Week 5 – World Council of Churches

World Council of ChurchesThis week marked the 1/2 way point of my 10-week work in Bethlehem with the high point being my attendance at the meeting of the World Council of Churchs and the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine. The event provided an opportunity to reflect on the last 50 years since Palestine has been occupied by Israeli forces and for Palestinian Churches to present an open letter requestion support to the World Council of Churches. You can find the entire document posted on the Kairos Palestine website but have included the main points below.

David WildmanI felt privileged to be the only seminary student in a room full of global church leaders and Palestinian church leaders. I was honored to meet and visit with David Wildman, Executive Secretary, Middle East, Human Rights & Racial Justice with the Global Mission Connections of the United Methodist Church. Most of all, I pray that I will look back over time and see the changes that occurred for Palestinian Christians because of the open letter presented on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Amen.

NCCOP Open Letter to the WCCAs we stand in front of this “impossible moment”, it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:

1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UNESCWA report said: “Israelis guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people”. We are disturbed by the fact that States and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you 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. We ask that churches and Christians support the Palestinians in their request for justice. It was his infamous declaration, after all that laid the ground for the concept of an ethnoreligious state – the very same thing our region is suffering today.

South African Support3. That you take a clear and the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness towards this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed – if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and nonviolently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and go further to support sport, cultural and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, Apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland and properties. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, We ask that you intensify those measures.
8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians.
We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the Program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate and develop active programs to justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and work on maintaining the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work, and peaceful efforts.

J.R. Atkins David Wildman John Howard Kristen BrownAs faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm and continue the long-standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call. Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status-quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin brought to us and to all humanity, new life.

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