Palestinian pastors lament Israel-Palestine impasse

Published 12 December 2009  |  
|PIC1|A group of Palestinian Christian leaders issued a document Friday in Bethlehem that pleaded the case of Palestinians and called for the end of Israeli occupation of the territory.

Authors of “The Kairos Palestine Document” said they are calling for the end to the occupation “because today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people.”

“The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and with questioning: 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 12-page paper asks.

“The problem is not just a political one,” it went on to contend. “It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church.”

Christian leaders who authored the document spotlighted the urgent need for peace and justice in the conflict-heavy area. They claim that “decision-makers” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are content with “managing the crisis” rather than finding ways to resolve it.

Signatories decried the empty promises of peace and included in the document a list titled, “The reality on the ground,” that describes the challenges faced by Palestinians who live under Israeli occupied territories.

The list included the wall separating Palestinian territories that “has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons”.

They hit out at the Israeli settlements that “ravage our land…controlling our natural resources, including water and agricultural land” and the “daily humiliation” of the military checkpoints.

Palestinian Christians rejected the claim by Israel that the wall and check points were necessary as security measures, arguing that without the occupation, “there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity.”

“God created us not to engage in strife and conflict but together build up the land in love and mutual respect,” the leaders wrote. “Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or a theological question only.”

The authors also rejected the use of the Bible to support political options and positions based upon “injustice”, calling the occupation of Palestinian territories a sin against God and humanity.

The American Jewish Committee, however, repudiates the claim that Israel’s “occupation” is “a sin against God”.

In August, the Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs, responded to a similar statement made by World Council of Churches general secretary Samuel Kobia by saying such comments ignore the cause of Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

The prominent rabbi pointed to the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel battled against Egypt, Syria and Jordan to protect the Jewish state from being destroyed. As a result of the war, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights all fell under Israel’s control. The Sinai Peninsula was later returned to Egypt after a peace treaty was signed.

“Israel does not seek to govern another people,” Rosen maintains. “Rather, Israel has offered in direct negotiations with the Palestinians repeatedly to withdraw from most of the West Bank in exchange for peace and security.”

Many American church leaders, including the Rev Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago and the Rev. Joel C Hunter of Northland Church in Orlando, have voiced support for a comprehensive Middle East solution that would ensure Israel’s right to security while giving Palestinians a sovereign and secure state of their own.

The Obama administration has also stated that it supports and wants to work towards a two-state solution.

Palestinian Christian leaders, however, lamented that change is not happening fast enough and people are losing hope in the promise of peace.

"In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope,” the document reads. “We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God's goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here 'a new land' and 'a new human being', capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters."

Among the 16 authors of the document, nine of them are clerics. The authors include Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Bishop Dr Munib Younan the Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem; and Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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