-18h00

    Conseil oecuménique des Eglises

    150, route de Ferney, Genève

    Bus n°5 (TPG) et parking du COE

     

    15h00 : Accueil, café, exposition

    16h00 : Tables rondes

    17h30 : Prière commune

     

     

    Père Louis Christiaens, s.j.

    Président du Comité du RECG

    52, avenue de la Roseraie

    CH – 1205 Genève

    Tél. Fax. (41-22) 731 28 09

    louischristiaens@hotmail.com

  • 17.11.03

    EAPPI welcomes largest group of volunteers

    Cf. WCC Press Release pr-03-34 of 10 November 2003

    Cf. WCC Press Update pu-03-35 of 12 September 2003

     

    Contact in Jerusalem: +972 (0) 67 379 766

     

     

    With the arrival of 21 new ecumenical accompaniers, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) continues to grow. The previous team of accompaniers numbered 19, so this is the largest group since the programme began 15 months ago; the 21 new arrivals will complement 10 volunteers who are staying on for longer terms of service.

     

    EAPPI works with Palestinians and Israelis who are seeking an end to the occupation through non-violent means, and a just solution to the long conflict. Ecumenical accompaniers work with local churches, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, as well as Palestinian communities in various capacities to try to reduce the brutality of the occupation and improve the daily lives of both peoples.

     

    The current team of accompaniers comes from six countries including, for the first time, a volunteer from New Zealand. Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States continue to be represented. The 14 women and seven men range in age from 24 to 72 years. The minimum term of service will be three months.

     

    The current group will work in various sites. Eight accompaniers will go to the West Bank Palestinian villages of Jayyous and Yanoun, continuing the work of previous teams. Five have been assigned to the "Israel Team", a group formed in September to work with Israeli peace and justice organizations. Three accompaniers will be working with the Lutheran Church and school, and refugee camps in Ramallah. Four will be in a new placement in Sawahreh, a village split between East Jerusalem and the West Bank and threatened by the continued construction of Israel’s "separation fence" or wall. Two will be working in Hebron, accompanying children going to school and monitoring the human rights situation.

     

    Since the programme was launched in August 2002, 80 ecumenical accompaniers have participated from more than 30 churches and ecumenical partners in nine countries: Canada, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

     

    For more information on the EAPPI: www.eappi.org

     

    The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was launched in August 2002. Ecumenical accompaniers monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offer protection through non-violent presence, engage in public policy advocacy, and stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation. The programme is co-ordinated by the World Council of Churches.

     

     

  • 13.11.03

    Panelists at odds over role of international law in Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts

    Cf. WCC Press Update PU-03-42 of 11 November 2003

    Cf. WCC Press Release PR-03-33 of 6 November 2003

     

     

    Media contact in New York: Jeffrey Penn, Mobile +1 646 265 0405

    Free high-resolution photos available - see below

     

    Despite their longstanding efforts to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, two experts clashed sharply over the role of international law in the peace process at an 11 November public forum entitled, “Peace and international law in Israel and Palestine: assessing the paths to peace.” The forum was part of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) International Affairs and Advocacy Week in New York.

     

    “The situation in the Middle East is a sad and vicious cycle of actions and reactions, retaliation and revenge,” said Avraam Burg, a member of the Labour Party and former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, and a participant in negotiations between Israeli opposition leaders and Palestinians leading to an October 2003 draft peace agreement known as the Geneva Accord. Burg asserted that peace would only succeed if peace negotiators focus directly on the practical concerns of ordinary citizens, rather than “theoretical” international norms.

     

    “The principal flaw in the Oslo peace process - and the problem with the Geneva Accord - is that both exclude the relevance of international law from the process,” said Richard Falk, Milbank professor of international law emeritus at Princeton University and visiting distinguished professor, Global Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara.

     

    Falk argued that both processes were flawed, since both sought to strike a bargain between unequal parties. “The fundamental defect of Oslo was that it incorporated a geopolitical inequity into a so-called peace process,” since it sought to “bargain between two sides of unequal capacities,” Falk added. “And the mediator of the conflict - the United States - was aligned with the stronger party in the negotiations.”

     

    The realm of possibility

    In opening remarks that framed the discussion, Salpy Eskidjian, WCC programme executive for the Middle East, expressed a sense of urgency in the situation. “In the midst of deadly violence in the Palestinian occupied territories and Israel, despair and humiliation, fear and frustration, the Palestinians and the Israelis as well as the international community are trying to find acceptable, just, sustainable ways of sharing the land and sharing the peace,” she said. “Our task is to bring the impossible into the realm of possibility.”

     

    “We must overcome the biblical mentality of ‘an eye for an eye” and end the tribal disputes at the root of the conflict,” Burg said. He argued that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “is much more than a squabble over a piece of land,” and hence, he said, any resolution of the matter “will have to be more than a real estate deal.”

     

    Instead, Burg suggested that the root of the conflict “is much deeper, originating at the level of symbols and icons”. If peace negotiators do not explore the deeper symbolic roots of the conflict, “they will remain on a collision course,” he said.

     

    Much of the conflict, Burg asserted, is fuelled by “the clash between the holocaust and colonialism” still lingering in the politics of the Middle East. He also argued that international law has a transitory quality - not unlike when new legislators often change old laws.

     

    Compromise on both sides

    In his review of the process leading to the Geneva Accord, Burg said that both sides have to relinquish some cherished symbols: for the Israelis, control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; for the Palestinians, the notion of the “right of return”. Both sides, said Burg, have painfully agreed to this “transfer” of symbols. The only peaceful way forward, he continued, “is for a change in mindsets based on mutual respect, and the will to compromise on both sides.”

     

    According to Burg, many practitioners of religion in the 21st century have hardened their positions, revealing an image of God who is “stubborn, tough, and angry”. He argued that fruitful dialogue must confront such religious intolerance. Yet, Burg argued, “Any analysis of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a clash between Judeo-Christianity and Islam is shallow and superficial.” Instead, Burg contended, the real clash exists between “democratic societies and theocratic ones”.

     

    A genuine equality

    When Palestinians ultimately rejected peace proposals, they were unfairly blamed for the failure to reach an agreement, Falk said. “If the process doesn’t produce a vision of equality, then the weaker side is forced to swallow an unfair bargain.” “The real failure of the Palestinian leadership,” he continued, “was that it did not offer an alternative vision of what real peace would consist of.”

     

    Falk also rejected Burg’s contention that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict represents a clash between theocracy and democracy. “Democracies should not be uncritically confirmed,” Falk argued. “Democracies are no better or worse than the political cultures in which they exist.”

     

    In the end, Falk said, the choice is between “a geopolitical process that seeks to bargain between two unequal sides, and one that acknowledges the principles of international law.”

     

    According to Falk, the only genuine way to secure a peace is to appeal to the perspective of international law on all critical issues - including settlements, water rights, and the occupation - even though such an appeal might appear to favour Palestinians.

     

    Without appealing to international norms, Falk fears that any peace process that is based on the inequities - including the Geneva Accord - will lead to unrealistic expectations, distortions, and eventually disappointment on both sides.

     

    Reconciled neighbours, secure borders

    “The best and most secure borders rely not on the accumulation of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction, or of spying, but in the existence of reconciled neighbours,” said Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, who is a Palestinian Christian and a citizen of Israel.

     

    Describing both the Oslo and Geneva processes as “steps in the right direction”, El-Assal endorsed the appeal to international law, and added that any successful process must “address the root causes of suffering”. The bishop also expressed support for a two-state solution, “and eventually perhaps a federation or confederation of two states with open borders”.

     

    “Jews and Palestinians have so much in common,” El-Assal said. “We have lived side by side for so many years, and both communities have a sense of living in the Diaspora,” he said. El-Assal urged people on all sides of the conflict to “stop being ready to die for your cause, and start living for peace and justice”.

     

    In response to a question from the audience, the bishop was especially critical of the current construction of a wall between Israel and the occupied territories. He called on the international community “to address the issue of the wall”.

     

    “This is not an era for erecting barriers, but for breaking down barriers,” he said.

     

    Free high-resolution photos from the WCC New York Advocacy Week are available on our website: www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/churchcenter-ny.html

     

    The complete programme of public seminars of the Advocacy Week and biodata about the key speakers are available at:

    www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/press_corner/advocacyweek-prog.html

     

     

  • 10.11.03

    EAPPI launches new website at www.eappi.org

    Contact in Jerusalem: +972 (0) 67 379 766

     

     

    The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is launching its redesigned Internet web site at www.eappi.org on 10 November 2003.

     

    The new site gives EAPPI – which is an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) – a distinctive identity as the programme continues in its second year of operations. It contains all the latest news and reports from the ecumenical accompaniers as well as information about the programme in new “user-friendly” pages.

     

    The new site contains an overview of the programme, reports and reflections from the accompaniers dating back to last year, WCC press releases and news features, WCC policy documents related to the situation in Palestine and Israel, information about how to make donations, as well as directions on how to become an ecumenical accompanier.

     

    In the future, the site will also contain information in Arabic and Hebrew as well as French, German and Spanish.

     

    ---

     

    The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was launched in August 2002. Ecumenical accompaniers monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offer protection through non-violent presence, engage in public policy advocacy, and stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation. The programme is co-ordinated by the World Council of Churches.