10th May, 2016

The World Council of Churches has protested against what it says was the "excessive, unreasonable and wholly unwarranted" treatment of a group of WCC staff and church representatives at the hands of Israeli authorities after they arrived in Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport last week.

The WCC said in a statement released on Monday that members of its working group on climate change, coming from as many as 13 different nations, had arrived in Israel to engage in discussions on climate change and environmental stewardship at the invitation of WCC member churches in the region when they were "detained, interrogated and intimidated". Members of the group, who have now all left the country, reported being held for as long as three days in "prison-like conditions" and facing "tough intimidation".

“The WCC protests the excessive, unreasonable and wholly unwarranted treatment by the Israeli authorities of these representatives of WCC member churches and staff...” said Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, in the statement.

The WCC has called on Israel's Government to apologise and "desist its aggressive behaviour" toward WCC member churches and staff in the future.

“We believe that it is also in the interest of the government of Israel to address these very unpleasant incidents for future visitors to this country, and to prevent their recurrence,” said Rev Dr Tveit. “We are ready to meet and discuss these issues.”

~ www.oikoumene.org

- DAVID ADAMS