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The outgoing general secretary of the World Council of Churches said Wednesday (Aug. 26) that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories should be declared a “sin against God”.
“Occupation, along with the concomitant humiliation of a whole people for over six decades, constitutes not just economic and political crimes but, like anti-Semitism, it is a sin against God,” the Rev.
Samuel Kobia said in his final report to the WCC’s Central Committee.
He noted that at its founding assembly in Amsterdam in 1948, the WCC had declared that anti-Semitism is a “sin against God.” Kobia said, “Are we ready to say that occupation is also a sin against God?”
In his speech, Kobia referred to his travels as general secretary and noted the need for urgency in seeking peace for the Middle East. “In the context of war and violence in the region, people are desperately searching for security for themselves and their families,” Kobia said.
The WCC elected a Norwegian theologian, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, as Kobia’s successor on Thursday. Kobia was elected to a five-year term that began in 2004 and announced last year that he would not seek reelection for “personal reasons.”
Speaking to journalists after delivering his report, Kobia referred to the “dehumanization” of both the occupied and the occupiers in the Palestinian territories. “The concern is not only for the victims but also the perpetrators,” he said, referring to Israel.
He also noted that former South African president Nelson Mandela had once thanked the WCC for calling apartheid a “sin,” which he said later helped undermine the system of minority white rule.
While he said Israelis recalled “The War of Independence” that led to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, Palestinians would remember this as “a form of ‘ethnic cleansing’ that saw the largest forced migration in modern history”, Kobia said.
The WCC groups 349 churches, principally Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church does not belong to the WCC but has members on some of its committees.
— Peter Kenny and Stephen Brown

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