|“God has broken down the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2.14b)
Dear sisters and brothers,
The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches announces the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel. The theme of the week in 2016 is: “Dismantling Barriers.” The Bible passage on which we will centre reflections is: “God has broken down the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2.14b). The week will be observed from 18 to 24 September.
In our choice of the theme and the Bible passage, PIEF seeks to affirm a dimension of hope in the midst of what are very harsh circumstances for the Palestinians.
Israel has taken a hard line against Palestinian resistance. There have been a plethora of legislative measures launched by the Israeli Knesset that are discriminatory and humiliating for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Arab Palestinians in Israel are also confronted by callous measures designed to assign them secondary status and to make it tough for them to support their sisters and brothers in Israeli occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli security forces and the army frequently collude with illegal settlers, who number more than 400,000 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to attack civilians, burn down their houses, and shoot at children, the elderly, farmers, and other random targets.
Palestinians are defiant and decline to surrender their basic human rights as written into recognized international human rights laws, the Geneva Convention, and UN resolutions. They resist and, when the occasion opens up, they fight back. They refer to this spirit of boldness as “summud”— to be steadfast and resist even against the odds because what is at stake is their basic dignity.
Since last October, the situation has taken a violent turn, with attacks by Palestinians and full-bodied counter-measures by Israeli forces. These events have led to a large number of killings, mostly of Palestinians, but also of many Israelis. Too many Palestinians have been left with severe injuries, collective punishment in the form of closures of entire areas, house demolitions, arbitrary arrests, burning of houses, destruction of crops, and more.
Israel has erected additional barriers that separate Palestinians from their land, families, communities, livelihoods, farms, schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, playgrounds, and other life-serving spaces. Examples of barriers in Palestinian areas include: the separation barrier, check points, fences, army barricades, army patrols, rocks on the pathways, and roads that cut into entire villages just to make the space “safe” for settlers who want easy access into their settlements. Perhaps one of the most loathsome barriers is the Gaza blockade. Now in its 10th year, the blockade involves a complex land, air, and sea cordon by Israel and Egypt. The restrictions on goods reaching Gaza via the land crossings are a significant cause of Gaza’s unsustainable and unacceptable humanitarian situation, in addition to the three full-scale military invasions. The blockade constitutes collective punishment of the population of Gaza and is therefore a direct violation of international law.
It is important to bear in mind the above context as we observe the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel this year. In previous years, the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel has united churches and Christian organizations in more than 40 countries along with a number of international solidarity groups who together have campaigned for an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine. It is an example of how the PIEF is steadily growing in scope and impact with regard to its core actions, namely:
The World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is an affirmation of our intent to offer global solidarity, especially to those who have become victims of the Israeli occupation in one way or another. To pray and work for the peace desperately needed by both Palestinians and Israelis is an ethical and theological imperative. It is a gospel imperative as well.
Rev. Dr Robert Owen Smith
Dr Muna Mushahwar
We invite all of you to refer to the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel web pages which have a variety of resources for the year including a resource booklet, and a liturgy which may be used in totality or adapted as suitable. These materials can be found on http://pief.oikoumene.org/en/world-week-for-peace