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WCC delegation to the Holy Land

The deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Georges
Lemopoulos, is travelling to Jerusalem 2-4 April to meet with the Greek Orthodox
Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Irineos I.

Lemopoulos will also meet with the other patriarchs and heads of churches and
Christian communities in Jerusalem to discuss, amongst other issues, the recent
ecumenical efforts with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Lemopoulos will be accompanied by Salpy Eskidjian from the WCC International
Relations team. They will meet with local members of the Ecumenical
Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), as well as with Israeli
and Palestinian non-governmental organizations, to support the local
preparations for the first accompaniment group, scheduled for June.

Although the last visit of a WCC delegation dates back to June
2001,Lemopoulos stresses the permanent involvement of the WCC in the region:
"We have accompanied the churches and  their communities and advocated
for their rights on a daily basis since the beginning of the Second Palestinian
Uprising", he explained. "With the support of its governing bodies and
member churches, the WCC has intensified its actions over the past year,
focusing on removing the root causes of the present conflict. At the same time
we have continued to do our utmost to alleviate the daily suffering of the
Palestinian people", Lemopoulos added.

Eskidjian is "extremely concerned that the situation in Palestine and
Israel has deteriorated radically since our last visit. Only in the last few
weeks, Israeli defence forces launched their most expansive military operation
since 1982. In one month, over 180 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been
killed, bringing the death toll since the start of the Second Intifada to over
1200. The Israeli death toll, now over 300, has also risen sharply in the past

"We strongly believe that Christians all over the world have a moral
obligation to speak out in the face of so much suffering", Eskidjian said.
"While the statistics of human rights violations is horrendous, we need to
go beyond this to address the causes and the remedies."

Referring to WCC’s ecumenical campaign to "End the Illegal Occupation of
Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East" as the first focus of
the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace
(2001-2010), Eskidjian sees the visit as an expression of solidarity: "We
are going to Jerusalem to express the solidarity and prayers of the ecumenical
family worldwide, which is mobilizing together to break the conspiracy of
silence against a people languishing under the last remaining military
occupation in history."

For further information, please contact Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations
Tel.: (+41.22) 791.61.53 Mobile: (+41)
World Council of Churches
Press Release PR-02-14

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