WCC calls for just peace and an end to impunity in the Holy Land

Posted May 16, 2018

[World Council of Churches] World Council of Churches 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 U.S. 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 U.S. decision to move its embassy to the “undivided Jerusalem.” That action is against all relevant U.N. 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 U.S. action.

Protests on May 14 coincided with the official transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Protests on May 15 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 U.S. 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.


Comments (6)

  1. Vicki Gray says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the thrust of this statement precipitated by Monday’s massacre, but would reorder the final sentence. We must seek, in their proper order, justice, reconciliation, and peace. Only after the first two goals have been achieved can there be true peace, not the silence of despair that again shrouds Gaza, but the positive peace of Shalom that rests on justice and shared abundance.

  2. PJ Cabbiness says:

    The WCC continues to misreport the facts regarding this issue while continuing to be a consistent source of anti Semitic propaganda. Shame on them. I respectfully request that the rank and file members of our Episcopal denomination take a stand against the ever increasing anti Semitic drift of our leadership.

  3. Joe Prasad says:

    PJ – what the facts that are being wrongly reported by the WCC? Will help me in understanding the Episcopal position.

  4. mike geibel says:

    “The protesters are exercising their civil rights to express their objection and despair at the current situation for them as Palestinian people” The problem is reporting by both sides is untrustworthy. I read reports that.Protesters threw pipe bombs and other explosives at Israeli soldiers.

    The statement is clearly anti-Israel and assumes a failed peace strategy is the only solution–“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.” This condemnation of Christians who support Israel is insulting.

    ‘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 U.S. action.” Condemnation of the U.S. will not foster peace negotiations.”

    I don’t pretend to know or understand any grand strategy for peace in the Middle East or even whether peace is achievable. It surely does not appear that the “two-State” concept and that political declarations or denouncements of Israelis or the U.S will do anything but cause more violence and loss of life. By taking sides on a political dispute, the church leaders only embolden Hamas.

    The President’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish State’s capitol is only controversial because the world has been pretending that Jerusalem is not the capitol of Israel for decades. The U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the Capitol of Israel in 1995, twenty-three years ago. The failure to move the U.S. Embassy there was based upon the illusion that peace between Palestinians and Israel requires that Jerusalem be an international city and cannot be the capital of one country or people. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis ever adopted this “international city” fantasy promoted by the outside world.

    The symbolic move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem signals that the U.S. government will not endorse any insistence that Israel must move its seat of government elsewhere. Both Palestinians and Israelis live in the city and have deep historic and religious ties there. The western side of the city is home to Jewish Israelis and is the site of Israel’s government. The western side must remain exclusively with Israel in any peace talks because short of forced removal by a conquering army, this is non-negotiable. The Trump administration has merely recognized this as an immutable fact.

    The eastern side of Jerusalem, including key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, has been under the protection and stabilizing control of Israeli Security Forces since 1967. Palestinians consider the eastern side of Jerusalem as their historical and de-facto capitol. But rather than negotiate this point with the Israelis, the Palestinians have continued to insist on what Israelis will never agree to—the removal of all Jews from the entire City. Adding to the impasse, Hamas’s official doctrine is the complete removal, annihilation or enslavement of all Jews, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

    The Palestinian declared goal of the destruction of Israel is not achievable. We are witness to a shifting tide, which includes the recent losses suffered by ISIS, the decline of al-Qaeda, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the recent capture of five ISIS leaders, the execution of strongman Sadam Hussein, and the development of closer ties between the U.S. and moderate Arab nations (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, etc.) against the real threat to peace—the Shia State of Iran. The changes in the political landscape of the Middle East have put Palestinians at odds with the moderate Sunni nations of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who see Israeli military might as an important asset and deterrent to the bigger threat in the region—Iran.

    This leaves a situation where the actual borders of Jerusalem are still subject to negotiation, and Palestinians have not been told by Israel or by the U.S. that they cannot have a part of Jerusalem for their capitol either as part of a two-state negotiated peace, or as part of some other negotiated peace providing full citizenship to Palestinians.

  5. Caroline Stevenson says:

    Grief is what I feel for the suffering of those living under occupation. The Palestinian people are our fellow human beings who are subject to the whims of outside forces. Their movements are restricted, their land is being appropriated and the freedom to seek employment outside of walls built to contain them are limited and very difficult to access. Pray and work for a just peace.

  6. william dailey says:

    Now the World Council of Churches is piling on Israel. No matter that Hamas has revealed that the demonstrations were intended to be violent. What were children doing at the wall unless they were expendable? A “just peace” is not part of the Palestinian vocabulary. Nor is the survival of the World Council of Churches in their Islamic world. My sense is that the world would be better off without Hamas and the World Council of Churches.

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