Brethren Couple Go to Israel and Palestine as Accompaniers

Church of the Brethren members Joyce and John Cassel of Oak Park, Ill., have begun work in Palestine and Israel with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program of the World Council of Churches (WCC). They departed Sept. 1 for a three month tour of duty, from September through November this year.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings international workers to the West Bank “to experience life under occupation,” according to the description of the program ( ). “Ecumenical accompaniers provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses, and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.” When they return home, participants are expected to “campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law, and implementation of UN resolutions.” Those who participate go through an extensive interview process and receive training and several days of orientation from EAPPI staff.

A group of 33 from all over the world will be working with EAPPI this fall, including people from Australia, South Africa, the Philippines, Canada, and European countries, as well as the US. The Cassels, who are retired, are the only Americans in the team, and are two of the three oldest members. The group is placed as small teams living in various areas, and Joyce and John will be working in two different locations in the West Bank during their three months of service.

The Cassels are receiving support from the Church of the Brethren denomination to participate with the WCC program, including travel costs and travel insurance. They also are supported by On Earth Peace, which is providing blogging and social networking support. OEP peace witness coordinator Matt Guynn is their denominational support person. In addition they have been in communication with Illinois and Wisconsin District executive Kevin Kessler about their work with EAPPI.

“We assume we will learn much and hope we can find ways to share our learnings and experiences–to the benefit of the larger church in the US,” they wrote in a letter of appreciation for the support they are receiving from the church.

After their return from the Middle East, the Cassels are scheduled to report to the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board’s spring meeting next March. During their time in Israel and Palestine they are blogging about their work, at .

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