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Ecumenical monitoring programme: working towards peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has established an ecumenical monitoring programme in Palestine and Israel (EMPPI) to coordinate the work of church and ecumenical monitoring and observer teams there. The principle of "an accompaniment programme that would include an international ecumenical presence, based on the experience of the Christian Peacemaker Team" was approved by the WCC Executive Committee at its meeting in Geneva 11-14 September. EMPPI is seen as part of a much wider ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and is a result of discussion with a broad range of local and international church and ecumenical partners.
Several church-related pilot projects already underway will be connected to the EMPPI framework. These include a "United Civilians for Peace" campaign coordinated by Dutch development, ecumenical and peace organizations, a Church of Sweden ecumenical monitoring effort, an observer programme developed by DanChurchAid, with the Council on Interchurch Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark and the Ecumenical Council of Denmark, and an ecumenical accompaniment programme being developed by the Middle East Forum of Church World Service (USA).
A newly opened "WCC fund for the ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict" will enable the WCC to widen its coordination efforts following the Executive Committee's resolution.
Commenting on EMPPI, WCC International Relations programme executive Salpy Eskidjian notes that the WCC "has now decided that it is most important to focus our immediate attention on the establishment of an international ecumenical presence, as the situation in Israel and Palestine is more alarming than ever".
The full scope and coordinating mechanism for EMPPI will be developed over the next two months. Here, the WCC's prior experience with the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme in South Africa (EMPSA) will stand it in good stead, Eskidjian judges.
EMPPI is expected to focus on monitoring and observing human rights violations in sensitive situations such as at checkpoints, accompanying people in their daily activities like going to school, work or hospitals, observing public action, and participating in non-violent direct action. It will work with local churches as well as human rights and peace groups. "Where church and local partners are in need - that's where we'll be," Eskidjian promises.
To her mind, the programme "is a powerful way that churches worldwide can be in active solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel as they struggle to resist a harsh military occupation using non-violent means".
EMPPI also will be a foundation for further education and advocacy to support a peaceful and just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "From our previous work in other parts of the world, we know that first-hand experience is the most effective way to raise awareness and support an alternative voice in advocacy work," Eskidjian concludes.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, 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.