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Christians recruited for Middle East peacekeeping

 An association of churches worldwide is recruiting Christians for peacekeeping efforts in Israel/Palestine. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), is sponsored by the World Council of Churches - a fellowship of 342 Christian churches in 120 countries, with offices in Geneva, Switzerland. EAPPI is looking for volunteers to travel to Israel and Palestine to monitor human rights violations and protect Palestinian and Israeli advocates of peace. Rev Mark Brown, assistant director for international issues, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (LOGA), Washington DC, said the purpose of the program is to support those who are struggling to end the occupation peacefully. Rev Brown said: "We hope the presence of international monitors will reduce the violence and encourage everyone to be on their best behaviour. Sometimes a spotlight and people writing reports help create a level of confidence for those who want to see nonviolent change." EAPPI is neither pro-Palestinian nor pro-Israeli, but rather "pro-peace and pro-justice," said Catherine Gordon, associate for international issues, Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC. The first group to go consists of 25 Christians from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the United States. Their training begins with a five-day course starting 13 August in Washington, and continues when they arrive in the Middle East a week later. EAPPI plans to send a new team every three months. Participants will be housed initially in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza. Their job will be to accompany Israelis and Palestinians and make sure they can go about their daily routines without being detained or hassled. "We want them to be present at major gatherings where conflict could erupt," said Brown. "Accompaniment teams may be present at places like funerals, demonstrations, checkpoints, or at someone's home that is threatened with demolition." With the current unrest in the Middle East, the program poses possible danger. Participants would face the dangers faced by Palestinian men, women and children everyday, but this has not stopped people from applying, Smith said. "No one who has made an inquiry has focused too much on the risks," said Smith. Participants must be at least 25 and must stay in the Middle East for at least three months to one year. Participants need to work with their local, regional and national church bodies to raise enough money for their food, housing, airfare and transportation, plus a donation to WCC to help pay for program administration. The deadline for applications for the first team is 1 July. Rev Brown also asked for people to support the programme with prayers and by writing letters. More information and updates on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme are available at www.loga.org .