St Bride's: News

A Pilgrimage for Justice to Bethlehem

St Bride's parishioner, Sophie Wickham, will be spending the next three months volunteering in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a human rights observer for the World Council of Churches.

She will be living in Bethlehem in the West Bank. The area has been significantly affected by Israel's construction of the Wall, otherwise known as the separation barrier, as well as checkpoints which prevent Palestinians from accessing their farmland, workplace, families in neighbouring villages, and even medical services.

Sophie will be helping to monitor Checkpoint 300 and the peaceful demonstrations in the surrounding villages. She will be accompanying Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in their efforts for a negotiated end to the Israeli occupation, and providing support to the declining Christian population in the area.

Sophie explains her motivation: "I feel strongly that no one should be subject to degrading treatment. I have met Palestinians in my work in the UK who have described to me the daily suffering in the occupied territories.

"Families have not seen each other in years because of Israeli checkpoints and permit systems; farmers are prevented from cultivating their land, and have to rely on handouts to provide food for their families; children as young as 10 are detained  for throwing stones.

"This upsets me. I am going to volunteer in Bethlehem to let people know that not all of the international community has forgotten about them."      

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was set up by the World Council of Churches in 2002 as a response to a call by the heads of churches in Jerusalem. Over 700 volunteers from more than 15 countries have taken part since its inception.

In Britain and Ireland the EAPPI is managed by Quaker Peace and Social Witness on behalf of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, together with  other Christian agencies. In July this year the Church of England General Synod voted to support EAPPI alongside their ecumenical partners.

Sophie's updates from Bethlehem will be posted on the St Bride's website, and she will be delivering a talk based on her experience and observations of life under occupation early in the New Year.

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