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

Two retired ministers have been selected to go to the Holy Landas part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine andIsrael (EAPPI).

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

Their mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in theirnon-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end theoccupation of illegally held territories. As internationalobservers, they will monitor and report violations of human rightsand, in general, stand in solidarity with the churches and allthose struggling against the occupation.

David and Brian will work in small multi-national teams placedin a variety of locations. Activities will involve providingcompany and support to families who have suffered from theconflict, accompanying ambulances and food convoys, and watchingthe conduct of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints.

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

Mr Shackleton commented: "So many people there are afraid, andwe know that when people are afraid they can sometimes behaveirrationally or prematurely. Fear breeds violence, but wepassionately believe that love can overcome fear. A way politicallyhas to be found to solve the conflict, but if we can bring aboutunderstanding between members of different communities and arecognition of human dignity on both sides, then that will be areal achievement and source of hope."

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

EAPPI is a WorldCouncil of Churches (WCC) initiative. Established two years ago, itcame about when the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem put in arequest to the WCC for international observers to be present withthem. David and Brian will be part of an international team of28.