The Work of the World Council of Churches in Jerusalem
By: Yusef Daher – Coordinator of the WCC Jerusalem Liaison Office*
The World Council of Churches’ Jerusalem-based programs include the very successful Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel (WCC-EAPPI) which was created in 2002, based on a letter and an appeal from local church leaders to create an international presence in the country. EAPPI is a continuous presence of 25-30 Ecumenical Accompaniers on the ground who serve for three months in accompanying, offering protective presence, and witness. There are now almost 2000 former Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), of whom many keep involved and interested in working towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel. These former EAs have served, lived and accompanied communities in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, North West Bank and the Jordan Valley throughout these years. This has meant monitoring checkpoints, accompanying children to school in front of a settlement, or accompanying field owners and shepherds to their lands within closed military zones or behind the separation barrier.
Each year World Council of Churches invites member churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations around the world to join together for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness. This yearly activity is called the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel -WWPPI. This year’s theme is based on the theology of “No place to lay my head!!”; It is more of a challenge than a question. A challenge for Palestinian families as well as other people facing difficulties in uniting at home. Under this theme, we anticipate not only stories of pain but also stories of resilience in finding solutions. The right of “home” for every family should be sacred. Home is, after all where, the family lay their heads in security and in Peace.
In the recent two years since the establishment of the JLO and now with the new far right-wing Israeli government, the Church leaders in Jerusalem have issued not less than 12 statements warning and complaining about the increase in the number and types of attacks on Christians and churches by Israeli extremists. Israeli settler organizations are trying to manipulate acquiring church property in the heart of Jerusalem; some other groups are desecrating and destroying church properties. Israeli authorities limit access to holy sites and put out plans to change the identity of the city to an exclusively Jewish one, with no respect to the inhabitants of other religions. JLO advocates the Churches positions in this respect at media and international levels. During its 11th General Assembly, the World Council of Churches invited all member Churches and partners to study seriously other logical and holistic solutions to the long struggle for freedom, equality, and justice in Palestine Israel since the two-states solution has became (to many) a closed window. Some local voices are saying that we once lived together on this land as Muslims, Christians, and Jews: why can’t we live again as equals under one democracy for all, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, on the land Holy to us all?
Let us pray:
Malachi 2:10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?
Indeed Father of us all, open our eyes and hearts so we can rebuild a new Jerusalem where every one of your children feels equally safe, free, and at home.
Sisters and Brothers, please consider this as an invitation to pursue with us in the holy land such a solution.
*Note: After 15 years of being called the Jerusalem Inter-church Center, the office has undergone an evaluation and restructuring processes. The Jerusalem Liaison Office of the World Council of Churches – JLO (established July 2021) aims to bring more coherence and efficiency to the WCC Jerusalem-based programmatic work while maintaining commitment towards justice and peace and strengthening ownership by local churches and communities. To stay posted on the work of the JLO, or to tune into their future events, keep an eye on their Facebook page! If you are interested in volunteering with EAPPI, you can direct requests for application forms, and any questions, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the contact form, here.
Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).