Collage of three different men.

Collage: Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay (left), President Isaac Herzog (centre), His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem (right)

In a very frank, fair and cordial conversation, the two leaders agreed on the importance of working towards a ceasefire and the role of religions in helping to create a world in which peace, security and safety exist for all people and for creation, a world that God desires and wills for us. 

Pillay expressed his concern about the loss of over 27,000 lives in Gaza, most of them women and children, reiterated the WCC position that violence and wars are not the way to seek solutions, and stressed the need for dialogue to end the war and to create a better future for all people in Israel and Palestine. 

The general secretary also raised issues related to the freedom of religion and religious practices, making reference to a recent report on further restrictions to be imposed by the Israeli government during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan. Pillay also referred to the information shared with him during his meeting with Heads of Churches about disrespectful treatment by some young Israeli extremists. The Israeli President acknowledged that such disrespectful treatment is happening and is certainly unacceptable and being addressed. 

Pillay further spoke about the concerns related to humanitarian aid to prisoners and hostages and received assurances that these are currently being attended to by the Israeli government and organizations.

Pillay reiterated the need for religions, in the context of war and violence, to boldly proclaim an alternative message of peace and hope as we seek to heal and reconcile a broken and suffering world. 

The meeting ended on a positive note calling for collaboration in working towards a ceasefire, and in addressing issues of climate and environmental issues and food security as part of the intent to provide humanitarian support in the context of Israel and Palestine. 

“As a worldwide fellowship of churches, we continue to express our compassion and prayers for the ending of the war, the healing of deep wounds, and respect for human lives and rights,” said Pillay. He added, “We understand the complexities and challenges in this context and know that it is not an easy task to find workable and just solutions, but we must, we cannot think that violence will enable peace—it will not. We urge all parties and powers concerned to seek an immediate ceasefire and enter dialogues to establish just peace, safety, and security in both Israel and Palestine. We call on the international community, especially political leaders, to support these endeavors and to act urgently.” 

WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay is visiting Palestine and Israel on 16-22 February, sharing in the life and ministry of WCC member churches in the region, while also meeting with various religious, social, and political leaders including both Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli president Isaac Herzog, as well as visiting the WCC Jerusalem Liaison Office. As head of the delegation, the WCC general secretary is being accompanied by Dr Audeh Quawas (WCC central committee member), Marianne Ejdersten (WCC director of Communication) and Yusef Daher (coordinator, WCC Jerusalem Liaison Office). In the meeting with President Herzog Pillay was accompanied by His Beatitude, Patriarch Theophilos III and Marianne Ejdersten.

WCC general secretary meets Israeli president, calls for ceasefire, freedom of religion and humanitarian care (20 February 2024)

WCC general secretary meets Palestinian president, urging an end to “seemingly endless cycle of violence and suffering” (19 February 2024)

WCC general secretary meets director of Islamic Waqf, reiterating “commitment to Jerusalem as a city of three religions” (19 February 2024)

In times of struggle, WCC accompanies the journey in the Holy Land (18 February 2024)

In Holy Land, “light and life have a true and enduring existence” as heads of churches gather with WCC (18 February 2024)

WCC general secretary visits Holy Land to strengthen call for just peace (15 February 2024)