From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Title: WCC: Palestinian towns - large prisons

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Mon, 18 Aug 2003 18:47:23 +0200

World Council of Churches
Press Release - PR-03-28
For Immediate Use
18 August 2003

"Palestinian towns have become large prisons" WCC staff say

Free photos available, see below.

"The WCC and our member churches are extremely concerned about the creation
of the so-called security wall," says the director of the World Council of
Churches' Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (WCC/CCIA)
Peter Weiderud. Speaking at a press briefing at the end of a 12-14 August
World Council of Churches' (WCC) staff visit to Jerusalem, Weiderud was
referring to the separation wall presently under construction in the West

The wall is creating "a new political border" that violates international
law, he pointed out. "While the government of Israel is negotiating a 'land
for peace' formula, the facts on the ground show a different picture." The
wall "will turn any Palestinian affected entities into Bantustans - to which
Israel can shut its door any time. While barriers and walls are tumbling down
or becoming obsolete all over the world, we are experiencing the opposite

Weiderud's comments were based on information gathered during the three-day
WCC staff visit - in meetings with the Heads of Churches and Christian
communities of Jerusalem, President Yasser Arafat and other representatives
of the Palestinian Authority, and Ambassador Gadi Golan, head of the
religious affairs bureau in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The purpose of the joint CCIA-ACT visit was to listen to church leaders'
perspectives on and analysis of the current situation in the region, and
their expectations from the WCC in advance of the WCC Central Committee,
particularly in regard to ecumenical humanitarian relief efforts, the
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), and the
joint project of an ecumenical centre in Jerusalem. Weiderud and Thor-Arne
Prois, director of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, led the

In a meeting hosted by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, church
leaders expressed concerns over the increasing difficulties of everyday life
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Continued restrictions of movement
imposed by Israeli security forces seriously disrupt the activities of
churches, schools, and hospitals as well as of Palestinians' daily life; the
West Bank separation wall - eight metres high and running 370 kilometres with
a 50- to 100-meter security zone on either side - is threatening Palestinian
communities with further isolation, they stressed. 

"With the security walls, total closures and checkpoints, Palestinian towns
have become large prisons festering with frustration," Weiderud says.

Reporting on ACT field visits made before the meeting, Thor Arne Prois
confirmed that the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories (OPT) is worsening: unemployment has risen to over 70 percent,
malnutrition rates are rising, and ongoing restrictions on people's movement
continue to have a damaging effect on the community. Concern has also been
expressed at increased signs of trauma in children who are growing up under
these conditions.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch, H.B. Irineos, expressed deep gratitude to the
international ecumenical community and the WCC in particular for their
accompaniment of and solidarity with the churches and the Christian community
in the region. 

Others attending the meeting of church leaders were; H.B.  Michel Sabbah,
Latin Patriarch; Bishop Aris Shirvanian represented the Armenian Patriarch;
Archbishop Aristarchos, General Secretary, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate;
Archbishop Dr Amba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox; Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad,
Syrian Orthodox; Bishop Kamal Bathish, Latin Patriarchate;
Bishop Butros Malki, Syrian Catholic; Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican;
Archimandrite Mtanious Haddad, Greek Catholic; Father Athanasios,
representing the Custos; Father Anthony, representing the Maronite Bishop;
Father Elias, representing the Armenian Catholic Bishop; Father Michael H.
Sellors, Inter-Church Committee; Ibrahim Kandalaft, PLO Chairman Advisor,
Christian Affairs

Meeting with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, and with
Ambassador Gadi Golan in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, delegation members
expressed their concern about the difficulties of everyday life in the OPT in
general, and about the security wall in particular.

Weiderud notes that "The WCC has repeatedly condemned all acts of terror
against civilians in Israel as well as extra-judicial executions and killings
of Palestinian civilians." He says that ending the violence means resolving
the root cause of the violence: "We are convinced that Israel's military
occupation of the Palestinian territories is a major cause of terrorist acts,
and that ending this occupation is politically achievable." He emphasizes
that the task "is to stand in solidarity with the churches and all those
Palestinians and Israelis struggling for an end to the occupation with
non-violent means".

The staff delegation will report its observations to the WCC Central
Committee, meeting in Geneva 26 August to 2 September 2003.

Other members of the delegation included Salpy Eskidjian, WCC/CCIA programme
executive responsible for the Middle East; Leila Dzaferovic, ACT appeals
officer for the Middle East; and Yannick Provost, WCC communication.

Free Free photos are available to accompany articles regarding this statement
by contacting the WCC Media Relations office. The photos can be viewed at:   

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Office, 
tel: +41 (0)22 791 6421/6153   


The World Council of Churches (WCC) 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, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary
Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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