Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service / September 2002

World Council of Churches calls for end to Israeli occupation,
Palestinian suicide bombings
By Jerry Van Marter

Geneva, 2 September (ENI)--The World Council of Churches, which has
sought peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict throughout its
50-year history, renewed its call on Monday for an end to Israeli
occupation of the Palestinian territories and a halt to Palestinian
suicide bombings.

While the statement by the WCC's central committee - the main governing
body of the world's largest ecumenical organization - broke no new
ground, a top WCC staff member called it part of a "consistent and
persistent effort" by the WCC to produce a settlement.
The Rev. Dwain Epps - who is retiring as the WCC's international affairs
specialist - said the statement "is based on our commitment to
international law and to peace, justice and reconciliation".

The statement calls for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from
the Palestinian territories, for "all concerned parties" to ensure the
safety of civilians, for the international community to make a more
concerted effort to mediate the conflict, and for governments -
particularly the United States - to redirect economic aid from military
to humanitarian purposes.

Addressing the recent spiral of violence in the region, the central
committee said it deplored:

:: "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 the occupied
territories, including especially the growing and deeply troubling
practice of organised and indiscriminate suicide bombings."

One week ago, the WCC sent a group of 10 "accompaniers" to Israel and
Palestine to support the efforts of peace activists and social service
workers there.

The initial report from the group (all Europeans) is due on Tuesday,
said Salpy Eskidjian, who is coordinating the accompaniment programme.

Described by the WCC as "accompaniers", those in the programme will
travel with such people as ambulance drivers, medical and mental health
workers, local bishops and religious leaders, Israeli peace activists
and other social service workers for agencies such as the YMCA and YWCA.

Eskidjian said the first communications from the "accompaniers" and
their hosts were positive and that "to our surprise" there has been no
formal protest about their presence in Israel from the Israeli
government.
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