The WCC central committee, meeting in Geneva on 21-27 June 2023, expresses its ongoing and continuous concern about two significant territorial crises in the Eastern Mediterranean: Palestine and Israel, and Cyprus. These politically driven conflicts have resulted in illegal occupations that have spanned decades.

Regarding Palestine and Israel:

  1. 2022 was the deadliest year in recent history. New and heart-breaking records of violence are continuously being made, and the situation is steadily and rapidly worsening. 
  2. We are witnessing a recent surge in attacks against individuals, families, churches and holy sites, as well as physical and verbal abuse targeting clergy by Israeli radicals.
  3. Over the past few weeks, the police in the Old City have stopped Ecumenical Accompaniers from being present and accompanying local Palestinians. In some cases, the Accompaniers have been escorted out of the city.
  4. Home demolitions, land annexations, and violations of international human rights law continue in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, hindering all efforts for peace and coexistence.

Regarding Cyprus:

  1. Destruction of churches and desacralisation of holy places continue in the occupied parts of the island.
  2. The government of Türkiye continues to build additional housing in the occupied parts of Cyprus in order to move in some of the displaced refugees impacted by the recent earthquake. By doing so, Türkiye is changing the demographic landscape of the island and adding more obstacles to restoring the sovereignty of the government of Cyprus.
  3. The visit of the Turkish president to Cyprus asking for international recognition shows a lack of respect for international law and weakens the efforts by the United Nations to negotiate a solution to the dispute.

The central committee therefore:

Urges the international community to assume a greater role in supporting the protection of communities, safeguarding holy sites, and upholding the current "Status Quo" in Jerusalem, including supporting the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Calls on the international community to take an active role to help reverse violent trends and to initiate practical solutions to achieve just and sustainable peace for all in the Holy Land, independent of political agendas and economic interests.

Encourages WCC member churches and partners to support and maintain the vital and precious work of WCC programmes in Palestine and Israel as part of the continued pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation, and unity. 

Appeals to the WCC leadership to facilitate a safe space for dialogue among its members, following up on the discussions at the Assembly in Karlsruhe 2022[1], on how to describe the realities on the ground and the policies and actions of Israel, and to consider the implications of the recent reports by B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on the utilization of the term “apartheid” in this context.

Invites WCC member churches and partners to join collaborative efforts aiming to deescalate the existing tensions and to initiate reconciliation processes founded on well-established principles of international law and justice, both in the Holy Land and in Cyprus.

Urges the international community to strengthen its position on the situation in Cyprus, to support more intensive diplomatic efforts to secure a resolution based on the applicable principles of international law, and to support the continuation of encounters and confidence-building between the religious communities of the island for peaceful coexistence.

Calls on the government of Türkiye to end the occupation and achieve a comprehensive, mutually acceptable, just, and viable solution.

Invites all WCC member churches and partners to pray and continue to be involved in proactive ecumenical advocacy in solidarity with the churches in Palestine and Israel and in Cyprus, including commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the occupation in Cyprus in 2024.


[1] Reflected in the WCC 11th Assembly statement on ‘Seeking Justice and Peace for all in the Middle East