The World Council of Churches condemns the use of deadly force by the Israeli security forces, resulting in the killing of more than twenty and the wounding of hundreds of Palestinians in Jerusalem. The manner in which the Israeli authorities have acted reflects total disregard of their obligations under international law and makes them fully responsible for this tragedy. The Council extends to the families of the victims its sincere condolence and upholds them in its prayers.
The World Council of Churches reaffirms its opposition to the continuing repressive actions of the occupying power in East Jerusalem and other OccupiedTerritories. It has repeatedly appealed to the Israeli authorities to ensure the sanctity of the Holy Places in Jerusalem and the free access to them by the adherents of the respective religions. The latest incident has to be seen as part of a deliberate policy of the Israel authorities to change the status of Jerusalem by a combination of administrative actions and force. This is a clear violation of international agreements regarding Jerusalem and a breach of international law related to territories under occupation.
The World Council of Churches expresses the hope that the United Nations Security Council will take immediate and effective steps to protect the lives and safety of the Palestinians in the OccupiedTerritories and their free access to the Holy Places. The World Council of Churches again urges the Security Council to take steps towards holding the International Peace Conference on the Middle East to deal with all out-standing issues including Jerusalem.
The World Council of Churches prays for all of the people of the Middle East and specially remembers the Muslim community in Jerusalem and its leaders. It reaffirms its readiness to stand together with all religious communities in a spirit of servanthood seeking to be faithful in one common calling to be peace-makers and reconcilers and a sign of hope for all.
Emilio Castro – General Secretary | World Council of Churches
(Aus Anlaß der Toten vom 8.10.1990)
Letter to H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, 10 October 2000.
I write to commend you for your decision to intervene personally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to assure you of the prayers of the churches joined in the World Council of Churches as you meet with the respective leaders.
We welcome Security Council resolution 1322 (2000) and its call for the immediate cessation of violence and all further acts of provocation. In adopting this resolution the Security Council speaks for the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the world. We share the call for the immediate resumption of negotiations and the need expressed for a ‘speedy and objective inquiry into the tragic events of the last few days with the aim of preventing their repetition’ to which reference is made in the resolution.
The roots of the present violence lie deep in the history of the conflictive relationship between Israelis and the Palestinians, in particular since the creation of the State of Israel, in the injustice done to the Palestinian people, and in the persistent refusal of Israel to abide by the terms of repeated demands of redress issued by the Security Council and the UN General Assembly over the past half century. History bears witness to the truth that so long as this underlying injustice persists there can be neither peace nor security for either Israel or Palestine.
Both sides have suffered from this renewed violent confrontation. But once again it is the Palestinian people, especially Palestinian youth, who pay by far the greater price in God-given life as a result of the disproportionate use of armed force by Israel.
We pray that Prime Minister Barak and President Arafat and all those caught up in the terrible, rising spiral of violence will respond to your initiative and to the appeals of governments and peoples around the world by stepping back from the brink before they and the region as a whole are cast again into the abyss of full-scale war.
This is not a time for ultimatums or threats of more violent acts of retribution, but the hour to join together in declaring a truce and days of public mourning for the victims of the violence on all sides.
As the Security Council has noted, this last wave of violent confrontation was set off by a provocative act in Jerusalem. This defies the shared belief of Christians, Jews and Muslims alike that Jerusalem is a Holy City that God intended to be a haven of peace, the symbol of harmony among the nations. As the heads of the churches in Jerusalem reminded us all on the eve of this outbreak, the Psalmist wrote, ‘The Lord will write a list of the peoples and include them all as citizens of Jerusalem.’ (Ps 87.6)
Ten days ago the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches adopted a ‘Resolution on Jerusalem Final Status Negotiations’ which reiterated our firm belief ‘that Jerusalem can be a source of peace, stability and coexistence rather than of division and conflict that destroy human dignity and hope’.
The paper prepared as background for that action said that if approached the right way, Jerusalem could be the reservoir of spiritual as well as the political refreshment that would nurture peace instead of being a poisoned well that threatens it. Jerusalem should be the engine for peace, a source of stability and coexistence, rather than a casual inheritor of the peace process, or worse: a continuing source of division and conflict.
We pray that all concerned will now draw on this source of peace and harmony, recalling the words of Christ, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs shall be called people of God.’ (Mt. 5:9)
May God bless you as you pursue the way of peace with justice for all.”
Press release Geneve:
WCC supports Kofi Annan’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In a letter sent on 10 October to United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, expressed his high appreciation for Annan’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and welcomed the UN Security Council’s call for an immediate cessation of violence and for the immediate resumption of negotiations. “This is not a time for ultimatums or threats of more violent acts of retribution, but the hour to join together in declaring a truce and days of public mourning for the victims of the violence on all sides,” Raiser stated.
While Raiser acknowledges that “both sides have suffered from this renewed violent confrontation”, he shares the Security Council’s assessment that “this last wave of violent confrontation was set off by a provocative act in Jerusalem”. “This defies the shared belief of Christians, Jews and Muslims alike that Jerusalem is a Holy City that God intended to be a haven of peace, the symbol of harmony among the nations,” Raiser said.
Letter from the General Secretary to the patriarchs and heads of Christian communities in Jerusalem, 12 December 2000.
To Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem
Your Beatitudes, Graces and Eminences,
The Officers of the World Council of Churches, meeting on the eve of the Advent Season, have once again turned their thoughts to you and all the people of Palestine. They have asked that I write you to assure you of their and the World Council of Churches’ constant prayers. I do so with a heavy heart, deeply conscious of your pain and suffering in these days when you mourn the deaths of so many of your children and friends; when Palestinians suffer the destruction of many more of their homes and pass once again through the valley of the shadow of violence and death. Nor can we ignore the victims on the Israeli side of the continuing conflict.
In my Christmas message I have pointed out that the World Council of Churches will soon launch the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches seeking reconciliation and peace. I also recalled the centuries-old unwritten rule that at Christmas a cease-fire be observed in all situations of military conflict. Here I had particularly in mind our sisters and brothers caught up in the new spiral of violence in Israel and Palestine.
Desirable as it would be, a cease-fire is clearly not enough. Our shared goal must be true peace, a peace built on the foundations of justice. Together with you, therefore, we long for justice for the Palestinian people. Just peace and an end to the vicious cycle of violence is more than an urgent political necessity. It confronts us with the call to repentance and a change of heart, the readiness to recognize the God-given dignity and the rights of the other. It was surely this transformation that the Prophet had in mind when he foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace.
In these days Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, confessing anew our faith in God who humbled himself and took on human flesh in order that we might be reconciled to God and with one another. Many will draw hope once again from the song of the Virgin Mary, praising God who “has regarded the lowly estate of his handmaiden”, and saying, his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
For two millennia Christians have turned at this time of year to the Holy Place of the manger, Bethlehem, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Many have longed once to make the pilgrimage to the manger, there to kneel down before the birthplace of the Christ child. This year especially, millions anticipated making this journey, and you have gone to great lengths to prepare hospitality for them. Tragically, the present circumstances have rendered virtually impossible such pilgrimages and even those of Christians in Palestine itself.
Nevertheless, the bonds of faith and love cannot be broken by violence and war. You are not alone in this tragic time. We and other Christians around the world will be making a pilgrimage of the heart to the manger, surrounding and sustaining you now and always in prayer.
May the hope that abounds in this time of preparations for the Holy Feast of Christmas give birth to a new day of peace and joy and prosperity for you and all who live in the land which has been forever blessed by the coming of Christ.
Yours ever in Emmanuel, Konrad Raiser – General Secretary
Letter to foreign ministers of EU countries on the eve of their meeting in Luxembourg, 12 April 2002.
I write to express appreciation for the efforts you and your European Union counterparts have undertaken recently to bring an end to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. In particular, we welcome the Joint Statement of the EU, the US, Russia and the UN on the escalating confrontation in the Middle East issued yesterday following their meeting in Madrid. At the same time, we deeply regret the slow progress made by the international community in obliging the two sides, and in particular Israel, to comply with UNSC resolutions 1397 of 12 March, 1402 of 30 March and 1403 of 4 April. As a result, hundreds more Palestinian lives have been lost and untold additional damage done to Palestinian homes, institutions and infrastructure. The cycle of violence has not been halted, claiming an unconscionable number of Israeli lives as well.
The international community bears full, continuing responsibility for the effective implementation of UN resolutions since the adoption by the UNGA of the Plan of Partition in resolution 181 of 1947. Yet it has consistently allowed the State of Israel to ignore or openly violate successive General Assembly and Security Council resolutions with virtual impunity. For the international rule of law to be universally respected, and for the decisions of the United Nations to be credible, their selective application must be avoided at all costs.
In its statement to the current session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the European Union has made its position on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and its causes clear in a way that we fully support. Now measures need urgently to be taken that translate declarations into actions to oblige compliance with the expressed will of the international community. This applies particularly to the repeated demand that Israel withdraw all its forces from Palestinian territories immediately and unconditionally. We therefore urge you to take further, decisive steps in this direction at the forthcoming meeting of EU Foreign Ministers along the lines of the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 10 April. Specifically, we urge you to consider initiatives that take account of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement that conditions “relations between parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself…on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement” and suspend this agreement until such time that Israel complies with these provisions; review all forms of military cooperation with the State of Israel including instituting a strict arms embargo; affirm the willingness of the European Union to participate in an international mission or third-party mechanism on the ground to oversee Israeli compliance with the Security Council’s demand that it withdraw immediately and completely from Palestinian territories, and Palestinian compliance with the demand to cease all further terrorist attacks against the Israeli population.
We believe that the European Union should commit itself to taking a leading role in seeking a just and sustainable peace. This should apply not only to the immediate measures recommended above, but as EU High Representative Javier Solana told the European Parliament early this week, EU states must move rapidly towards addressing and removing the causes of this and future crises by pressing for an end to occupation and the establishment of two states within guaranteed and secure borders; proposing modalities for a new negotiation framework and participating fully in its elaboration and implementation; participating fully in efforts to reconstruct the Palestinian Authority’s capacity to administer the territories under its control and to construct the Palestinian State.
We make these appeals for prompt action not as retribution against any party, but rather in the spirit of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence, that calls for non-violent means of resolving conflict and the application of restorative justice. In so doing, we echo the appeals and join with the intentions of the Heads of Christian churches and communities in Jerusalem who have consistently called for an end to violence on all sides and have offered their good offices in the interest of a durable, negotiated settlement.
Responding to the churches’ urgent appeals, the World Council of Churches has launched a campaign this year “To End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East.” In relation to this campaign, we have also established an Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel in order to manifest the active solidarity of Christians around the world with the people living in the Holy Land at this critical time. The churches of Europe have taken a significant lead in these initiatives, seeking to embody our shared hopes and aspirations for peace with justice for all the peoples in these lands where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was received as the Prince of Peace.
The European Community has taken the lead and been generous in its support for Israel and the Palestinian people in the past. In particular, it has supported Palestinian aspirations as they have struggled for their rights, to establish their own independent state, and to rebuild and develop their war-torn lives and land. Much of what they have done with your help has again been destroyed. We sincerely hope that you will face up boldly to this new challenge and prove your willingness to provide badly needed new leadership for peace and a new future. We assure you of our constant prayers and support in your efforts to that end.
We write to express our serious concern over two issues involving the State ofIsrael and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a member church of theWorld Council of Churches, and to call for your cooperation in taking urgentremedial action.The first issue concerns the right of churches to run their own affairs. The Stateof Israel is currently continuing to recognize Mr Irineos Skopelitis as GreekOrthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem despite his renunciation and dismissal from officeby the church’s highest decision-making body, the Holy Synod of the GreekOrthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. As your government is aware, when ex-Patriarch Irineos refused to accept this formal renunciation of his patriarchal statusby the body that granted it, an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Synod was heldon May 24, 2005 in Istanbul. There, the Synod of the Heads of Churches of theOrthodox Autocephalus Churches and their representatives upheld both the decisionto dismiss ex-Patriarch Irineos and the authority of the Holy Synod in Jerusalemto take that decision. Jerusalem’s Holy Synod subsequently reduced the ecclesiasticalrank of Mr Irineos Skopelitis to that of a monk.The other governments involved in the case – Jordan, the Palestinian Authority,and the Greek Government which is indirectly involved – have withdrawn theirrecognition of the ex-patriarch thereby respecting the church’s right to decideupon it’s own leadership without external interference in the exercise of that right.
The Government of Israel’s continuing refusal to recognize this decision of theGreek Orthodox Patriarchate violates the basic principle of non-interference bythe state in the affairs of the church.
We recall that this principle was also exercised early in the tenure of ex-PatriarchIrineos. When he was first elected, the State of Israel refused to recognize him aspatriarch for more than one year. Based on the same principle which is at stakenow, the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee called on the State ofIsrael to “recognize the election of His Beatitude Patriarch Irineos I as head of theGreek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem” (WCC Statement, September 2, 2002;and letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, September 4, 2002) because he hadbeen duly elected by the competent church authorities.
The second matter is related to the first. It concerns the inviolability of churchprecincts. As a result of the state’s continuing recognition of the ex-patriarch,Israeli police have been stationed in the monastery of the Greek OrthodoxPatriarchate of Jerusalem at the request of the ex-patriarch and supposedly for hisprotection. The duly-appointed church authorities have opposed this unwarrantedpresence of the police in the monastery, but without success. In an incident onJuly 13, 2004, the police stationed there allowed a group of approximately 40men forcibly to enter the precincts of the monastery and to destroy property inthe monastery. The police watched the destruction of property and allowed theintruders to stay on the premises for several hours despite the protests of the clergyin charge of the monastery.
We do not accept the claim that the police presence in the church compoundis legitimized by an invitation from ex-patriarch Irineos. It has been brought tothe attention of the Israeli authorities repeatedly that he is no longer recognizedas the patriarch by the church that exercises authority over those premises. Onthis point our concerns for recognition of church leadership and inviolability ofchurch property come together.
Police and official actions have violated church rights in this case in three ways:
by the continued non-recognition of a church decision on leadership, by maintainingan armed presence on church precincts, and by allowing unlawful conductby intruders on church property.
We note with respect that the State of Israel has pledged itself to honour thespecial legislation, covenants, orders and treaties on Jerusalem known as the statusquo, which protects the sanctity of Holy Places and the rights of churches tomanage their own affairs. Alarmed at the violation of principles to which Israelhas agreed, we call on your government to take the following steps to resolve thiscrisis:
First, in respect of the rights of churches to manage their own affairs, to withdrawrecognition of Mr Irineos as patriarch.
Second, in like manner, to recognize Metropolitan Cornelios of Petra as LocumTenens of the Patriarchate and, in due course, to recognize as patriarch whosoeverwill be duly elected by the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate ofJerusalem.
Third, in respect of the inviolability of church premises, we call on the Governmentof Israel to remove the police from the monastery of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.Similarly, we reiterate the long-held rule that if police are invited to enter anychurch, mosque or Holy Place by the legitimate religious authorities of the site,they do so without arms.
We make these requests mindful that justice must also be done in the case atthe heart of this crisis, namely, the irregular transfer of church lands in Jerusalem.
It is urgent that the competent authorities oversee the return of the land to itsproper owners – in the name of the law and in the interests of peace.
The member churches of the WCC and the churches of Jerusalem are resolvedto see Jerusalem become a shared city under the rule of laws that protect peacefor the two peoples who live there and for the three religions for whom it is holy.We look to the State of Israel to share in that resolve and to fulfill its responsibilitiesin these matters accordingly.
After your receipt of this letter we will seek an early opportunity to meet withyou about these concerns.
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia – General Secretary
Warm ecumenical greetings from the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
Thank you for your letter of July 15 to Rev. Christopher Ferguson. He haspassed on the letter to us and he has kept us informed of the crisis that has confrontedthe Patriarchate in these past months.
We have kept the Patriarchate and all faithful of your Church in Jerusalem andthe Holy Land in our thoughts and prayers during this period of travail. We appreciatethat the Holy Synod and the Brotherhood have attempted to address the crisiswithin the framework of ecclesiastical law and thus worked to avoid schismand promote the unity of the church even in the face of division and conflict. Tothis end the Patriarchate submitted their actions to the Pan-Orthodox Synodwhich ratified your actions.
When the State of Israel refused to recognize Irineos I as Patriarch in the yearsfollowing his election, the World Council of Churches called on Israel to respectthe integrity, authority and freedom of the church to choose its own leadershipand to govern church affairs without the interference of the state. Once again wefind that the State of Israel is violating this basic principle by continuing to recognizeMr Irineos as Patriarch in spite of your Church’s decision to dismiss him.
We note that the Governments of Jordan and the Palestinian National Authorityhave withdrawn their recognition of Mr Irineos Skopelitis.
Your Eminence, please be assured that the World Council of Churches standsfirmly with the Patriarchate in rejecting this unwarranted interference with thefreedom of the Church to choose her own leadership. We will raise this matterdirectly with representatives of the State of Israel and all the governments concernedin keeping with the principles we expressed previously.
We are equally concerned that the Israel police and security forces have violatedthe sanctuary of the Monastery of the Patriarchate. In keeping with the principlestated above it is up to the Church to decide who has authority within herinstitutions, churches and monasteries. The State has no right even under the pretextof an invitation by a leader who has been dismissed by the ecclesiasticalauthorities to violate the sanctity and sanctuary of the Monastery. We will raisethis matter with the Israeli authorities calling on them to respect the leadershipof the church and the sanctity and sanctuary of churches, Holy Places and monasteries.
Your Eminence, in responding to these two difficult matters we are aware thatthe current crisis confronting the Patriarchate is even more complex and toucheson other areas of historic significance. We take this opportunity to express ourconcern over the transfer of property in Jaffa Gate knowing that this land dealhas deep consequences on various levels – for the status quo of Jerusalem, for relationshipbetween Christians and Muslims, for the whole Christian community,and for the relationship between the Patriarchate and the Arab Palestinian faithful.
It also raises fresh concern for a just peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict.We have been informed of the appointment of advocates charged with annullingthe land deal and securing the property. We are of course aware of the many pressingissues facing the Patriarchate including the up-coming patriarchal elections.
Given the gravity and urgency of the situation, we would be remiss if we did notpledge our help for immediate action to annul the land deal and secure the statusquo and the future of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
We would also like to extend our hope and encouragement to you, the HolySynod, the Brotherhood and all the faithful so that God might use this crisis asan occasion for transformation and renewal for the “Living Stones” of the HolyLand and so that the Palestinian Christian community may flourish and prosperwith all God’s beloved servants. May the Patriarchate, by God’s grace, emergefrom this crisis with new strength and vision.Your Eminence, in closing allow me to reiterate the concern and prayers of theWorld Council of Churches for the well-being of the Church and the unity towhich it is called. The Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem can count on our solidarityand support.
Peace and Grace to you. Truly yours in our Lordand Saviour Jesus Christ,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia– GeneralSecretary WCC
Letter from WCC general secretary to members of the UN “Middle East quartet”
Geneva, 8 February 2006
I write this letter to you at a critical juncture in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We address your office with deep concern that all the members of the Middle East Quartet work in new ways to meet the new situation emerging from last month’s Palestinian election. The World Council of Churches would commend to you to fully exercise your responsibilities in this regard. Much now depends on how the international community under your leadership responds, given the increasingly broad and dangerous implications of this unresolved conflict for the region and much of the world.
We would like to call your attention to three features of the new situation, which present opportunities for genuine progress toward peace.
First, in an earnest exercise of democratic rights by people denied rights, a sizeable majority of the Palestinian people has expressed their will through elections adjudged by international observers as free and fair. The vote sends a democratic warning to those in the international community who hold responsibility for the long-delayed fulfilment of international obligations to the Palestinian people.
The vote also calls for greater accountability from all authorities toward the basic needs and legitimate rights of peoplePalestinians and, inseparable from their fate, Israelis. Policy now must respond. As leaders of the churches of Jerusalem put it, they extend their co-operation to the new government “for the public good and the national Palestinian aspirations together with the cause of justice and peace in a non-violent way.” We ask you to base your policies for peace on the same firm ground and to use your good offices to ensure that other parties to the conflict do likewise.
The direction in the immediate future will depend on whether the new Palestinian leadership will include the current response of the wider international community in its calculations or focus on narrower, regional perspectives.
Second, like any newly elected government, the new Palestinian Authority needs time to position and prove itself. We urge all members of the Quartet to demonstrate constructive patience as the new Authority fills positions, develops programs, re-evaluates old policies and demonstrates new intentions. Time is also needed to discover the new balance needed for negotiations.
Third, a peace process worthy of the name will require a third party that the World Council of Churches has described as “active, determined, objective and consistent”. Our position is that the Quartet is the party needed to hold Israelis and Palestinians to equitable terms and conditions. As churches that have addressed this conflict and its implications for nearly 60 years we urge you to put a high premium on even-handedness at this critical juncture in time. To do otherwise will put peace and much else at risk, in the region and beyond.
Engagement of the new Palestinian Authority is needed by virtue of its mandate to serve the public good. Obstructionist policies, such as withholding public funds, will have grave consequences. At the human level, church-related agencies that provide medical care to the Palestinian population are already warning of immediate and acute health consequences for needy people because those who control Palestinian tax monies destined for health services are withholding funds. Indiscriminate withholding of aid will have the same effect.
On a far larger scale, hasty isolation of a government that includes Hamas over aspects of the movement’s past will further exacerbate the West’s already deeply scarred relations with the people of the Muslim world. At worst, isolation and stigmatisation become a self-fulfilling prophecy that greater political and cultural conflict lie ahead. Current incidentsfuelled by exclusionist perceptions on both sidesmake this painfully clear.
Ending double standards is an essential element of progress. If respect for existing agreements is required of one side it must be required of the other. If democracy is the key to progress in the region, this democracy will have to be given a credible chance. If violence is incompatible with democracy and with peace, it is incompatible for both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities.
The World Council of Churches denounces all forms of violence against civilians. We strongly condemn attacks perpetrated by Palestinian groups against innocent civilians inside the State of Israel and by the State of Israel and its defence forces inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A signal of similar nature from the Quartet would be a sign of new balance toward the conflict and would be widely welcomed as such in many quarters.
It is urgent and timely for all parties to return to the United Nations resolutions that address the root causes of this conflict. Extremist positions have thrived in the vacuum that has developed under their non-implementation, especially because handling of peace since Oslo raised the hopes of moderate parties and then dashed them.
The international community including the Security Council and its Quartet members bear full, continuing responsibility for the effective implementation of UN resolutions242, 338, 1397 and 1515 among them. The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are pledged to end violations of the Convention that cause deprivation and suffering in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. The International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory Opinion rendered important judgements on the illegality of the barrier wall. Ignoring these legal standards serves only to prolong the conflict.
Members of the Quartet are uniquely placed to advance the work of peace. The European Union as largest donor to the Palestinian authority should set standards for the use of funds that ensure the rights, wellbeing and improved governance of the Palestinian people. We appreciate the recent signal from European Union leadership that both parties must recognise each other and negotiate without violence.
The United Nations, guarantor of the status of Jerusalem and upholder of the principles of international law, must reassess trends in that city now that an Islamic party will represent the Palestinian people. The unique shared status envisaged for Jerusalem is gravely threatened by the unilateral actions so evident there of late.
Russia has experienced the acute suffering of a population during war and, more recently, has responded to systemic changes in the political paradigm that shapes a nation’s prospects.
The United States has through its long historical involvement gained the trust of Israel. It has a particular responsibility to help Israel find lasting security within secure and recognised borders and under the rule of law. Also, it is in the best interests of each member of the Quartet to see self-determination treated as a right to which the Palestinian people aspire, not a reward controlled by their adversary.
Public opinion in parishes and other places of concern around the world are looking to your offices for wise leadership now. There is a deep weariness with schemes that bypass the basic requirements of peace and extract a heavy toll on the two peoples who share the land.
The path to peace has indeed grown more difficult with time, yet it is still discernible. We urge you to show new movement along it now. Accompany Israeli and Palestinian leaders with courage and patience in a direction that will give their people cause for hope. We send these observations to you with the conviction that new opportunities for peace are now present. We look forward to your response.
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
World Council of Churches
* Letter sent by Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia to:
H.E. Dr. Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
H.E. Mr. Javier Solana
High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union
H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
H.E. Mr. Agboola Gambari
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
UN Department of Political Affairs
H.E. Mr. James D. Wolfensohn
Middle East Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement
Letter to H.E. Mr Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority,
H.E. Mr Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel, and to the Middle East Quartet*,
30 June, 2006
* H.E. Dr Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State; H.E. Mr Javier Solana,
High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council
of the European Union; H.E. Mr Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation;
H.E. Mr Agboola Gambari, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, UN Department of Political
Affairs; H.E. Mr James D. Wolfensohn, Middle East Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement,
Your Excellencies,The World Council of Churches is deeply distressed with the current escalationof the Israel/Palestine conflict. The WCC Executive Committee meeting on19th May in Geneva was apprehensive of such a development when it said: “TheTime Is Ripe to Do What Is Right”. It called on all parties including the internationalcommunity to change course and abandon all unilateral, aggressive actionsand instead make recourse to equitable negotiations. The Executive Committeefears have now come true. The unwarranted upsurge in violence, if allowed tocontinue, will only add to untold sufferings of the Palestinian people, the primaryvictims of this ongoing conflict.The WCC, as a matter of policy, denounces and repudiates the use of violenceto resolve differences and conflicts. As advised by the leadership of the internationalcommunity, including the call by the Secretary General of the UnitedNations, Kofi Annan, for a negotiated settlement, Israel must exercise restraintto allow negotiations to work their way through. Retaliatory measures in the formof punishments that largely impact on the lives of common Palestinian peopleare not going to resolve the problem. On the contrary, this is likely to result infurther embitterment and hate.It is indeed unfortunate that the arrest of the Hamas political leaders comes atthe time when the Fatah and Hamas movements have reached an agreement ona common platform that would allow them to form a new government and movetowards a negotiated solution.We therefore, once again and with renewed urgency, call upon the internationalcommunity, especially the Quartet, and make a special appeal to the UN totake bold and novel actions to uphold international law and break the viciouscycle of violence. While we recognize that Israel has the right to ensure securityfor all its citizens, we nevertheless call on the Israeli Government to refrain fromusing excessive military force and immediately open equitable negotiations tofind a permanent solution through ending the illegal occupation and securing ajust peace. The Palestinian leadership should also continue to seek a platform forequitable negotiations and hold to the one-party ceasefire and a diplomatic solution.The kidnapped Israeli soldier and the detained Hamas political leadership mustbe released and the Operation Summer Rain stopped. Internationally guaranteedand supervised talks must begin immediately, for the sake of the people of Israeland for the sake of the Palestinian people so that the long elusive peace with justicecan prevail.Our call is born of the moral and ethical imperative to end violence and seekthe well-being of people as the God of Life urges us to do.Sincerely yours,Rev. Dr Samuel KobiaGeneral Secretary
Sent to member churches in the Middle East, Europe and North America, 21 July, 2006
Dear Member Churches in the Middle East, Europe and North America,
Greetings to you as sisters and brothers in Christ and fellow disciples of the Prince
In recent days we have all been stirred with compassion and beset with sadness
at the shedding of innocent blood in the Middle East. The people of Lebanon are
suffering violence whose scale defies comprehension; citizens of Israel fear death
from the sky; Palestinians and Iraqis mourn new losses day after day. No end to
the suffering is in sight. The earth shakes in Galilee, and nations seem to crumble
before our eyes. Ancient cries of anguish echo in our ears: Even when I cry out,
“Violence!” I am not answered. I call aloud, but there is no justice. (Job 19:7) At such a
time we must turn to God with our laments, seek comfort from each other and
offer signs of hope to neighbours in distress.
Many of us feel a mixture of fresh alarm and old frustration that so much is so
dangerously wrong in the Middle East. World leaders are troubled, too. They met
while bombs and rockets flew, yet returned home without uniting for peace. The
world watched with tired hope but saw no bold actions to save lives.
The international community’s capacity in such a crisis grows if it finds unity
around what needs to be done. Alternatives to the violence in Lebanon, Israel and
Gaza are well within its grasp, including cease-fires that end the spiral of violence,
pressure to stop attacks on innocent civilians and protection for civilians
according to international humanitarian law, support for negotiations on equitable
terms and the deployment of a multinational force capable of keeping peace.
However, instead of policies anchored in law, certain states seem bent on applying
new and dangerous remedies to well-known problems in the region. Their
leaders excuse uses of force that go well beyond the constraints of international
law. They brand enemies as terrorists’, bypass laws, courts, and juries, and mete
out punishment at will, even including assassinations from the air. Militant groups
adopt similar tactics, fuelling conflicts and spreading contempt for human lives.
In Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Israel as well as Iraq, no amount of fear and
anger can justify retaliatory targeting of homes, bombing of communities and
destruction of a nation’s infrastructure. There, as in Afghanistan, deaths, injuries
and damages inflicted through retaliation have far, far outnumbered the casualties
and damage caused by the initial attacks. Acts of terror do not give license
to wreak terror in return.
“Acts of terror are criminal acts and should be addressed by the use of instruments
of the rule of law,” the WCC Assembly said in February of this year. “Measures
to counter terrorism must be demilitarized and the concept of the war on terror’
must be firmly challenged by the churches.” The militarization of the war on
terror’ has put civilians at greatest risk. State and public security is not found in
violence but in justice, in governance and development that serves marginalized
groups, and in respect for human rights and the dignity that God has given all
As churches we are inheritors of resolute hope. Our tradition is to support those
who suffer, to assist those in need, and to advocate for those denied justice. Let
us then raise our laments to God and bring the requirements of peace to those
who have ears to hear:
First, let us join in lamenting the loss of life and destruction of homes and livelihoods;
praying for healing of those who suffer and for justice to constrain those
who would destroy; and praying for the safety and well-being of all communities
in the Middle East – Muslim, Christian, and Jewish.
Second, let us help. 500,000 people have already been uprooted by the attacks on
Lebanon, the UN reports. Gaza lives under collective punishment, incursions and
siege. Dwellings and workplaces in Israel have been destroyed. Churches and related
agencies are serving some of these needs. They need our support, and Action
by Churches Together is coordinating appeals for aid.
Third, we must speak out. Churches of the Middle East consistently ask sister
churches around the world to speak out on their behalf to parishes, the public,
their governments and to the embassies of governments most directly involved
in the Middle East – the United States, Israel, the European Union and Russia.
We commend such action to you and ask the churches to use policies that you
have set through the WCC and similar policy-making bodies. Calls to bring to
public attention include:
immediate cease-fires; protection of civilians as prescribed by law including
the Geneva Conventions;
release of all those in detention, or trial under due process of law and according
to international norms;
multilateral implementation of long-delayed UN Security Council resolutions
for peace in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,
including an urgent end to the illegal 39-year occupation that is the vortex
of the region’s violent storms.
The World Council of Churches has always held that justice among the states and
peoples of the Middle East must be based on the international rule of law and on
rigorous implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions pertaining
to the conflicts. May we continue to stand together, praying for peace with
justice to embrace all concerned. As we pray, so may we believe. And so, too, be
moved to action.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia