Christian leaders mark Israel's anniversary with 'just peace' call

Over 140 Christian leaders have made a unified call for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel. Their declaration is published today in The Independent newspaper.

Never before has such a diverse range of prominent Christians acknowledged that for Palestinians, Israel's celebration has become a 'Catastrophe' (Nakba). They seek a shared solution to the longstanding conflict.

Signatories include Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunnicliffe, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, New York Times' bestselling author of 'God's Politics' Jim Wallis, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann and Oxford professor Christopher Rowland, 'emergent church' writer Brian McLaren, the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, and a dozen more bishops.

Also involved are seminary leaders, professors, authors, aid agency representatives and ministers from across the denominations, including Presbyterians, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Mennonites and Pentecostals. The signatories hail from Britain, Ireland, France, the USA, Australia, South Africa, and Canada.

The statement is a wholly independent initiative. The idea of two journalists, Ben White and Philip Rizk, the declaration was mainly spread by personal networks, tapping into a groundswell of support amongst Christian leaders for an alternative to an uncritical 'Israel first' approach.

The declaration recognises that while today "millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel", "millions of Palestinians will mourn 60 years since over 700,000 of them were uprooted from their homes and forbidden from returning".

It acknowledges that "many of us in the church worldwide" have denied the Palestinians "the same solidarity" offered to Israelis. The signatories underline the biblical affirmation that "it is justice that 'will produce lasting peace and security", before committing themselves "to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples' shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians".

Simon Barrow, co-director of the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia, commented: "This declaration joins human and Christian compassion for two wounded peoples with the political passion to see right prevail. It is timely and essential".

Professor Gary Burge, biblical scholar and author of 'Whose Land? Whose Promise?' describes the declaration as "a necessary reminder" of the plight of "millions of refugees and occupied residents of the West Bank and Gaza".