Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme

One of the most impressive church-based initiatives in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, associated with the World Council of Churches. Valentina Maggiulli, the EAPPI coordinator here in Jerusalem, joined us on some of our visits this week, and briefed us on EAPPI's work when we returned to the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center from our trip to Hebron and al-Arroub. You'll find the EAPPI website here.

EAPPI currently operates in six locations - three in the northern part of the West Bank, and one each in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Accompaniers are financially supported by their sending churches/agencies. They usually spend three months in Israel (the duration of a standard tourist visa). Training must be completed before arrival, and this takes between one and two weeks. Cost per person for three months is approximately $US9,000 (including accommodation, transport and equipment, but not including airfares). There are plans to extend the EAPPI volunteer program to include Australia in the near future. For more information contact EAPPI or the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Here is some information on the work of EAPPI from their website:

The EAPPI is an initiative of the World Council of Churches under the Ecumenical Campaign to End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East. Its mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation. Participants of the programme are monitoring and reporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, supporting acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offering protection through non-violent presence, engaging in public policy advocacy and, in general, standing in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation.


While the programme's mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation, its detailed objectives are to:
  • Expose the violence of the occupation

  • End the brutality, humiliation and violence against civilians

  • Construct a stronger global advocacy network

  • Ensure the respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law

  • Influence public opinion in home country and affect foreign policy on Middle East in order to end the occupation and create a viable Palestinian State

  • Express solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists and empower local Palestinian communities/churches

  • Be an active witness that an alternative, non-violent struggle for justice and peace is possible to end the illegal occupation of Palestine.

Further to the call by the local churches of Jerusalem, as expressed to the Ecumenical Delegation to Israel and the OPT in June 2001, and at the International Ecumenical Consultation in Geneva in August 2001, the WCC Executive Committee meeting of September 2001 recommended to "develop an accompaniment programme that would include an international ecumenical presence based on the experience of the Christian Peacemakers Team".

After extensive consultation with the churches and ecumenical partners and following the initial phase of assessment and feasibility (October 2001 - January 2002), the WCC International Relations team convened a meeting of the Accompaniment Working Group on February 1-2, 2002, in Geneva in order to develop the framework of the accompaniment programme for the approval of the WCC Executive Committee in February 2002.


Based on its agreed framework, the EAPPI is based on principles of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, including resolutions of the UN Security Council, General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights. It is a programme developed as a response to Israel’s violation of internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights and the rule of law, in particular the IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights whose Article 1 requires that parties to the Covenant protect the rights of all individuals subject to its jurisdiction, that is individuals under its effective control.


Including the 16 new accompaniers who recently arrived in Jerusalem, the total number of people to have participated in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme since its inception is now 304. The latest group includes one from Germany, one from Kenya, five from Norway, three from South Africa, four from Switzerland and two from the UK, including two EAs who are returning for a second term. The group consists of twelve women and four men, who are serving in five placements: Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem, Tulkarem and Yanoun.

Ecumenical accompaniers, who serve a minimum of three months, work in various capacities with local churches, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, as well as Palestinian communities, to try to reduce the brutality of the Israeli occupation and improve the daily lives of both peoples. Since the programme was launched in August 2002, accompaniers have participated from more than 30 churches and ecumenical partners in 14 countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.

Picture: Rev Rod Benson (that's me) outside the inconspicuous entrance to the shared offices of EAPPI, the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center and Norwegian Church Aid, in the Old City, Jerusalem (but you should see what's on the other side of that door....)

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