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Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)

Profile

Country/Territory
Websitewww.mecc.org
Founded1974
In their own words“To deepen the spiritual fellowship among the churches of the Middle East, and to unite them in word and deed as they strive to achieve the unity of the churches and bear a living evangelical witness to spread the gospel of salvation and reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ, love, peace and justice throughout the region and among the people inhabiting it.”

Funding

Activities

  • Consists of four ecclesiastical denominations: Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical/Protestant, and Catholic.
  • MECC’S local division, the Department of Service to Palestine Refugees (DSPR) was formed as “an ad-hoc ecumenical group with both international and local spirited clergy and lay people to tend to the trauma of over 726,000 Palestinian refugees from the first Arab-Israeli war.”
    • The DSPR claims to work to “promote the socio-economic development and just rights of Palestinian refugees and communities in the Middle East.”
  • The Near East Council of Churches Committee for Refugee Work (NECCCRW) was formed to “assist Palestinians who took refuge in the Gaza Strip following the establishment of Israel in 1948.”

Political Advocacy

  • In December 2017, MECC was a signatory on a letter to the African National Congress calling for South Africa to “downgrade its relations with Israel and [the] Embassy in Tel Aviv. Israel is a notorious violator of endless and numerous international laws and regulations not only today not only yesterday but since its creation in 1948. Downgrading your embassy is an important step for what South Africa carries of ethical weight due to your long struggle against Apartheid and racism.”
  • In June 2017, MECC was a signatory to an “Open Letter” from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches, accusing Israel of “Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression.” The letter calls upon the WCC to “recognize Israel as an apartheid state,” and “unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses.” The letter also defends “our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and nonviolently,” through “economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation…in response to Israel’s war on BDS. We ask that you intensity those measures.”
  • In a 2014 interview, Executive Secretary of DSPR Bernard Sabella stated: “‘We must defeat Hamas’. What does that mean? Do you want to destroy and raze Gaza to the ground? Is this a path that will lead to peace?…You say that Hamas is the problem. That is not true.”
  • In a July 2014 update on the Gaza war, DSPR referred to Israel as a “war machine” and alleged that “the Israelis have gone crazy as they are incessantly bombing and shelling.”
  • In May 2013, MECC released a “Statement on Christian presence and witness in the Middle East,” together with the World Council of Churches (WCC), in which the two organizations present a false and distorted narrative of Israeli aggression, alleging that “The persistence, after sixty-five years, of continuing dispossession of Palestinian people—Christian and Muslim alike—from their land by Israeli occupation, continuing settlement of land inside the 1967 borders by a nation empowered by overwhelming military strength and external alliances and influence, is central to the turmoil in the region.”
  • NECC is a member of the “Ecumenical Water Network,” which uses allegations regarding water rights and availability as part of larger campaign to delegitimize Israel. In 2012, Ramzi Zananiri, head of the NECC, called for an international ecumenical fact-finding mission on environmental problems in Gaza and how they are linked to the occupation.
  • NECCCRW is a signatory to the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” against Israel, which seeks to end the “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and promotes the right of “Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.” These goals undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

Jerusalem Interchurch Centre

  • Together with the WCC, the MECC co-founded the Jerusalem Interchurch Centre (JIC), which claims to “bring the voice and the concerns of Palestinian Christians to the wide ecumenical family and to the world.”
  • JIC hosts the EAPPI Jerusalem Office and provides “guidance and coordination with the local churches.” The JIC arranges highly biased and politicized international ecumenical visitsto join Ecumenical Accompaniers for “short gatherings and solidarity actions,” including “observing checkpoints” and “gate watches at the wall.” The Israeli perspective is entirely omitted.
    • EAPPI sends volunteers to the West Bank to “witness life under occupation.” Upon completion of the program, the volunteers return to their home countries and churches where many engage in anti-Israel advocacy, including advocating for BDS campaigns in churches, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany, and other delegitimization strategies.
  • JIC is headed by Yusef Daher, one of the editors of “Faith under Occupation,” EAPPI’s core publication which placed sole blame on Israel for the difficulties faced by Christians in the Holy Land. It also sought to “disprove” what it called “unfounded Israeli and Christian Zionist propaganda that Palestinian Christians are depopulating due to Muslim fundamentalism in Palestinian society.” The document also contained a list of recommendations titled “50 Ways to Action for Peace and Justice,” including: “Strengthen network working on sanctions and suspension of US aid to Israel” and “Challenge Israel in local and international courts.”
  • Daher is also a co-author of the Kairos Palestine document, which calls for BDS against Israel, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel in theological terms, and rationalizes, justifies and trivializes terrorism, calling it “legal resistance.”
  • In 2015, Daher spoke at a BDS event titled “ISRAEL: A Palestinian Christian Perspective.”
  • In 2010, Daher spoke at a conference in Stockholm, where he stated, “We supported BDS we believed in the result that BDS can make and actually we… said that a full system of sanctions should have implemented on Israel long time ago…this is where we call our brothers and sisters to go for boycott. First personally and individually, and then convincing the churches and the churches to convince their governments…”

Partners

  • MECC is the regional chapter of the World Council of Churches, a collective of “347 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories.”
    • In contrast to its claim that it does not support BDS, the WCC calls on member churches to be “more active agents” by “promoting and supporting all non-violent efforts to end the occupation (including considering appropriate economic and other measures).”
    • In a June 21, 2017 statement, WCC General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit compared Israel’s West Bank presence to the Nazi occupation of Norway, saying “I heard about the occupation of my country during the five years of World War II as the story of my parents. Now I see and hear the stories of 50 years of occupation, several generations, many of whom have never seen anything else than this.”
  • Member of the ACT Alliance, a coalition of 144 churches and church-related organizations.
    • The ACT Alliance promotes demonizing rhetoric against Israel; international boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaigns; as well as the Kairos Palestine document, which calls for BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) against Israel; denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel in theological terms; and rationalizes, justifies, and trivializes terrorism, calling it “legal resistance.”
    • Advocacy goals include contributing “to a global discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that addresses the consequences of occupation, promotes access of individuals to resources, and ultimately brings an end to the occupation” and targeting “Christian communities on the International level…by stressing Christians’ suffering in the Holy Land and seek to preserve Christians presence in Palestine.”
    • Supported the EU’s decision to label products exported from Israeli communities over the 1967 ceasefire line, calling it “an important measure towards ensuring continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation.”
  • Member of ACT Palestine Forum, a coalition of ACT Alliance Members that cooperates in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza under the Act Alliance network.
    • Urges “various forms of boycott of settlement products,” accusing Israel of denying “Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through military occupation.”
    • Published a February 2013 Advocacy Paper, “The ‘Permit Regime’ and Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Freedom of Worship,” alleging that “Under Israeli military occupation, repression has become the worst of history compared to that of South Africa. It’s a sophisticated form of social, economic, political and racial discrimination, strangulation, and genocide, incorporating the worst elements of colonialism and apartheid as well as repressive dispossession, displacement and state terrorism to separate Palestinians from their land and heritage, deny them their rightful civil and human rights, and gradually remove or eliminate them altogether. The ID/permit system is one of many elements designed to make greater Israel an ethnically pure Jewish state.”

Funding Tables

Partial DSPR Funding based on Annual Reports (“Received at Central Office”) (amounts in USD)

Donor2017201620152014
Church of Sweden173,450157,703131,934184,341
Church of Scotland15,39012,78215,19420,297
Finish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM)32,47337,49722,230
Bread for the World75,40075,98067,80083,238
ICCO23,305
Embrace the Middle East172,137110,984139,517141,200
Norwegian Church Aid227,802224,487301,151
CCFD- Terre Solidaire28,49529,29130,37546,170

Partial DSPR Funding “Contributions Received Directly at Areas” in “Gaza” (amounts in USD)

Donor2017
Bread for the World337,613
Mennonite Central Committee25,000
ANERA26,276
GIZ (Germany)77,883
Amos Trust10,000
Caritas France184,341

NECCCRW-Gaza Funding, based on 2016 annual report

“Grants through DSPR” include:

Donor20152016
Embrace the Middle East- Well baby clinic$75,270$64,142
DanChurchAid (DCA)- Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)$224,486$74,065

“Direct Grants” include:

Donor20152016
DanChurchAid (DCA)- Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)$130,346
Mennonite Central Committee$25,000$25,000
Church of Scotland$13,669$7,658
Amos Trust$15,063

 

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