Palestinian Christians Appeal for Long-Term Israel-Palestine Peace Efforts

Palestinian Christians urged a gathering of church leaders from around the world to remain focused on long-term Israel-Palestine peace efforts despite the recent uproar over the Gaza takeover this week.

Church leaders at an international peace conference in Jordan, convened by the World Council of Churches, discussed the current crisis in the Gaza Strip which has split Palestinians into two geographically and politically separate bodies.

Yet despite the significance of the event, conference participants are determined to not be distracted by it, according to attendee David Weaver, Church World Service's director of Mission Relationships and Witness.

"At the behest of Palestinian Christians here, who have offered their analysis of the current crisis in Gaza, we are determined to continue with the long-term work of helping to bring a just peace to occupied Palestine," Weaver said, according to a CWS report Wednesday.

"The Palestinian Christians here, who are closest to the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, know how very severe the current crisis is, but they have appealed to us to stay focused on long-term strategies for dealing with the ongoing crisis brought about by the Israeli occupation of Palestine," he said.

Last week, Islamic Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip after five days of bitter fighting with Fatah forces. Over a hundred people were killed during the conflict and Israel and Egypt have closed their borders to Gaza residents, with a few medical exceptions, essentially isolating Gazans from the rest of the world.

Attendees of the June 17-21 WCC conference view the current Fatah-Hamas fighting "as a consequence of the occupation" by Israel, according to Weaver.

However, the Latin Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, emphasized that the occupation of Palestine has a negative effect on both sides.

"Both the occupier and the occupied are harming and being harmed and both need to be saved," Sabbah said, according to WCC.

Participants will launch the international Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum on Thursday to facilitate just peace coordination between member churches and organizations.