World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC commissions and working groups / Commission of the Churches on International Affairs / Regional concerns / Middle East / Statement on the ecumenical response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Holy Land

Statement on the ecumenical response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Holy Land

26 August 2002

Adopted by the Central Committee, Geneva, 26 August - 3 September 2002.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, 26 August to 3 September 2002:

Recalling its "Minute on the Situation in the Holy Land after the Outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising", adopted at its last meeting (Potsdam, February 2001) in which the Central Committee expressed

its deep sadness and grave concern at the new escalation of violence in the Palestinian autonomous and occupied territories as well as Israel over the last four months that has claimed a terrible toll of human life;

Alarmed and dismayed at the escalation of violence over the past twenty-three months that has claimed hundreds of lives in Palestine and Israel, and that has created the worst humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian population in recent history;

Expressing once again its grief and profound condolences to all the victims of the conflict, and especially to the families of those who have been killed in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories;

Profoundly regretting the inability or unwillingness of the international community, especially the governments most directly concerned, to respond to repeated appeals to establish a presence in the area to bring the parties to the conflict into compliance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council, thus allowing illegal actions to continue and a climate of mistrust, fear and hatred to grow;

Reaffirming its conviction that a just and lasting solution of the Arab and Israeli conflict must be sought through active negotiations based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973);

Reiterating its appeal that the universally accepted norms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is the cornerstone of international humanitarian law and provides basic legal standards for the treatment of civilians during armed conflict or under occupation, be respected in all circumstances;

Reaffirming the right of an occupied people to struggle against injustice by non-violent means in order to gain freedom;

Reiterating its support for Israeli and Palestinian individuals and organizations who reject the logic of violence and occupation and are striving together for justice, peace, security, mutual understanding and reconciliation between their peoples;

Reaffirming the need for full respect of the Holy Places, and condemning all actions that violate them;

Condemning the occupation and misuse of church or other religious buildings and sites for military or other purposes inimical to their religious vocation;

Reiterating its support for the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land as guardians of the Holy Places, for their efforts to sustain and serve their communities and their witness as peacemakers;

Reiterating its long-standing commitment to active dialogue and cooperation among Christians, Muslims and Jews;

Reiterating its conviction that Jerusalem must remain an open and inclusive city with free access assured for the Palestinian people and shared in terms of sovereignty and citizenship between the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine, and that Jerusalem can be a source of peace, stability and coexistence rather than of division and conflict;

1 Calls again and insistently for the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from Palestinian territories, to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories;

2 Calls upon Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949;

3 Receives with appreciation the report of the actions taken by the Council in pursuing the recommendations of the Potsdam meeting of the Central Committee;

4 Endorses the Executive Committee Resolution on Ecumenical Response to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict of September 2001 and welcomes the considerable efforts of the General Secretary and staff to implement it;

5 Reaffirms, in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence, the belief Christians share with Jews and Muslims that all human life is sacred in the eyes of God, and that the taking of human life is contrary to the moral and ethical teachings of the three monotheistic faiths;

6 Joins its voice with those many Christians, Muslims and Jews in the region and around the world who have strongly deplored all acts of violence related to this conflict, including:

  • Israel's military invasion and reoccupation of the Palestinian territories, extra-judicial executions of Palestinian leaders, killing of Palestinian civilians, application of collective punishments, and destruction of Palestinian homes and property in Israel and the occupied territories; and
  • all acts of terror against civilians in Israel and in the occupied territories, including especially the growing and deeply troubling practice of organized and indiscriminate suicide bombings;

7 Calls upon all concerned parties, including Israelis and Palestinians, to ensure the safety of all civilians, and to respect the universally accepted norms of international humanitarian law;

8 Calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to enforce their declaration of 5 December 2001 in which they

call upon the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the (Convention) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to refrain from perpetrating any violation of the Convention, …(and) reaffirm the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof, and the need to safeguard and guarantee the rights and access of all inhabitants to the Holy Places;

9 Calls insistently upon the international community, especially the Quartet (United Nations, European Union, USA and Russian Federation), to take a more active, determined, objective and consistent role in mediating between the two parties based on the relevant UN resolutions and to do its utmost to stop further bloodshed and suffering;

10 Urges the Government of Israel to recognize the election of His Beatitude Patriarch Irineos I as the head of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem;

11 Calls on all authorities concerned not to interfere in the internal affairs of the churches;

12 Welcomes the positive response of many member churches and ecumenical partners to the call to join together, in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010), in an action-oriented ecumenical campaign to end the illegal occupation of Palestine, in support of reconciliation between Israelis, Palestinians and others in the Middle East and their coexistence in justice and peace, and urges others to join them in:

a. Supporting the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), as a concrete manifestation of Christian solidarity through active presence and witness of a non-violent resistance to the occupation of Palestine, working towards public awareness and policy change through advocacy;

b. Calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement that conditions "relations between parties, as well as the provisions of the Agreement itself on respect for human rights and democratic principles which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement", until such time that Israel complies with these provisions;

c. Pressuring governments, in particular the USA, to review economic aid to the State of Israel and to halt all forms of military cooperation with the State of Israel including instituting a strict arms embargo, until such time that Israel complies with UN Security Council Resolutions

d. Providing generous financial resources towards the ecumenical humanitarian and human rights efforts that seek to respond to the ever increasing human suffering;

e. Praying together for peace and for all those who work for peace and an end to all forms of violence in the Holy Land, seeking to embody our shared hopes and aspirations for peace with justice for all the peoples in these lands where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was received as the Prince of Peace.