Pentecost prayer for unity and just peace, 2017 June 5
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Jerusalem, 5 June, 2017

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary
World Council of Churches

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Jerusalem is a holy city for Christians all over the world. Here the prayers and the praise to God, the one creator of all, have been offered for centuries and even for millennia. So it is also today. Followers of the three Abrahamic religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims see this as a holy city and pray here to the One Holy God.

The Holy Spirit creates our lives every day, renewing the face of the Earth, as Psalm 104 reads. The Spirit of God, “the Lord and Giver of life”, breathes into our world so that there is life in each one of us. This life is given to us through our mothers who gave us birth, and it is renewed every day as long as we live. We are created for life in fellowship and unity in our families, in our communities, in our cities, in our peoples. We are created for fellowship between the many peoples, to be together One humanity.

We cannot pray to the One God without consequences for how we relate to one another. Praying to God makes us accountable to one another as God’s creation, created in the image of God. The One God calls us to unity and to justice and peace with one another.

The Holy Spirit creates life for unity. Like at the first Pentecost, our faces, our voices, and our actions can express praise to God in a way that can create fellowship and unity. God can be worshiped in spirit and truth everywhere. That is why we pray together here – and in any place in the world.

The Spirit helps us to pray for the wounded life of our common home, the planet Earth.

The Spirit helps us to pray together to overcome fragmentation, polarization, conflict, violence and injustices.

The Spirit helps us to pray for life in unity, in just peace.

The fellowship and the unity that the disciples of Jesus Christ once experienced, getting together to pray here in Jerusalem at Pentecost, spelled a new beginning for the disciples and for the mission of the Church in the whole world. It happened to a community in fear. They lived under occupation and oppression.

The signs of the Holy Spirit described in the Pentecost story points indeed towards unity and just peace:

Languages are our means of communicating our thoughts from mouth to ears, and from heart to heart. But languages and our words can also divide us; we might not understand one another, or we might use our words to hit and hurt others. The miracle of the languages at Pentecost showed how the Spirit can make a difference in those who speak and in those who listen.

Tongues of fire is a biblical symbol of the Spirit. It shows how God can purify and clean our lives from sin, from what is wrong, what is destructive, and what creates injustice and conflict. The Holy Spirit tells the truth and helps human beings to see the truth about themselves and about God, so that repentance and real transformation can happen. The destructive and dividing, the discriminating and demonizing, can be replaced by creativity, love, care, and respect for our diversity. Unity does not mean to be or become the same as the other, and definitely not to be united by force. Unity is an expression of our life together in our diversity with respect for the dignity and the rights of the other.

The different places in Jerusalem echo the many stories of the life, the preaching, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us how these events happened here. He saw the crowds and had compassion for them. Indeed, the churches in Jerusalem still bear witness to what happened here to the whole world, through your enduring presence in the city today. This happens in your buildings, and in the house of living stones, the fellowship of Christians. We know that this fellowship is under threat from so many limitations and obstacles, and we are very worried by the shrinking numbers of Christians in this city and in this region.

Here, next to the upper room, we are reminded of the first Christian sermon of Pentecost of Peter. The story of what happened with the crucified and the resurrected Jesus Christ then became the Gospel, the good news to be shared with all those living in Jerusalem and all coming to Jerusalem, and much more: to be shared with the whole world. Jesus declares his mission when we read from the book of the prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19). Now the Spirit came upon those who should continue this mission of God in the whole world, sharing the same good news of liberation, of the possibilities of a new beginning, the new potential for fellowship, for a unity of sharing and prayer in the kingdom of God, that has come so near with its values of Justice and Peace.

Jerusalem carries the name of peace. Yet we know that the people of Jerusalem and in this area are not living in peace today. Pentecost this year comes at the same time as we here mark 50 years since the war that led to the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The occupation has not ended. It is manifest in military rule, in discrimination and violations of human rights. It is also manifest in the building of settlements and infrastructure that are against international law – making it more of colonization than mere occupation. This must end for the sake of just peace for all the peoples living here, for Palestine and for Israel.

Today, we pray for just peace so desperately needed in so many places in this region of the Middle East, and for all the peoples in other places in the world that are troubled by conflicts, violence, and war. Last week I was in the divided peninsula of Korea. Our moderator, Dr Agnes Abuom, visits South Sudan these days. From different cities of the world today we hear about war, violence, and terror attacks.

Therefore, the Church all over the world prays from our hearts for justice and peace. We are in solidarity with one another and with all who are occupied, who are suffering from their fears, from violence, from war. We pray that the Holy Spirit will fill the Church with all the gifts needed for us to seek justice and be peacemakers. So that the Church can say the truth in love. So that the Church, a fellowship reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, can share the reconciliation given to us by the Holy Spirit.

That is why we as the World Council of Churches have said so many times and say it also today: Stop it! End the occupation! End all violence! Make just peace! It is possible!

Celebrating Pentecost on the same day for all Christians this year, in collaboration with the heads of churches here in Jerusalem, we invited Christians for a common prayer today, here, or wherever you might be. Church leaders around the world have helped us to formulate the prayers we share this day. Their prayers are available at our website for all who want to read and pray with us. Together with young women and men from churches of the WCC from all continents we are here today – where the Holy Spirit came upon all flesh, young and old.

Here we pray: Come, Creator Spirit! Come, Spirit of Justice! Come, Spirit of Peace! Come, unite us, Holy Spirit! Amen.

Bethlehem International Peace Consultation
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Message by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the Bethlehem International Peace Consultation, 20 June 2017.

Geneva, June 20, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Greetings and peace from the holy city of Bethlehem, where I and 60 colleagues from churches near and far are gathered at an international peace consultation on the 10th anniversary of the Amman Call and the launch of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum. 2017 also marks 50 years since Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and other territories and 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.

As an ecumenical fellowship, we have long stood in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis crying out for a just peace in this troubled land. No people should experience occupation, no people should be denied the right to real self-determination, no state should constantly, for 50 years, violate the human rights of another people and drastically reduce the daily freedoms that so many of us take for granted. That the Palestinians have lived 50 years under occupation is a dark part of world history.

It is never too late to end occupation. It is possible to change a tragedy created by human actions to a situation of hope. And the strongest voices for hope are those who come from within, from the context which seems to be a hopeless situation.

Thus accompanying our actions this year – from prayers at Pentecost, through this international peace consultation, and to the World Week of Prayer for Peace in Palestine and Israel in September – the WCC has launched an online campaign, Seek #JusticeAndPeace in the Holy Land.

The campaign lifts up 12 profiles of peacemakers from a variety of backgrounds expressing their hopes for a just peace in the region. Accompanying the 12 profiles are “50 moments for justice and peace” which trace global Christian solidarity with the peoples of the Holy Land from 1967 to the present.

Please follow these stories and words from past and present and share the campaign on the web, Facebook and Twitter (https://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/12-faces-of-hope and #JusticeAndPeace). Contribute the statements and actions from your own churches’ witness so that we can truly express our global fellowship in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis’ longing for a just and lasting peace.

The 12 peacemakers highlighted in this campaign speak of love and dreams of life together with others in peace. This is the power that can move hearts and change history. Let us listen carefully to them. Let us be moved by their hope. Nothing is impossible for those who believe. Everything is possible if we have faith, hope and love.

For more information, please contact the WCC Communication mej@wcc-coe.org.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

General Secretary

World Council of Churches

Pastoral Letter to Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, 22 July 2017
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Geneva, July 22, 2017

Dear Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

My heart and my prayers are with you and your churches these days, and with all the peoples of faith in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

We are calling for churches around the world to pray for you these days and for a just peace for Jerusalem. We are sure that churches around the world are following you with great sympathy and with great determination that, together, we will change this situation.

Your journey in your homeland on this pilgrimage of justice and peace has been long and arduous, but you are not alone. We have been monitoring the situation in Jerusalem with deep sorrow and grave concern recognizing that violence is spiriting conflict on a contentious site for both Jews and Muslims. As a worldwide fellowship of churches, we are urging the world church body and all people of good will to unite in prayer for a just and peaceful solution in Jerusalem.

We pray and plead for both sides in this precarious situation to talk with one another and arrive at a bone fide solution for access to the Holy Site so that people of faith may worship peacefully. This is the only way forward to coexistence and the violence to cease.

Through this letter, we reaffirm our commitment to walk together with you, by endorsing your statement from 19 July, and reiterating an urgent plea for peace and dialogue between Israeli authorities and Palestinians.

The WCC is working closely with you in Jerusalem and in the wider area of the Holy Land.

Let us all be inspired and guided by the words of Saint Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, where we learn the essentiality to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

We are in solidarity with you as you continue to plea for dialogue and open access to areas free from electronic gates infringing on the rights to worship at Holy Sites.

We stand in solidarity with Muslims, Jews and Christians, and we pray that justice and peace will prevail, not only this week but in the weeks, months and years to come.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit General Secretary

World Council of Churches

On US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Together with all Christians around the world, the member churches of the World Council of Churches look to the Holy City of Jerusalem as the location of the foundational event at the origins of our faith. The WCC recognizes Jerusalem as a city of three faiths and two peoples. We also recognize the central significance and acute political, social and religious sensitivity of the status of Jerusalem in any final and sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a move that has caused grave concern in the region and the wider international community, President Trump has announced his administration’s plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such a step breaks with the longstanding international consensus, and almost seven decades of established American policy, that the status of Jerusalem remains to be settled. It also pre-empts a negotiated resolution of this most difficult issue in any final peace agreement, which must be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

The WCC shares and strongly affirms the concerns expressed by His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, that this measure will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East, will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Palestinian Muslims and Christians alike. Together with King Abdullah, we also stress that “Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and security in the world”.

The United States must play a pivotal role in encouraging and supporting constructive negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, if the moribund peace process is to be revived. But the imposition of this decision on the status of Jerusalem will only lead to more disillusionment, increased tensions, and diminished hopes. It cannot serve the interests of a just peace in the region. The World Council of Churches calls on the US Administration to reconsider its position on this key issue, and to exert its maximum efforts in promoting renewed negotiations among Israelis and Palestinians for a genuine, just and sustainable peace.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

General Secretary

World Council of Churches

 

Al-Azhar Al-Sharif International Conference on Supporting Jerusalem
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Address at the opening session by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary, World Council of Churches

Cairo, 17-18 January 2018

Mr President Abbas, Your Holinesses, Your Eminences, Excellencies, honourable participants,

I thank you, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh al-Tayyib, for the invitation to this important and very timely conference, and to address you all on behalf of the World Council of Churches, a global fellowship of 348 Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches around the world.

The global Christian fellowship that I represent shares with you – as with many others around the world – a profound and abiding love and concern for Jerusalem and for the peoples living there. In the New Testament, we read of how Jesus Christ wept over this city with love and longing. “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42)

Following Jesus’ word and example means to speak truth, to seek justice, and to be peacemakers in the world’s conflicts and controversies. The World Council of Churches therefore proclaims and seeks to live out a commitment and contribution to a just peace for Jerusalem. Our prayer is always for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) – a peace that can only be true and lasting if it is founded on justice.

We include in our membership churches with indigenous Jerusalem Christian communities whose future in their own city is terribly and imminently imperilled by the prevailing circumstances. The Palestinian people live under occupation and with the negative effects of illegal settlements. They also live with unfulfilled intentions of the international community to support a viable and just solution for Jerusalem and for all the people living in the Holy Land.

Jerusalem is regarded as a holy city and loved, genuinely and deeply loved, by all three Abrahamic faiths – Jews, Christians and Muslims. That love and profound attachment must be respected and affirmed in any solution that might be envisaged, if it is to be viable. But we must also acknowledge the human tendency to express such a profound love by seeking to possess exclusively, denying or obscuring the love and attachment of others for this place.

Alongside this we must recognize the extraordinarily complex layering of Jerusalem’s history and culture. History shows that the involvement in this region of these three religions has not brought just peace for all. That, unfortunately, is still true today.

The future of Jerusalem must be a shared one. It cannot be the exclusive possession of one faith over against the others, or of one people over against the other. Jerusalem is, and must continue to be, a city of three religions and two peoples.

The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have repeatedly and strongly affirmed this, saying in 1994:

“The experience of history teaches us that in order for Jerusalem to be a city of peace, no longer lusted after from the outside and thus a bone of contention between warring sides, it cannot belong exclusively to one people or to only one religion…”

In 2006, Jerusalem’s Christian leadership went further:

“Jerusalem, holy city, heritage of humanity, city of two peoples and three religions, has a unique character that distinguishes her from all other cities of the world … two people are the guardians of her sanctity and carry a double responsibility: to organize their lives in the city and to welcome all the ‘pilgrims’ who come from around the world.”

In 1974 the World Council of Churches affirmed strongly that Jerusalem should be “a city open to the adherents of all three religions, where they can meet and live together”, and later went further, saying in 1998 that “Jerusalem must be a shared city in terms of sovereignty and citizenship”.

In this perspective the recent announcement of the President of the United States of America to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is not taking the issue off the table but creating more serious obstacles for just peace. The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem – supported by churches worldwide – warned before the decision in an official statement that “exclusivity over the Holy City will lead to very dark realities”. It has already led to anger and sadness on the one side, and on the other encouraged proposals of even annexing the West Bank as policy.

This situation only makes it even more important and urgent that there are new initiatives to enable just peace for Jerusalem. If Jerusalem is to be the capital for two peoples, living together with equal rights, there must be a political solution with concrete ideas as to how this can happen. And if it is to be a capital for two peoples and two states, both the two states must be defined, recognized and established as real, viable and internationally recognized states within internationally recognized borders.

The 1948 UN plan for Jerusalem as a corpus separatum (separated body) under international law was never realized in practice, and any plan for the city to be formally internationalized now seems unlikely. However, no country can define unilaterally what is international law on this issue. Neither can any external country dictate what the solution should be. It has to happen through negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli authorities. This should happen with support from others in the wider international community, and especially from the other countries in the Middle East, who must now take a stronger responsibility together to help find a sustainable solution for a future of just peace for Jerusalem.

Such a vision and solution is long overdue.  It has to be pursued further what the idea of a shared Jerusalem might mean in practice for the lives of the people living there. The prolongation of conflict focused on Jerusalem continues to be a source of tension and conflict in the region and beyond. Rather than postponing the question of Jerusalem to a ‘final status’ stage, it should be considered that if the dispute around Jerusalem can be resolved this may provide impetus and energy to solve other aspects of the conflict.

As believers in one almighty God, we should explore together what it means to express the love of God in this conflict in which the three monotheistic religions and their communities are involved and affected. There will be no peace in Jerusalem unless all three religions are respected and involved in the solution. On the other hand, the situation calls upon all these three communities of faith, locally and internationally, to offer together sincere and practical contributions to the hopes and aspirations for a just peace for Jerusalem.

The time has come for all present here to develop new initiatives that can offer sustainable and lasting peace in the region. We owe this to our children and to the generations who come after.

Let us together be contributors to a just peace, not to a perpetual conflict.

WCC calls for just peace and an end to impunity in the Holy Land
WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit condemned use of excessive violence by Israeli forces against civilian protestors in Gaza during last week in which many have lost their lives or lost their loved ones, and is particularly worried that some Christians are celebrating the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem as a gift from God, despite the disruptively provocative nature of this move.

The military responses to the demonstrations in Gaza have resulted in the deaths of many people – including several children – and injuries to thousands, and the numbers are still growing. This violence and bloodshed must be condemned by the international community and must be subject to international investigation. The situation calls for a deeper understanding that lies behind these events.

The protesters are exercising their civil rights to express their objection and despair at the current situation for them as Palestinian people. The “naqba”, the catastrophe their families experienced 70 years ago, continues to cause unresolved dispossession and suffering for many Palestinians – particularly for the people of Gaza. That unarmed civilians – including children – are shot at with live ammunition, even killed, and many injured – cannot be defended legally or morally as an expression of “the right to self-defense of a state”. This must be seen as an unacceptable use of violence against people that Israel rather has a duty to respect and protect.

Jerusalem is a shared Holy City of the three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Holy Land, a comprehensive and sustainable peace must be based upon a two-state solution along internationally recognized borders.

The protest is against the unilateral US decision to move its embassy to the “undivided Jerusalem”. That action is against all relevant UN resolutions, and it has created a serious obstacle to any peaceful and just solution. The issue of Jerusalem has not been ‘taken off the table’, but remains one of the most difficult issues on the table for peace negotiations, made even more volatile by the US action.

Protests on 14 May coincided with the official transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Protests on 15 May were marking the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the naqba, or “catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted during Israel’s creation in 1948.

The World Council of Churches has consistently affirmed the long-held understanding that the status of the city of Jerusalem – which is of profound significance to and beloved of three faiths and two peoples – must be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

At a time such as this all actors – and particularly the powerful state of Israel and foreign states – must strive for a just peace, act with utmost respect for the sanctity of life and exercise restraint from all forms of violence, which will further escalate the ongoing tensions.

It is a very serious situation for the churches locally – and globally – that some Christians are thanking God for a decision that is so blatantly against international law and policy, so much undermining the peace process based on a common international understanding of the rights of both peoples to share Jerusalem as their capital, and so provocative to the occupied and oppressed people of Palestine. This should concern all who understand their religious faith as compelling them to work for reconciliation and peace.

It is deeply saddening that previous cautions that any unilateral decision about the future of Jerusalem would undermine the peace efforts in the Holy Land have gone unheeded, directly contributing to the current violence. This clearly could have been avoided. Further, we are deeply concerned about the repercussions that relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem will have on finding a lasting solution to the situation in the Holy Land.

We urge the international community to accelerate all efforts toward a just and viable solution which respects the aspirations of all the people living in the Holy Land in line with international conventions and resolutions. Even as the threat of an increasing spiral of violence looms large, we join our member churches in hope and prayer that efforts toward peace will overcome the present tragic violence and lead to a time when “swords shall be beaten to plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.”

The WCC expresses its solidarity with its member churches in the Holy Land, and will continue to accompany them in their work for reconciliation, justice and peace.

Source: www.oikoumene.org