Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sweet Sounds from the WCC

The World Council of Churches said some things that made me smile. I'd like to tell you about it.
In his final address to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, general secretary Rev. Samuel Kobia called Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories a "sin against God."
I agree. Treating people "created in the image of God" as less than human beings is a "sin against God." Trapping people in the world's largest open-air prison and subjecting them to checkpoints, roadblocks, daily humiliation, denial of right of return, etc, etc, is unjust. It's sinful.

So the Samuel Kobia made a great speech, but more importantly, the WCC as a large body representing over 560 million Christians worldwide, passed some great resolutions.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee called on the Israeli government to freeze and begin to dismantle settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. It also encouraged a commitment to non-violence and peace negotiations, and reiterated the need for an international boycott of products and services from settlements.

In a public "Statement on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" passed today in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of its 26 August - 2 September meeting, the WCC central committee called "upon the government of Israel to urgently implement an open-ended freeze in good-faith on all settlement construction and expansion as a first step towards the dismantlement of all settlements".
The committee considered some 200 settlements with more than 450,000 settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories to be "illegal, unjust, incompatible with peace and antithetical to the legitimate interests of the state of Israel".

Even as "Israel's own right to exist in security evokes sympathy and solidarity around the world", the committee states, "its policies of expansion and annexation generate dismay or hostility". For the committee there is a clear distinction to be made "between the legitimate interests of the state of Israel and its illegal settlements".
The World Council of Churches also:
invited "member churches and faithful to give moral and practical support to non-violent acts of resistance to the confiscation of land, the destruction of Palestinian properties and the eviction of people from their homes and lands".

The statement "reiterates the need for an international boycott of settlement products and services". WCC member churches "must not be complicit in illegal activities on occupied territory" and therefore should "practice morally responsible investment in order to influence businesses linked to the Israeli occupation and its illegal settlements", the statement says.

The illegal settlements "and their corresponding infrastructure including the separation wall" have dire consequences on the life and dignity of Palestinian people, the WCC statement says.

Settlements deny Palestinians access to "land and water resources", "restrict their freedom of movement, diminish their basic human dignity and, in many cases, their right to life", impede their "right to education and access to health care", and "destroy the Palestinian economy". In these ways they increase "the sense of dispossession and despair".

In addition to that, "illegal settlements in and around Jerusalem endanger the future of the holy city", which "should be open to all and shared by the two peoples and the three religions".

The WCC central committee calls on member churches to "pray for and assist people who are suffering" as a result of settlement activity and "hear the call of the churches of Jerusalem for concrete actions by the international ecumenical community toward a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis".
I tend to agree. Nonviolent resistance, including actions and demonstrations against specific Israeli policies, in addition to joining the campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, is the answer to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Palestinians and Israelis need a just peace, not peace at any cost.