People viewed sitting down in a room wearing vests reading 'EAPPI'

The WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, now in its 22nd year, has brought over 2,000 volunteers from more than 60 nations who have advocated, prayed, and stood in solidarity with vulnerable people. 

The ceremony, held at St Anne's Basilica, rang with prayers for a just peace, an end to the occupation that has lasted for decades, and the solidarity to coexist in respect, equity, and dignity in Israel and Palestine. 

Particularly during these trying times, it is crucial to take a minute to pray and express gratitude to those who have served as ecumenical accompaniers during the past three months,” said Iskander Majlaton, programme coordinator. 

The departing group was the first to arrive following the evacuation of ecumenical accompaniers on 7 October.  

"The group's effectiveness is attributed to a number of factors, including their strong desire to support and stand up for the weakest and most disadvantaged people while exhibiting teamwork, maturity, and tolerance,” said Majlaton, who also extended a warm welcome to the new group. 

During their first few days alone, the newest ecumenical accompaniers documented 38 incidents. 

"Being an accompanier entails a lot of responsibility; you must decide to live together and have the bravery, tolerance, and willingness to keep an eye out for human rights violations, as well as walk children to school, live with farmers so they can harvest their crops, and sometimes transport elderly patients to the hospital,” said Majlaton. "Spending a certain time living with a large international family is a prerequisite, which is not always easy.”

The departing group prayed for the new accompaniers: May you walk with kindness, hope, patience and love so that you are blessed and are a blessing to all,” they prayed.

And the new group prayed for the departing group, noting that being an accompanier doesn’t end when one returns home. Now take the gratitude of the people, the encounters  and experiences you had, and the love of God back home with you, and tell your stories boldly!” they prayed. 

The six departing ecumenical accompaniers—working under difficult conditions and many restrictions due to the war—carried out at least 336 field visits in less than three months, documenting 161 incidents of human rights violations. They also received positive feedback and praise from the Jerusalem community.

One community member, at Checkpoint 300 between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, said, on 29 March, as ecumenical accompaniers were monitoring access to Ramadan sites, said: You are doing a good job here; things always work better and the soldiers usually behave better when you are here.” 

Members of the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel International Reference Group attended the ceremony. The programme will be expanding from one community to three, taking its radius outside of Jerusalem.