Int'l Churches Convene to Tackle Mideast Conflict; Launch Forum

An international conference beginning this weekend will bring together churches to discuss what they can do to help the conflict-ridden Middle East.

The World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical organization representing some 550 million Christians, is convening the conference June 17-21 in Amman, Jordan, with the theme "Churches Together for Peace with Justice in the Middle East." Some 130 participants from WCC member churches and related organizations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas will participate. The WCCs general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, will attend and open the conference.

During the meeting, Middle Eastern church leaders will share their expectations for a just peace and their experiences of conflict, with emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After hearing from church leaders about their Middle East experiences, churches from other regions will then share lessons they learned from conflicts in their own countries. Some of the countries that will share include Sudan, Columbia, Sri Lanka, and South Africa.

The emphasis will be on the churches' role in peace-making and in sustaining peace when conflicts end.

Mideast speakers include the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and other Mideast church leaders.

The gathering will conclude with the launch of an international, inter-church advocacy initiative called the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum. The forum will enable churches around the world to work more closely on advocacy for peace with justice in the Middle East by coordinating existing church advocacy work and promoting new efforts for peace.

The conference is being held in the same month when churches worldwide have been marking the 40 years since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war by praying, holding seminars and advocacy campaigns throughout the world. The 1967 war resulted in Israel's victory over its neighbor and its occupation of the Sinai desert, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.