17 November 2004

Ministers go to Holy Land to accompany Palestinian and Israeli peace activists

Two retired ministers have been selected to go to the Holy Land as part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Revd David Rowland, a Baptist Minister, and Revd Brian Shackleton, a Methodist Minister, will fly in two weeks time to the Middle East, and will stay in the field for three months.

Their mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation of illegally held territories. As international observers, they will monitor and report violations of human rights and, in general, stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation.

David and Brian will work in small multi-national teams placed in a variety of locations. Activities will involve providing company and support to families who have suffered from the conflict, accompanying ambulances and food convoys, and watching the conduct of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints.

Mr Rowland said: "We are there on the side of all people who suffer. This a conflict where members of one side feel such despair that they are willing to blow themselves up, and the other such fear and paranoia that they are scared of public spaces. Our task as Ecumenical Accompaniers is to empathise with both sides, so as well as being located in Palestinian villages, some of us will be in East Jerusalem working with Israeli peace groups."

Mr Shackleton commented: "So many people there are afraid, and we know that when people are afraid they can sometimes behave irrationally or prematurely. Fear breeds violence, but we passionately believe that love can overcome fear. A way politically has to be found to solve the conflict, but if we can bring about understanding between members of different communities and a recognition of human dignity on both sides, then that will be a real achievement and source of hope."

Listen to an audio feature with David and Brian on 'Methodist Web Radio'

EAPPI is a World Council of Churches (WCC) initiative. Established two years ago, it came about when the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem put in a request to the WCC for international observers to be present with them. David and Brian will be part of an international team of 28.

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