The World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed his concern regarding an ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.
His comments came after more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike on 17 April, demanding improved prison conditions.
"The vast majority of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are political prisoners. They include many human rights workers, civil society leaders, and elected politicians," said Tveit.
"They are incarcerated in prisons in Israel rather than the Palestinian territories, restricting access by their family members. Some are held for significant periods of time without any trial or the minimum standards of due process through the practice of 'administrative detention,'" said Tveit.
He noted that the current hunger strike has been called to demand more family visits and access to telephone communication with prisoners' relatives, and an adequate level of medical and educational services.
The hunger strikers are also demanding the cessation of administrative detention and solitary confinement.
"I am appealing to the Israeli authorities to receive the demands of the prisoners, and to respond to them on their merits in accordance with international law," said Tveit.
The mass incarceration of Palestinians has been a feature of Israel's ongoing military occupation of the Palestinian territories, which in June 2017 reaches its 50th year.
"As Christians we must remember that Jesus identified himself with prisoners, that he himself was unjustly accused and imprisoned before being crucified, and that he proclaimed release to the prisoners.
"The earliest followers of Jesus often found themselves in prison, and Jesus specifically called for his disciples to care for prisoners. The plight of prisoners is therefore a central concern for the global Body of Christ," Tveit observed.
"The WCC calls for each prisoner to receive due process and proper care," Tveit said.
"We join calls for humane prison conditions consistent with international law, and for an end to administrative detention without charges or fair trial. We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners—in Israel and throughout the world.
"And we call for an end to occupation, for the long-obstructed path towards a just peace in the land of Christ's birth to be re-opened."