AKRON, Pa. – Palestinian Christian theologians and church leaders have issued a passionate plea for an end to Israeli military occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip).
In a document released in December 2009, Kairos Palestine, 2009, A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering, church leaders state the military occupation must end to establish peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis that is built on the foundation of justice and equality.
The document was co-authored by more than a dozen Christian leaders. Although MCC was not directly involved in creating the document, its contents reflect what MCC has been hearing from its partner organizations in the region.
Daryl Byler, an MCC representative for Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine, said the document expresses a deep desire for peace, justice and reconciliation.
“Palestinian Christian leaders are asking for help,” he said. “The essential message of the letter is that we want to resolve the conflict in a nonviolent way and we are appealing to the global church to help us do this.”
Byler went on to say that the document reflects the sense of isolation the Christian leaders feel as they remind the global church community that the mission of the church is to walk in solidarity with oppressed people around the world.
“We have reached a dead-end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people,” say the Christian leaders. “The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it.
“The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and question: What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing?
“What is the church doing? The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be a concern to the church.”
Inspired by the success of the Kairos document written by South African church leaders in 1985, Palestinian church leaders are hopeful that the Kairos Palestine document will also evoke debate and action. The Greek term, Kairos, means special moment or opportune time.
The Palestinian Christian leaders extend an invitation for people to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories to see firsthand how the Israeli separation wall, military check points, settlements and bypass roads devastate Palestinian livelihoods, fragment families and restrict access to water, farmland and medical services.
“The separation wall erected on Palestinian territory, a large part of which has been confiscated for this purpose, has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons,” states the document.
Despite international rulings that construction on the 700-kilometre (430-mile) separation wall and construction of new Israeli settlements on Palestinian land is illegal, Palestinian land continues to be expropriated for this type of construction.
“The absence of any vision or spark of hope for peace and freedom pushes young people, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate,” states the document. “Thus the land is deprived of its most important and richest resource—educated youth.”
The church leaders challenge the global church to re-examine theologies that support the Israeli occupation and reject any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice.
“It is God’s land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love – this is indeed possible,” states the document. “God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God’s land. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. (Ps. 24:1)”
The Kairos Palestine document makes reference to boycotts and divestments, favorably noting that some Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations and churches, support boycotts and divestment as a form of nonviolent resistance to the occupation.
No MCC board in Canada or the United States has called for economic sanctions, divestments or boycotts. MCC continues to struggle with how to respond in ways that best serve the cause of justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis.
MCC works in partnership with Palestinian and Israeli organizations that are committed to nonviolence and to a future of peace, justice and reconciliation for both peoples. MCC was one of the first international agencies to respond to the 1948 conflict in Palestine and Israel and has worked alongside Palestinians since 1949. MCC started working with Israeli partner organizations nearly 40 years ago.
To read the full Kairos document, please visit http://www.kairospalestine.ps.
Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC.