The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed deep concern over the renewed wave of violence in Jerusalem. In a letter to WCC member churches in Palestine and Israel issued October 19, he expressed solidarity with the churches and peoples of the land, affirming the WCC’s commitment to justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.
“We are following with increasing dismay events throughout the region and especially in the Holy City of Jerusalem, which we hold in our hearts and prayers as an open city of two peoples [Israelis and Palestinians] and three faiths [Judaism, Christianity and Islam],” wrote Tveit.
“We continue to work and pray for a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, promoting respect for the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem as an important contribution to reducing current tensions.”
Tveit went on to say, “As Christians, we must all seek an end to violence against any of God’s children, just as we seek an end to occupation and the injustices that present such formidable obstacles to peace in Israel and Palestine.”
“Violent attacks are an unacceptable and counter-productive means of seeking justice. Proportional security measures and the rule of law are the appropriate instruments for responding to such attacks, not extra-judicial killings,” he added.
“The WCC stands firmly with Christians in the Holy Land in our conviction that the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories must be brought to an end—not as a pre-condition for an end to violence, but as an essential foundation for any long-term, sustainable and just peace in the region,” Tveit stressed.
With the vision of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace” as promoted by the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013 at Busan, Tveit promised the member churches, “we are committed to moving together with you on this difficult path.” The primary focus of the “pilgrimage of justice and peace” for 2016 will be the Middle East, with an emphasis on Israel and Palestine.
During the international conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East” held October 19 in Athens, Greece, Tviet added that the WCC is particularly concerned about the presence and witness of Christians in the Middle East. “Today, their very existence is threatened, and with it the whole rich diversity of the region,” he said. “It is time for working and walking together in Christian unity.”
The international conference, held through an initiative of the Greek foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, focused on critical issues related to the Middle East, exploring the best ways to protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of religious and cultural communities in the region, with a view toward promoting peaceful co-existence in conditions of dignity and mutual understanding.
WCC calls for prayers so that “wall will fall” between Israelis and Palestinians (WCC news release of 18 September 2015)