African churches can play key role in Middle East, says WCC head

October 18, 2010

NAIROBI

African churches can play a key role in addressing the crisis in the Middle East, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, has said.

“This is also a call for you as African churches,” Tveit said, in addressing the All Africa Conference of Churches in Nairobi. “You have something to contribute in the reflection about access to land as a matter of justice and they [Palestinian Christians] also are very encouraged by your way of expressing your faith, that it is possible to pray and see results.”

Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran was in Kenya and Ethiopia in late September as part of his first visit to Africa as WCC general secretary. He noted the vibrancy of Christianity on the continent.

He said, during his Sept. 23 speech in Nairobi, that the Middle East is a region where many conflicts in the world get constant fuel.

“Two weeks ago, I visited what is called Holy Land. It is in many ways not holy as you know. It is a land of struggle between Israelis and Palestinians,” Tveit said. “The same day [Sept. 2] I was there, negotiations started in Washington. And I talked to Jewish leaders, Muslim leaders, political leaders, church leaders. They did not dare to have a strong hope or strong expectation for the negotiations.”

Tveit said Jerusalem, a holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims, is seen by the global Church community as the matrix of how the faiths could live together and should live together.

Still, Tveit noted, faith and political leaders agree that Palestinian churches and Christians represent a very important dimension to the conflict there, but they face a bleak future if they continue to lose more members.

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