A delegation led by World Council of Churches (WCC) head the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit is visiting Palestine to strengthen churches in the area and emphasize the need for a "just peace."
"We want to reaffirm that the WCC as a fellowship of churches is working and praying for peace and justice for all people in the Holy Land," Tveit said. "The conflict in the region requires a political solution. All religious institutions and communities should work together for a just peace. This is essential for a reconciliation and healing process."
Tveit and other WCC staff members will be visiting the association's member churches and ecumenical partners in the area, as well as leaders from the Jewish and Muslim communities and WCC partner agencies and political leaders. The visit, which began on Aug. 28, will conclude Sept. 2.
Notably, Tveit intends to promote the Kairos Palestine Document during the visit, which he says is resonating in WCC member churches around the world.
The document, which was developed by Palestinian Christians in late 2009, has been lauded by many in the ecumenical community but criticized by others for being extremist in nature and against the state of Israel.
The document declares that the "tragedy" of the Palestinian people has "reached a dead end" in negotiations, and that the military occupation of disputed territories is a "sin against God and humanity."
The Central Conference of American Rabbis called the Kairos Document a "declaration by a small group of Palestinian Christian leaders which delegitimizes Israel, echoes in supersessionist theology, and while promoting nonviolent resistance, ultimately justifies terrorism aimed at Israel."
United Church of Christ leaders said the document is a "powerful statement" and descriptive of the "painful reality of more than 40 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza."
Tveit said: "The WCC member churches are viewing this document as cry for justice coming from Palestinian Christians, whose human dignity is being diminished and denied."
It is also noteworthy that the WCC's visit to Palestine, which was planned several months ago, is now coinciding with the start-up of Middle East peace negotiations, which begin Sept. 2 in Washington, D.C.
The meetings, which were initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama, will be the first time in 20 months that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have participated in direct negotiations on the issue.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the talks will re-launch a process that will "resolve all final status issues" on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, which Clinton said will be completed within one year.
Clinton said of the talks: "Without a doubt we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks, but I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region."