Middle East Visit Marks the Beginning of Holy Week and Passover

    TORONTO, April 2 /CNW/ - A delegation of high-level United Church of
Canada leaders, lay people, and staff are currently in Palestine and Israel on
a visit that marks the beginning of both the Christian Holy Week of Easter and
the Jewish Passover.
    The church's newly elected Moderator, The Right Rev. David Giuliano, and
Nora Sanders, The United Church of Canada's recently appointed General
Secretary of the General Council, are key members of a six-person delegation
participating in a solidarity visit to the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and
other partners in occupied Palestinian territories and Israel who are working
for peace.
    "As Christians throughout the world celebrate the resurrected Christ,
whose message is one of peace and justice, we are hearing that message
expressed again as both hope and prayer from our partners," says Wendy
Gichuru, Program Coordinator for the church's Middle East partnerships.
    The United Church of Canada is the country's largest Protestant
denomination, with a long history of working together with other Canadian
churches in partnership with Palestinian and Israeli groups to promote peace
and development in the Middle East.
    "Through this visit, The United Church of Canada is affirming its support
for peace, justice, and security for Palestinians and Israelis," explains
Gichuru. "It is also important to raise greater awareness in the church about
the circumstances of fellow Christians living under occupation."
    From March 25 to April 3, the six-person delegation will meet with senior
Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders and visit the peace-building programs
supported by The United Church of Canada in the region, including in
Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Hebron.
    "Together with the people of this region, we too are desperately longing
for peace with justice," says David Giuliano. "This visit is to witness to the
tremendous work carried out by Palestinians and Israelis working for peace,
and to affirm our solidarity with them in this quest."
    Giuliano adds that The United Church of Canada is also in the midst of
developing an education, advocacy, and fundraising campaign to be launched
next fall in support of global peace. The church's goal is to raise
$2 million, 50 percent of which will be available for peace initiatives with
partners in the Middle East.
    Nora Sanders, General Secretary of The United Church of Canada, expressed
gratitude for the warm welcome the delegation has received from people in the
    "Our partners appreciate The United Church of Canada's support for a just
resolution to the conflict, based on international law and the rights of both
Israelis and Palestinians to live within safe and secure borders agreed upon
through peaceful negotiation," says Sanders. She adds that partners have
encouraged the church to press the Canadian government to play a constructive
role in bringing the parties back to the negotiating table.
    Sanders says that message is echoed in the words of the Heads of Churches
in Jerusalem: "We believe that the churches can and must do more to recognize
their duty towards the Holy Land and act together to sensitize their
governments, their people, and the international community."
    Other members of the delegation are Omega Bula, Executive Minister of the
Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit; the Rev. Jeanette Liberty-Duns,
Chair of the Peace Policy Task Group; and Allan Seal, a member of the
Executive of the General Council.
    Gichuru says she hopes that upon their return, the delegation will have
an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister to share the message from
partners in the region, and urge Canada to re-engage positively in a
meaningful peace process.

For further information:

For further information: Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The
United Church of Canada, (416) 231-7680 ext. 2016 (business), (416) 885-7478
(cell), (416) 766-0057 (home)

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