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The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA denounces the detention, interrogation, and deportation of Dr. Isabel Phiri, Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, at Ben Gurion Airport by the Israeli government. Dr. Phiri was part of a high-level World Council of Churches delegation to the Holy Land, and the only member of the delegation denied entry.

It is noteworthy that Dr. Phiri, a citizen of Malawi who resides and works in Geneva, Switzerland, was the only African member of the WCC delegation. Not only do we insist the Israeli government invite Dr. Phiri to rejoin the delegation, we also call on them to investigate this racially discriminatory action and ensure it will not take place again.

The alleged grounds cited for denying her entry into Israel were entirely specious. The World Council of Churches is clear in its call “for equal justice for both Israelis and Palestinians,” and yet the Israeli government accused the WCC of being part of an activist, anti-Israel agenda. The World Council of Churches has an established policy affirming the consideration of non-violent economic measures in response to the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Peace for Israel and Palestine cannot be achieved without dialogue. The exclusion of Christian leaders diminishes this possibility.  We are especially concerned about restriction of Christian access to the land of our faith, our history, and the Christian communities who live there.   The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA continues to work and pray for a safe, secure, and peaceful solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.