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Monday, October 16, 2017

A South African Message of Hope and Solidarity

To:         The Churches of the Holy Land

From:    The Churches of South Africa

Subject: A Message of Hope and Solidarity

Date:     April 20, 2017

To our dear fellow Palestinian Christians and Church leaders, based in both Palestine and Israel and those in the diaspora:

We greet you in the Resurrection Hope on this Eastertide of 2017, with a message of HOPE AND SOLIDARITY:

We are aware that this year is a special moment that represents several painful milestones in your lives as Palestinians and as Christians. It is the Centennial Year of the Balfour Declaration that initially conceived the partitioning of Palestine; the Fiftieth and Jubilee Year of the 1967 Occupation of Palestine - the Jubilee Year that biblically should be the year of return of all that has been taken. This is also the Tenth Year of the Blockade of Gaza!

For this reason, and because we as South Africans have experienced, have benefitted from and understand the role of international solidarity, we now greet you warmly in the Name of the Word who was born, raised, ministered, died, rose and ascended in first century Palestine.

We rejoice that God has planted you there and affirm that when one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. We are one with you as we are one with Christ.He is the One who continues to fill us with his faith, hope and love.

What message do we, South African Christians, have for you at this time, our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land and those scattered throughout the world?

  1. WE SHARE OUR EXPERIENCE:

In sharing our experience with you, we are more than aware that our situations are very different. Whereas we lived in a country that professed to be majority Christian during a Cold War epoch, you live in a very different and more complex local and global context, particularly the fact that Christians are in the vast minority there. We could also draw from the immediacy and experience of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA and the theology of Bonhoeffer, Barth and Vatican 2.

Despite these differences, we believe that significant parts of our experience can be of assistance to you, and we gladly share that now. We offer it as a mirror to you.

As you are aware, we are a Church that, for the most part, attempted to stand side by side with our people during the period of apartheid oppression. The SACC came under tremendous pressure from the Apartheid regime in South Africa for its prophetic and anti-apartheid messages and our general secretaries, from Desmond Tutu to Beyers Naude and Frank Chikane, were continuously harassed and the SACC headquarters and the headquarters of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference were bombed. It was a profoundly ecumenical witness. Protestant and Roman Catholic sisters and brothers also stood firmly together, and with the witness of tremendous Church leaders, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Dennis Hurley and many others.

But we stood firm in the face of this repression and consistently called out Apartheid as a heresy. We believed and still believe that God created all God's people in God's wonderful image (Gen. 1: 27). We believe this not only for ourselves, but also for you. Any human system that discriminates between God's people and makes some superior to others, is not of God.

Apartheid was the opposite of this faith, and therefore it became a theological question to ensure that Apartheid was exposed for what it was, and that it comes to an end as soon as possible. This became an urgent Gospel imperative for us.

A small but powerful section of the South African population had a strong exclusive covenantal theology, and they too believed that the God of the Bible had given South Africa to them, as a promised land. They mixed history, theology and law and came up with a devil's brew! This became formalised into law since 1948 and the marriage between a certain misunderstanding of Christian theology and law became the norm in South Africa.

"Divide and rule" was the strategy of the Apartheid regime. The regime, in its last few years, tried to divide us even more, extending some inferior voting power to parts of our disenfranchised population in 1984, who in turn resoundingly rejected that and preferred unity with the rest of the suffering masses. We rejoice that this happened, and that many of our white compatriots also stood side by side with us to reject apartheid. This made us even more determined to become as united as possible and to begin to live out our dream of a non-racial and non-sexist society in embryo even while the Apartheid system still existed in legal form.

The ecumenical movement was strengthened through women's and youth groups, who shared this Gospel imperative with even greater urgency and often challenged the Churches to take a firm stand. Our theologians also developed various theological documents that moved the mainline churches away from neutrality or attempts at so-called even-handedness towards a clear solidarity with the oppressed. The Spirit moves where she wills, and we simply followed where the Spirit led us.

For this we eventually, though not initially, had tremendous global church support, and we thank God for that. Some church communities went further to support us than others, but all support was a blessing. Some laypeople took a strong stand against their official church positions that often tried to be neutral about our oppression or who tried to be even-handed by condemning both our oppressors and ourselves. Many of our overseas compatriots joined with the global anti-Apartheid movement to ensure that maximum pressure was put to bear on the Apartheid regime.

The system of Apartheid could not and would not come to an end without significant internal and external pressure on local and global political and economic leaders, and it was a combination of these two that would lead to that wonderful resurrection moment when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison a free man. His lack of bitterness and hatred was and continues to be an example to all of us. He helped to mould us into a united nation, and despite all the challenges we are still facing as a society, we are holding on to this vision.

These are our experiences and some of the gifts and graces we can now offer to you.

  1. WE CONFESS OUR LACK OF AND LIMITED INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY WITH OTHERS

To a large extent, we became self-centred and self-important. This was most vividly demonstrated when a society such as Rwanda tore itself apart in the early 1990s, and we neither understood what happened nor did we stand in solidarity with them. The same applies to the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other situations on our continent.

We have still not fully recovered from this lack of solidarity with others, even though many people throughout the world gave up much of their time and their lives to be in solidarity with us. For this, we now beg your forgiveness and understanding.

Our limited solidarity with you allowed us to support, amongst others, the EAPPI programme. Many South Africans have now served as EAPPI monitors and they have shared their experiences with us. Several of our church leaders and theologians have also visited with you and have offered words of support to you. Some of our churches have assisted in development aid for hospitals, etc. This message now comes as the official message from the South African Council of Churches to you.

  1. WE OFFER OUR GIFTS AND GRACES TO YOU

After Apartheid, we were able to welcome the Dutch Reformed Church back into the SACC family after they confessed and denounced their theological support for Apartheid, which led to our continued oppression and repression. We believe today that they can be a gift to you, sharing their experience not only with you, but also with those who occupy your land. For us, freedom was not only for the oppressed but also for the oppressor (even if they were merely bystanders) and for this reason we believe that they can be of special support to you at this time.

The majority black churches offer you other gifts and graces, particularly the theologies that we developed against Apartheid oppression.

We have now been greatly enriched by many of your theologians and writers over the years; who have re-inspired us to again think and act theologically. 

But besides being influenced by liberation theologies, contextual theology and black theology and developing our own anti-apartheid theology, we were also deeply influenced by and taught in post-Holocaust and replacement/supercessionist theology. Many of us were trained in this theology - and some of this continues in our seminaries and theological faculties - and this has for a long time framed our understanding of your situation. Our European colonisation also existed on a theological level and we carry much of the European guilt and Empire theologies with us. But we also thank God for the theology of Bonhoeffer that proved so important to us.

Beginning to understand these different theological influences on us are in some ways already liberation for us. But it makes us complicit in your oppression.

Many of our people go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, often with the best intentions to be spiritually refreshed and renewed. The State of Israel has commercialised this desire in its favour, but many of our people do not realise this.

Unfortunately, many of those who lead these pilgrimages visit the dead stones and not the living stones, and we treat it as a theme park experience. They think of the State of Israel and the Biblical idea of Israel as the same thing. This happens mainly through the misuse of words.

  1. OUR MESSAGE OF HOPE AND COMFORT TO YOU AT THIS TIME:

We do not and will not pretend to understand your minority status as Christians in the Holy Land and the extent of your oppression. We see it and hear about it daily and we desire your freedom from oppression.

Based on the information before us, it is clear that Israel is structured in a way that fits and even surpasses the description of an Apartheid State, which robs Palestinians of their citizenship and treats them in a discriminatory way. With our experience of Apartheid that the whole world recognized and condemned as a crime against humanity, we see the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel as worse than Apartheid. We are concerned that the world that condemned Apartheid has closed its eyes to the pain and suffering of Palestinians in the occupied areas. We decry the fact that the Palestinians have been occupied for fifty years now without any sign of an end to this occupation.

We strongly condemn this illegal and unjust occupation of the land of Palestine; the violation of your rights and human dignity; the destruction your sources of livelihoods and the demolition of your homes and properties. We reject the wall of division and separation that cuts through the homes and alienates Palestinian properties. We condemn most forcefully, the blockage of the Gaza strip turning the area into the largest prison in the world. We are appalled and dismayed at the latest law adopted by the Knesset, which bans international citizens from entering Israel and Palestine - not because they promote violence and terrorism, but because, and only because they are advocating peaceful means of resisting the illegal occupation by Israel.

As we experienced Apartheid, we do not want another people, and definitely not those who live in the Holy Land, to have their humanity diminished because of external cultural and other factors. We affirm once again that in Christ there is no Palestinian nor Israeli, and that you are one in Christ Jesus. Any system that says and acts otherwise, we reject with all our might, and pray for the day when you will be completely equal in the Land that Christ chose to pitch his tent amongst us.

Admittedly from a distance, but we are wondering if the ultimate answer is not a single non-racial and secular State where a person's race, ethnicity and faith have no determination of the human worth and citizenship of the individual, and where all can worship freely and appreciate the cultural diversity that enriches society.

We do understand that for many Jewish people all over the world, and certainly in Israel, there is a traditional narrative that sees Arab people as perpetual enemies; and that is forever suspicious, mistrustful and hateful of what they consider to be the historically hostile attitude of Christians towards the Jews. Many see Christian fervour and blame for the crucifixion of Jesus as the ideological genesis of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust and its despicable industrial extermination of no less than 6 million Jews. Their justification of the unacceptable conduct of Israel is the "never again" response to historical Jewish discrimination and persecution.

Yes, never again! But in the same way that German Nazism was a political system with no sound theological basis - hence Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church; likewise the Israeli occupation and treatment of Palestinians is a political system with no theological grounding. Zionism is a false ideology with no theological grounding in present day ordering of human and international relations. You have correctly diagnosed the anchor of this oppression in the theology and ideology of empire, with multiple roots in the Western world that sustains Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestine.

We are encouraged that in the face of all that you have endured over decades, you have chosen to manifest in the best way you can, the gospel love that the first century Jewish Rabbi Jesus gave to you and to us. We urge you to continue to strengthen and grow the Christian community in Palestine and Israel and to allow the gospel of love to continue to penetrate for the sake of all in the Holy Land. We know that the way that we and other Christians understand and interpret certain texts in the Bible is key to your and our liberation - indeed the liberation of Christian theology!

We offer to stand side by side with you until a solution is found that will satisfy the majority of your people, with lasting peace with justice for all. We commit to educate our congregations about your struggles. In this context we want to encourage an exchange program that will have Palestinians traveling more to participate in direct information sharing of your experience of struggle and hope. Also we encourage that groups that visit the Holy Land should also be hosted by the Palestinians, and heed the Palestinian "Macedonian" call to "come over and help us!" (Acts 16:9). And because of your manifestation of the very Christ ethos of justice and love, you are a standing invitation for those "wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21),  "to come and see" (John 1:39).

We shall continue to pray for you and act in solidarity with you. In this regard we are sending a solidarity delegation to visit you during this year of the Jubilee of your oppressive occupation since 1967, to deliver our message of solidarity, and join in prayer that the meaning of Jubilee and its restorative justice can be visited upon Palestine at this time. We commit to passing on this message to the All Africa Conference of Churches and some other Councils of Churches and Church leaders on our continent of Africa in order for them to reflect on it and dialogue with us about its content and implications.

We remain hopeful, not because of our strength but because of Christ, that your oppression will not be permanent but that the love of God will turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, in Israel and Palestine and across the world, to move you from the darkness of oppression to the light of freedom. Maranatha! Alleluia!!

 

signature South africa 2

Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, President, South African Council of Churches

 

signature South africa

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary, South African Council of Churches

Global Kairos

The idea respectively vision of “Global Kairos Network” emerged from the Kairos Palestine conference held in Bethlehem in December 2011. The conference was attended by representatives of churches and institutions from more than twenty countries. The Bethlehem Call, sent out at the end of the conference reiterated the urgent calls of the Kairos Palestine document “Moment of Truth” and asked for a comprehensive boycott of Israel as one of the non-violent tools to end the Israeli apartheid system.

Today Kairos movements exist in many countries in the Global South as well as in the Global North. The international movement is dependent on a committee in which Kairos Palestine plays the significant role of facilitating and coordinating the various committee’s tasks of looking at theological and political rhetoric, exchanging information, unifying advocacy strategies and suggesting activities that take into consideration the specificity of each country deriving from the Kairos concept of acting now for justice.

Join the Global Kairos Network

Please check out the opportunity to join a movement in your own country/region or to establish a Kairos movement in your own country.

Kairos Palestine does not dictate or influence any group to start a movement in another country. Any individual or group that is convinced of the Kairos concept and accepts the principles of the prophetical obligation of striving against injustice in a non-violent creative resistance form contacts Kairos Palestine and informs of its creation and commitment.

Brazil

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Website: www.kairosbrasil.com
Facebook: KairosPalestinaBrasil

Kairós Palestina Brasil was initially formulated as a responsive document to the Kairos Palestine document, written collectively by many theologians. The document gathered 238 signatures from Brazilian Christians of different nominations. The document is available in Portuguese, English and Spanish on the website of Kairos Palestine Brasil. The group keeps on working on advocacy, praying and education about the Palestinian situation for Brazilian readers and to mobilize communities in Brazil during the WWPPI

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Germany

Kairos Palestine Solidarity Network Germany

Coordinator: Hildegard Lenz (Bremen)

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Kairos Palaestina – Solisaritaetsnetz Deutschland was established in 2012 as a response to the Kairos Palestine document 'A moment of truth' under the umbrella organisation of Kairos Europa e.V.

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India

Indian Solidarity Ecumenical Network - Kairos Palestine

ISEN members include All India Council of Christian Women, Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College, Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, National Council of Churches in India, Student Christian Movement of India, Young Mens Christian Association of India, Young Womens Christian Association of India.

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Kairos Netherlands

Jacobskerkhof 2
3511 BL Utrecht
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Kairos Nigeria

20, Omofioye Crescent, off Ring Road,
New Adeoyo, Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria

Program Director: Rev. Kolade Fadahunsi

Phone: +234 806-220-6882
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Blog: www.kairosnigeria.blogspot.com
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South Africa

Kairos Southern Africa

P.O. Box 228, Onrusriver, 7201,
Western Cape, Republic of South Africa

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Website: kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com
Twitter: @KairosZA

Kairos Southern Africa was launched on 9 March 2011 to carry forward the legacy of Kairos theology in Southern Africa and to be in solidarity with others throughout the world, among them with the Palestinians.

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Sri Lanka

Kairos Sri Lanka

Coordinator: Bishop Duleep de Chickera

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Kairos Sri Lanka consists of a group currently working on establishing a Kairos movement by drafting a document through an ecumenical team of theologians

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Sweden

KAIROS PALESTINE - Sweden

Coordinator: Rev. Dr. Anna Karin Hammar

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Kairos Palestine - Sweden is a network in solidarity with the Call from Kairos Palestine

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Switzerland

Kairos Palestine Appeal Switzerland

Coordinator: Peter Dettwiler

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Website: www.kairos-palaestina.ch

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Kairos Britain

Advocacy Officer: Charlotte Marshall

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Website: www.kairosbritain.org.uk
Facebook: KairosBritain
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Kairos Britain is a network of individuals, organisations and faith communities formed in response to the Kairos Palestine document, ‘A Moment of Truth’. The network continues the work of the Christians who met on Iona in May 2012 and issued the Iona call to the Christian communities in Britain and Ireland.

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United States of America

Kairos USA

1815 NW 27th Ave
Portland, OR 97210

Executive Director: Mark Braverman

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Website: www.kairosusa.org
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Twitter: @KairosUSA

Kairos USA is a movement of U.S. Christians representing the body of Christ in all its diversity who believe the time is right for decisive action to end the crisis in Israel and Palestine. Its mission is to unify and mobilize American Christians – lay, academic and clergy – to take a prophetic stance for a just peace.

United Methodist Kairos Response

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Website: www.kairosresponse.org
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United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) is an international peace movement in the United Methodist Church responding to the urgent call from Palestinian Christians for effective action supporting a just peace in Israel/Palestine. It was established in 2010.

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