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St Bride's parishioner, Sophie Wickham, is volunteering in Occupied Palestine as a human rights observer for the World Council of Churches.
In 2001, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued a call for Christians throughout the world to stand with them in solidarity and travel to Israel-Palestine to bear witness and provide international protection. The WCC issued a statement in response, and set up the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. 2009 saw the Kairos Palestine document published: the Christian Palestinians' word to the world about what is happening in occupied Palestine, which reaffirmed the urgent need for international action. Over 1400 volunteers from 19 different countries have taken part in the EAPPI 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.
As part of this programme, Sophie spent three months living in Bethlehem in 2012. Bethlehem is significantly affected by the confiscation of land to construct Israeli settlements and the Separation Wall. Sophie observed how the Wall and associated system of checkpoints, prevented ordinary Palestinians from accessing their farmland, workplace, families in neighbouring villages, and even medical services. She monitored the humanitarian conditions at checkpoints, accompanied children going to schools where the army have a constant presence, and monitored non-violent demonstrations against the occupation.
Sophie has now returned to occupied Palestine for EAPPI to volunteer in the Jordan Valley, which makes up a third of the West Bank. Issues affecting ordinary people here include forced displacement, water resources being diverted to illegal agricultural settlements, and incidents related to Israeli military practice in and around Palestinian villages.
She will be monitoring the human rights situation, accompanying Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in their efforts to end to the occupation, and providing support to the local Christian population.
Sophie's updates from the West Bank will be posted on the St Bride's website, and you can sign up to follow her blog. On her return, Sophie will be delivering talks based on her experience and observations.