ELCA NEWS SERVICE
December 11, 2009
Lutheran Bishop, Palestinian Christians, Call for End to Israeli Occupation
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- At least 16 Palestinian Christians, including a Lutheran bishop, prepared and released Dec. 11 a detailed document calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine by Israel. The Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Jerusalem, is one of the authors and signers of a document commonly known as "The Kairos Palestine Document."
Younan explained previously that in 2007, the World Council of Churches, Geneva, initiated the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF). PIEF is an international, interchurch advocacy organization to help Palestinian Christians strengthen their presence in the Holy Land and mobilize churches around the world for peace with justice in the Middle East, he said.
PIEF has been working on a joint statement to reflect the forum's vision, patterned after the "Kairos Document," a 1985 statement by South African theologians.
"Our Kairos document is an expression of the aspirations of Palestinian Christians inspired by our common spiritual heritage," Younan said.
In the document, the Palestinian Christians raised a series of concerns about the conditions under which Palestinians live, leading to their conclusion that Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian territories. "Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace," the Christians wrote.
The Christians addressed their letter to members of their churches in Palestine, religious and political leaders in Palestine, Israeli society, the international community and "Christian brothers and sisters" in churches around the world.
The Christians wrote that after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion "(we) cry out from within the suffering of our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God's divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land."
They wrote that the document was released "because we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people." They criticized decision-makers whom they said seem more content with managing the crisis versus solving it. They questioned what the international community is doing, what political leaders in Palestine, Israel and the Arab world are doing, and what the church is doing to resolve the crisis for Palestinians.
"The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church," the Christians wrote.
The Kairos Palestine Document addresses a series of "realities" for Palestinians, beginning with the assertion that "the reality is one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation."
In a written statement, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and president of the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, said "the ELCA has received with somber, yet hopeful hearts this authentic word from our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian Christian community. Their perspective on the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians warrants our respect and attentiveness."
Hanson noted the document is an appeal from an ecumenical group of theologians and church leaders, directed to members of their own churches. "It is primarily a word of hope in a time of overwhelming pessimism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a pessimism that could lead to despair. Recalling earlier Kairos documents, we join these leaders in their search for signs of hope and positive responses in the midst of a dire and seemingly intractable situation," he said.
The document's writers specifically addressed concerns about the separation wall on Palestinian territory, Gaza, Israeli settlements, "daily humiliation" for Palestinians at military checkpoints, separation of family members, restriction of religious liberty, lack of freedom of access to holy places, Palestinian refugees and prisoners, the status of Jerusalem, "Israeli disregard" for international law and international resolutions, "paralysis" of the Arab world and the international community, discriminatory policies, and the emigration of young people.
The Christians criticized the State of Israel, which they said justifies its actions as self-defense. "In our opinion this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear, no insecurity," the Christians wrote.
The Christians noted that Palestinians have responded in a variety of ways: through negotiations and through armed resistance. The "tragedy" worsened through internal conflicts among Palestinians and the separation of Gaza from rest of the Palestinian territory, they wrote.
"We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence. Let us resist evil together, the evil of occupation and the infernal cycle of violence," they wrote.
The Palestinian Christians expressed gratitude to churches of the world for the solidarity they have shown, and invited them to "come and see." They asked the international community "to stop the principle of 'double standards' and suggested possible "economic sanctions and boycott be applied" against Israel to reach "a just and definitive peace" to end the occupation.
The Christians also called on Jews and Muslims to join them for peace and to rise above political positions; said education is important for Palestinians; appealed to Jews and Muslims not to make a religious state but a state "for all its citizens"; asked for an end to division among Palestinians; and noted the importance of Jerusalem to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The Kairos Palestine Document is at http://bit.ly/8WURim on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog