Churches call for end to occupation of Palestinian territories
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On Sunday, 3 June, in an ecumenical service held in Jerusalem's St. Stephens Church to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, church leaders called for an end to 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and emphasized the church's commitment to non-violence in the service of peace.
The service was part of the International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel (ICAPPI), an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) involving churches worldwide during a week from 3-9 June. Participants at the service - from community-related organizations and the Jerusalem Coalition for Civil Society - included Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
In his address, Catholic Archbishop Fuad Twal spoke of insecurity, instability and the absence of peace over the past four decades. Killings, house demolitions, putting people in prison were among the many aspects of the occupation, where the "language of force and violence prevailed," he said.
Stating that "our refusal of the use of violence is in defence of the dignity of all and according to the gospel and the holy books," Twal's message was clear: "Enough!" killing and violence, "Enough!" violence and domination.
The archbishop also described how the churches have been affected: "Closed borders have separated our faithful. Many have left the land, diminishing the size of the Christian community." The church message is "Our land needs you," he emphasized.
In spite of all the difficulties and trauma, today's message, according to Twal, is one of hope: "Human beings are capable of destruction, but also of leading the way to real peace." Thus, he called for reconciliation so that all may live in dignity and security and so that the present generation may build a better future.
At the end of the service, all 120 participants joined in launching the ICAPPI week by praying for God's help to end the occupation "not by revenge, not by hatred," but through seeing God "in each other as Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims". They also prayed to accept "each others' humanity whilst mutually recognizing each others' religious, civil, political, and national rights."
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