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20 October 2000

Palestinian ecumenical delegation calls for action and prayer

cf WCC Press Update of 16 October 2000

"A necessary and positive step to put an end to Israeli violation and oppression of Palestinians under occupation," was the response of Marwan Bishara to the resolution adopted by the Fifth Special Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), 17-19 October. Bishara was a member of the WCC delegation present at the Fifth Special Session.

The resolution, adopted as violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians continued in spite of the Sharm El Sheikh agreement, condemned "the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force" by Israel against Palestinian civilians. The resolution called for the establishment of a "human rights inquiry commission" to compile information on violations of human rights and acts in the occupied Palestinian territories. The World Council of Churches (WCC) previously had called for an objective investigation of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Bishara, however, also expressed disappointment that the European Union had opposed the resolution, "contradicting the very human rights principles cherished by the Union." He noted that the resolution does not cover human rights violations inside Israel, and hoped that "UN member states as well as concerned non-governmental organizations and churches work toward the end of racism and the beginning of an inquiry into the Israeli oppression of its own Palestinian minority".

During a briefing held at the UN during the Special Session, delegation member Archimandrite Theodosios Hanna, representing His Beatitude Patriarch Diodoros, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, noted that "what is happening is a crime against humanity and a crime against all faiths." He emphasized that the churches of Jerusalem are united in calling for "the liberation of Palestinian territory" and for the "formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital." This, he says, is key to stability in the Middle East.

The WCC, in its written and oral submissions to the Special Session, reiterated its call to strengthen current human rights mechanisms and implement existing UN resolutions to bring justice and peace between Palestinian and Israeli people. This was echoed by the Rt Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, who said, "It is not enough to condemn. We have received a pile of statements condemning the violence. But there has been no action to force Israel to comply with the United Nations resolutions."

Emphasizing the need for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, Marwan Bishara said, "in the end when the dust settles and we have buried the dead, we still have to live together."

Churches called to pray
In light of continuing violence in the Holy Land, Archimandrite Theodosios Hanna has called on churches around the world to have special prayers beginning on Sunday, 22 October, for the Palestinian people living under occupation, Christian and Muslim, and for "a real and whole peace in the Middle East." "All the churches have their voices, and if they could speak out for justice and rights, this would make a difference." He said the churches need to commit themselves to "help make visible and show the suffering of the Palestinian people."

Father Theodosios spoke on behalf of the churches in Jerusalem and Arab Christians during a public briefing at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva on Thursday, 19 October. He is a member of the ecumenical delegation hosted by the World Council of Churches during the Fifth Special Session of the UNCHR.

Acting WCC General Secretary George Lemopoulos, lifted up Father Theodosios' call, and encouraged the WCC member churches to join in prayer beginning Sunday, 22 October, recalling the resolution of the recent WCC Executive Committee for churches "to remain constant in prayer and in solidarity with the local churches for a just peace in Jerusalem and for the whole of the Middle East."

Churches are invited to refer to the Homily delivered at the Ecumenical Prayer Service held 12 October 2000 in Jerusalem by His Beatitude, Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, on behalf of Patriarch Diodoros I, Patriarch Torkom II, and all the heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem. His Beatitude closed with the following call:

"This is a holy land, a land of faith and prayer. It is written nowhere that it should remain a land of hatred and blood. On the contrary, in the mercy of God, this land is determined to be a land of redemption and love. This is why we have come to pray; not for more hatred and more troubles, but for more justice and more love, in the munificence of God Almighty. Amen."
The Homily can be found on the World Council of Churches' web site at:

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.