Open letter from the WCC General Secretary on EAPPI's 10th anniversary
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I gladly welcome the opportunity to issue these greetings at the time when the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel commemorates its 10th anniversary.
In an appeal on November 9, 2000, in the midst of much suffering and violence, the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem – the leaders of all thirteen Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations in Jerusalem – called on the world Christian community to stand in solidarity with the churches and people in Palestine.
In response to that appeal, the World Council of Churches' Central Committee, meeting 29 January - 6 February 2001, called on its member churches to increase their efforts to condemn injustice and all forms of discrimination, to end Israeli occupation, to pray for and promote a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East. Furthermore, the WCC Executive Committee meeting of September 2001 recommended the development "of an accompaniment program that would include an international ecumenical presence"; and which would also be closely linked to the local churches.
The first group of Ecumenical Accompaniers went to Palestine and Israel in the summer of 2002. Ten years later, over 1.000 Ecumenical Accompaniers from 25 countries have served with the program, calling the attention of churches and society at large on a prevailing pattern of discrimination, routine humiliation, segregation and exclusion that prevents the realization of peace and justice in the Holy Land.
The EAPPI has been a channel for our churches around the world to be part of a common pilgrimage with Palestinian Christians in their search for peace and justice. It has been a means to respond to the crucial questions raised by them: “We ask our sister Churches not to offer a theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer, for the sin of the occupation imposed upon us. Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?” (Kairos Palestine 6.1)
A significant number of WCC member churches are participating in this ecumenical endeavor. I believe that one particular way of experiencing the unity of the church is exactly the signs I see of sharing the willingness to carry the cross of Christ as a protest against injustice and as a humble sign pointing to the grace and new life in Christ.
EAPPI has a unique role in giving access for ordinary people to be directly informed about the realities of this conflict on the ground, but also to make a contribution to the people affected by the conflict through accompaniment, observation and reporting of what they experience. This is a genuine WCC program for just peace, involving churches and ecumenical partners, providing new insight and understanding, offering expressions of fellowship and solidarity, mobilizing for peace for all peoples affected by addressing injustices. The reality speaks for itself, no propaganda or caricatures are needed from our side. The accompaniers see what really happens, for some of them something new, for others a deeper understanding of what they knew.
By being present in those areas where human rights are trampled, Ecumenical Accompaniers have made themselves vulnerable and exposed to danger in a way that some may have thought foolish. But we know that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (I Corinthians 1, 27)
Dear brother and sisters,
Ten years after, we reaffirm that negotiating a just peace under the rule of law is the strongest option for ensuring the well-being and security of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. This is the core of World Council of Churches policy toward the conflict. It is a conviction that has grown as 45 years of illegal occupation of Palestinian territory has claimed lives, distorted the rights of both peoples and deepened the conflict between them. It remains an imperative to implement principles of international legitimacy by enforcing the binding UN resolutions as an indispensable prerequisite for long-lasting peace.
We thank all who have been and are involved in the program for your great contribution to a just peace and urge you to continue to soberly and properly illuminate the reflections and debates about this conflict in your home contexts, in the churches and in public.
We dream of the day when Ecumenical Accompaniers won’t come to the Holy Land to protect, but to serve as bridges of reconciliation. Until that time comes, be sure of the unwavering support and prayers of the World Council of Churches.
Yours in Christ’s love,
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches