WCC Easter Initiative “to remind the world of what is needed to bring about peace”

WCCA World Council of Churches (WCC) Easter Initiative will lift up the call to roll away the heavy stone of violence, war and occupation, pain and suffering, and to remind the world of what is needed to bring about peace, to transform swords into ploughshares.

The Easter Initiative is an annual activity of the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine, setting out to connect the stories of Easter with current realities in Palestine and Israel; to spotlight the challenges of lives marked by violence, war, and occupation; and to nurture hope and highlight groups and individuals striving for a just peace.

The fourth consecutive such initiative of the World Council of Churches, the initiative this year takes place under the theme “Out of the darkness – Easter solidarity with the Holy Land.”

WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, who recently returned from a visit to the Holy Land, reflects that “Easter this year takes place amid devastating violence and immense human suffering, and the prospect of peace in the Holy Land may seem increasingly distant, perhaps more so than it has in a long time. Even so, the story of Easter itself is about a time of darkness and despair, but also about holding on to hope.

“As Christians, and indeed as one global human family, we must work hard to discern, to remember, and to remind one another, what is needed to bring about peace, to transform swords into ploughshares,” he added. 

Current realities

The Easter Initiative stories and prayers will also touch upon the importance of solidarity with the Christian community in Palestine and Israel, as many young families face the difficult choice of whether to remain or seek their futures elsewhere. 

Twenty-four-year-old Merna Sayegh, coordinator of the Salt of the Earth youth Christian organization, said that the Christian community in the northern part of the West Bank is down to some 330 people who remain in the Jenin area.  

“In addition to my work as a kindergarten teacher, I work with young Christians between the age of 4 and 20 years old,” she said. “I tell them that our presence in the Holy Land is so important, because we are in the midst of the churches and the history of Christianity.”

Sayegh encourages the children to go to church, so they will know their own heritage. “I tell the youth that we must stay put in the land of Jesus and to protect it in every way possible,” she said. “I participate with them in religious storytelling, religious and spiritual meetings, and Bible studies.” 

One Easter Initiative story will feature the reflections of Father Frans Bouwen, a priest in the Catholic church who has been living and working for ecumenism in Jerusalem since 1969. 

As Easter approaches, Bouwen and others in Jerusalem simply don’t know how it will be. “Usually the pilgrims fill the streets,” he said. “This year, no pilgrims will be able to come before Easter. Palestinians cannot come to Jerusalem to celebrate.”

But he is convinced that Christians will celebrate Easter regardless. “They will be renewed by this in their lives, renewed by their faith and hope for the future,” he said. 

From 1-28 March, resources including feature stories, Biblical reflections and prayers, advocacy tools, and social media content will be shared for use by WCC member churches and partners. 

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