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By Rifat Kassis
The title of this article may provoke some readers since it suggests, unintentionally, that Christians are a sector of society on the verge of extinction due to a variety of pressures and oppression. It reminds me of a statement by His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah during one of his many lectures. He said: “We as Christians do not face a special kind of threat; we face a threat and danger that covers everyone in our society. This threat is instability, and the absence of peace and justice.”
It is no secret that I fully espouse this interpretation because the basic threat to our existence is the same danger that faces all Palestinians: the Israeli occupation of our land and oppressive Israeli policies. Despite the occupation and its pressures, and despite the increasing number of Christians who emigrate, the existence of Christians is strong and emphatic if we make a distinction between existence and presence. Existence relates to numbers and figures, while presence focuses on the role and activities of Christians in serving their Palestinian community. Presence also relates to Christian integration within their society and with their fellow man facing the same destiny.
Illustrations of this strong presence are many and we can cite the following:
Despite these points, I cannot ignore or feign ignorance of the fact that this presence is today more troubled than at any time in the past. Some of this concern is justified, but much of it is not. Today, we as Christians have become the captives of different intellectual schools. Some believe that we must focus on Christians as a minority in society, and that the most that this minority can aspire to is respect for its religion alongside freedom to observe its rituals and to preserve and maintain churches and holy sites. Another school believes that Christians are a religious minority that has the right to political representation accordingly. This is what we have seen in the existing system of political quotas in Palestine, especially in the Legislative Council and municipal elections. A third school considers itself an indispensible part of society and calls for full citizenship on the basis that we are not an island or a minority even if we are small in number.
I think that the source of this justified concern or worry is the events occurring in many Arab countries and the rise of political movements that claim to be Islamic, and which attack and oppress religious minorities in the region. In addition, there are the racist policies of Israel, its systematic expropriation of land, and the absence of any political horizon for a just peace that can bring political and economic stability to our region. The feeling of alienation felt by Christians is basically because Christian Palestinians lack self-confidence and have not studied the Christian presence and its power in Palestine in depth. These people are pessimistic and are ready to step to one side, and even to emigrate. We have to realize that our future is in our own hands; we possess enough potential to flourish in this country. To prove this, I shall give some findings:
More than 60% of Christians are under 40 years of age and have a lot to offer. More than 50% of them hold a university degree. More than 50% either own or work in economic institutions or occupy senior posts in community and non-profit organizations. Around 30% of them work in Christian institutions. Around 30% of Christians are classed as well-paid employees.
This is in addition to the significant potential of churches and Christian institutions whose global connections enable them to publicize Israeli policies against our people, and to explain the Palestinian struggle and the justness of the Palestinian cause. Churches have also engaged in advocacy, influenced public opinion, and mobilized support for the Palestinian cause. The Kairos Palestine Document, “A Moment of Truth”, issued by the Palestinian National Initiative, was possibly the most powerful expression of this potential because it created a huge impact among the church and in Christian circles globally. It was seen everywhere in the world and prompted support from international influential figures, institutions, and effective solidarity groups.
This historical document is the testimony of Christian Palestinians to the world about oppression and injustice against the Palestinian people. In this document, Christian Palestinians present the international community with a moment of truth about the oppression, dispersal, suffering, and racial discrimination of the past six decades. The Palestinian Kairos document, which took almost two years to prepare, can be compared with the famous South African Kairos document announced in 1985 and seen then as a key turning point in the struggle against apartheid, leading to its downfall some years later. Although the Palestinian document is purely a local Christian document, it addresses not only Christian believers but also secular people and all international and regional solidarity movements that work with the Palestinian people. This is what gave the document its power and the opportunities to create alliances to work with these movements towards ending the occupation and building a just peace in our region.
All observers agree that the Kairos Document, “A Moment of Truth”, was the most courageous Palestinian document in presenting theological and political issues. It was almost the first document to discuss theological issues that are close to taboo, such as the promise in the Holy Bible and the misuse of the Holy Bible for political or other purposes. Thus, the document views the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as a sin against God and people. Politically, the document was courageous in its criticism of Israel, holding it responsible for oppression, killing and destruction, and its criticism of the U.S. for its blind support for Israel. The document affirmed the right of return for refugees and the unconditional release of all Palestinian detainees. The document criticized the Palestinian internal split, but blamed it on the international community for boycotting Palestinian democracy. The document did not hesitate to engage in self-criticism and in criticism of the people who created this situation. The peak of its boldness was its request to the churches of the world to boycott Israel and force it to comply with international law.
These examples are clear proof that the Christian presence is strong and effective and must be seen as Palestinian existence. All the facts cited above offer powerful motivation for greater involvement in public causes and in effective participation to serve the interests of our Palestinian people and their resilience.
1. Shared History, Present, and Destiny
1.1 When we, Christian Palestinians, engage with our Muslim brethren, we are engaging with our people, our neighbors and colleagues at work, and our partners at all domains of life, whether social, economic, political, or cultural. We are one people, one country, one language,
with the same traditions, anxieties, suffering, and aspirations. This is how we forged our history as one society and one indivisible being.
1.2 If history wanted for us to be as such, then the Almighty God, the Lord of history, wanted that for us as well. Our shared lives are not a coincidence of history, a blind destiny, or a passing situation. Instead, it is God’swill for us, and we commit ourselves to him and follow His
in gladness. This is precisely what we emphasized in our Kairos Document: “Our presence in this land, at Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other people to the land it lives in.”1
1.3 As Muslim and Christian Palestinians, in the last past years we shared our pains and struggle and aspirations. Together we faced nationalistic challenges, and an aggression that uprooted us fromour land, restricted us in parts of our homeland, scattered us all over the earth, and forced us out of our houses, villages, and towns. We suffered together and pain united us.
1.4 We suffered together, our lands were seized, and we resisted the Occupation and entered its prisons together. Together we have given our lives for our homeland in order to restore our rights and maintain our presence, history and traditions, while seeking after a better future for our daughters and sons, and seeking after our freedom and dignity.
1.5 Our present is one, our suffering is one, and our destiny is one. On his Holy Land we are not “us and you”, as if we are sitting across from each other. Rather we are one people in one boat with no psychological or social walls and barriers that separate us. In this boat we live
1Kairos,2.3.2. together and die together. If storms hit the boat, we willnot be ableto face them except by working together. If the boat was divided amongst itself, it drowns and we drown with it.
2. We Are Responsible for Each Other
2.1 All of this makes allof us living on his Holy Land-and in allof the Arab Countries- responsible for each other in front of God, history, and the world. In front of God, to whose will we submit, we stand in obedience and present ourselves before Him, and unto Him we lift our prayers and requests in spiritual solidarity where every one of us carries the burdens, pains, hopes, and aspirations of each other. When we stand before God, He will judge us according to what we have done to our history, heritage, and to the holiness of ourland. He willalso judge us on the basis of oursolidarity and attitudes toward each other, and on thebasis of whatour souls have gained or lost.
2.2 We are responsible for each other in front of history. We testify to this history that we carry, this present that we face, and the future we build together. If the willof God is the basis of our historical and civil heritage, it is also the basis of our present and future.
2.3 We are responsible for each other in front of the world. In front of the world we testify together to our history, and stand together to defend each other in front of anyone who desires to distort this history and deny God’s will for us. The world is looking at us and is trying to use our divisions to overwhelm and weaken us. Through our sectarianism and tribalism, the world is infiltrating us in order to plant and fuel sedition in our midst, and then watch us fight. The world would come after that, invileness, hypocrisy, and malice, and attempt to impose peace upon us on the basis of its own selfish interests.
3.1 Unfortunately a wave of extremism appeared in the last few years and it has been attacking all of us, and indeed attacking the whole world. This wave canonly lead to blind fanaticism, exclusion, and even death. This is what we can witness, in its harshest and ugliest forms and manifestations, happening in our countries and in the wholeworld.
3.2 This extremism, and fanaticism, has mercy on no one and it will lead our whole region, with its Muslims, Christians, and all other religious sects, into destruction. Religious minorities pay the biggest price due to this extremism, and our Orient is now threatened to become devoid of diversity and pluralism that have long distinguished the region.
3.3 Extremism and what results from it, whether death, displacement, kidnapping, or terrorism in the name of religion, are all evils against God and humanity. It is inconceivable that this phenomenon is God's will for our country, region, and the world.Our religious heritage teaches us not to kill, but commands us to cooperate, know, and love each other. Extremism distorts the image of God and distorts the image of man.
3.4 It is inconceivable that God, the creator of man who breathed the breath of life in him, is the source of killing and destruction. It is inconceivable that Islam is the source of this killing and destruction. God created people equal and he has dignified them. God is the source of life, and Heis the only one with the right to reclaim it.
4.We Fight Extremism Together
4.1Our message in these days to ourselves as Christians and to our Muslim brethren is that we are one front, a front of life, in the face of this extremism.Together we reject extremism and together reject death and demand forthe life and dignity of every person. Our voices must rise together in the face of terrorism and extremism, while committing to the culture of love that encounters of all God’s creation. We are one front, a front of life. In it we stand against the culture of fear and terrorism,and declare to who ever wants to divide us that we are one front, one people, one country, and no one can separate between us on the basis of religion. Our humanity, culture, history, present, united struggle, and faith in theone God, the creator of this universe and the creator of man, are all stronger than extremism. Together we will stand against death, we will strengthen dialogue and our encountering of each other, and create fraternity and unity between us that respect all our differences as well as our agreements.
4.2 Together we will face the culture of separation, division, and isolation. Together we refuse the principle that says that “there are minorities that need protection”. We are all part of the soil of this land, and we are all the people of this land. Together we say with our poet Mahmoud Darwish: “we have work to do in our land. We have the past here. We have the first cry of life. We have the present, the present and the future”. Together we call for agood citizenship where everyone is equal, and where there is a law that protects everyone, and a fraternity that supports everyone, and where there is equality in responsibilities, duties, rights, and freedoms for all.
4.3 Together we face extremist interpretations of religious texts, and strive to understand them as God, in His goodness and unlimited mercy for people, wanted us to understand it so that we will find in these texts life for us and for all people. We also reject the violation of these texts
to be used for exclusionary interests and to become resources for death. Together we commit to providing sermons and interpretations that retainthe holiness of the text and the holiness of humans, and motivate the believer to serve his fellow believer and every person. We also call to review our educational curricula and religious text books sothat Christians would know that they and Muslims are one people, and Muslims would know that they are Christians are one people. Also, in order that everyone would increase in knowledge and understanding and appreciation of the other's religion, and that every person would study our shared history on this land, and that both Christians and Muslims would grow up feeling responsible toward their neighbor, and utilize their religious and humanist upbringing to build a society based on love, forgiveness, and fraternity.
4.4 Together we defend each other believing that the demise of one of us is our demise together. If adversity hurts one of us, it is as if it hurts all of us.Together we defend our Holy Sites and religious symbols against any aggression, assault, and distortion. Together we commit
to fight stereotyping, arrogance, and the culture of exclusion that are used in the name of religion, particularly as it is used in religious media. Some want to use it to create discord among us and as a tool to plant spite and negative stereotyping instead of being a tool that spreads love and concord. Together we call for acommitted religious media that respects others and their religious symbols, and promotes a culture of fraternity,unity, and shared living.
4.5 The times in which we live are crucial and fateful. Our time calls us to increase in faith before God and fellow man, and to increase our commitment in bearing responsibility toward each other. That could demand from us unprecedented courage where we have to stand in the face of those “from our household”and fight against exclusionary thought and any theology or jurisprudence that calls for death and extremism.The future of the whole region is on the balance and it is either we demise together or we fight together for the lives of our sons and daughters.
4.6 The circumstances in which we currently live are a trial for all of us.It is a trial for our humanity and faith as people, individuals, and believers. A trial is a test that God allows us to go through to purify us and remove from our hearts everything that could impede our path. Through that trial we could rise to the level of God’s holiness and sublimity instead of reducing the Almighty to the level of our limited vision where we carry death for each other. We are certain that God is giving us this opportunity to purify us from the inside. This requires us to create a new education that replaces sectarian negativities in the hearts of Muslims and Christians; an education that endeavors to create a believer that rises to the sublimity of his religion.In doing so, we create together true Muslim and Christian believers, just like we have created the history that has led us to where we are now: one people, one suffering, and one destiny.
4.7 As we direct this call to our Muslim brothers and sisters, we recognize that our Christian history has gone through phases of extremism and killing in the name of religion, and that our Christian household is not without those who propagate a culture of apostatization and exclusion, and who use religion for selfish political purposes. Extremism has no religion and it is not monopolized by the followers of one certain religion.We are committed to continue examining ourselves and purge our household and theology from any manifestation of religious extremism. Together we will face any form of extremism that threatens the future of our land and the holiness of its religions.
5. Palestine Remains Our Compass
5.1 The Palestinian cause is passing through its darkest and most difficult stages, and every step we take in the wrong direction could lead us to more disasters. Our future depends on our unity and solidarity. Any deviation from this would backfire negatively and tragically on our national path. Our people have gone through a unique experience of pain and struggle, and have learned a great deal from it. One of the most important things they learned is that division and separation can only lead on destruction. When we stand together in solidarity and hold each other’shands, our nationalpath will be on theright course. If we are separated, we drown.
5.2 Extremism and theculture of exclusion, a postatization, and fanaticism that our region is going through could derail us, as Palestinians and Arabs, from reaching our first and chief aim, namely the end of the Israeli Occupation and gaining our freedoms and our right of self- determination. Palestine needs to remainthe compass of all Arabs, and Jerusalem must remain the symbol of peace, justice, and encounter between all three religions. This is the goal of every believer in God.
5.3 And from here we renew our vision for the kind of country we desire:“Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all its citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority”2.
5.4 In the end we say that the cause of the Palestinian people is not merely a cause pertaining to our existence, buti s also about our message. In this turbulent world, and in this region that is in search of itself in the middle of innumerable challenges, Palestinians are focusing all of their energy, religious, intellectual, creative or nationalistic, to serve their people, the region, and the world. We present to the world a model of a society that is able to contain plurality and use it to build our future and the future of the region and the world. What happens on his holy
land does not decide the history of its people alone, but also that ofthe whole world. The world began here, and in this beginning is the salvation of the world and our salvation.
5.5 And once again, we cry out a cry of hope: “we believe in God, good, and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate andof death that still persist in our land. We will see here ‘a newland’and ‘a new human being’,capable of risingup in the spirit to love each one ofhis orher brothers and sisters”3.
Dismantle ‘Dividing walls’: The Struggle for Justice and Peace in Palestine Continues
Reflections on the occasion of the World Week for Peace, 18-24 Sept. 2016
Hind Khoury, Kairos Palestine
15 September 2016
The Church in Prophetic Action:
Together with many good people around the world, Kairos Palestine welcomes the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (WWPPI). This call for advocacy and action in support of an end to the occupation aims to liberate the Palestinians from its oppression and to liberate the Israelis themselves from the consequences of its evil upon them. It helps subside the sense of fear and insecurity, builds mutual confidence and hence to construct a just peace. The WWPPI campaign is beautifully supported with resources to guide prayers and actions.
This campaign from the Church is hope in action that we celebrate with joy. This is the proof that while love guides the work of the Church for peace with justice, the prophetic Church stands firm in rejecting evil; the evil of occupation, the evil of discrimination, and the evil of the ‘dividing walls’ of hostility.
In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that Jesus has “abolished the law ..that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace and …putting to death that hostility through it” (Ephesians 2:16-17).
In this land, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, Palestinians lived and practiced religious traditions as Christians, Muslims and Jews. This co-existence and pluralism has been transformed into conflict through the imposition of exclusive rights based to a large extent on interpretations of ‘election’ and ‘promise’. The Kairos Palestine document states that the land is God’s land and that ‘any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice,… transform religion into human ideology and strip the world of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.” (KP2.4)
Yet the patterns of injustice seem to prevail in total impunity. Among these patterns are physical barriers such as the Separation Wall and military checkpoints that fragment Palestinian society, a prolonged blockade of Gaza and a complex system of colonial settlements.
Yes, it's time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace, it’s time for freedom from occupation, it’s time for equal rights and, it’s time for the healing of wounded souls.
Yet, prolonged injustice prevails
The Separation Wall
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued anadvisory opinionin 2004, which was adopted as a UNSC resolution, declaring the illegality of the barrier being built on occupied Palestinian territory. It called for its demolition and compensation for those who suffer the consequences of its destruction. Yet the barrier (or Separation Wall) remains and with severe negative impact on the Palestinian economy, social fabric, human rights and environment.
The Wall does not only separate Palestinians from schools, fields, work, and neighbors but has been expanded to fully control the Jordan Valley on the Eastern front of the occupied Palestinian Territory. Together with expanding colonial settlements, closed military areas and a segregated road system, Israel provided itself with the full control of about 61% of total land areas in the West Bank richest in natural resources.
According to the Arab Research Institute of Jerusalem, ARIJ, this system of controls has resulted in a major physical impediment towards achieving any sound and sustainable development for Palestinians. ARIJ calculated the cost of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian economy at approximately 10 billion U.S. dollars for 2014 only.
A heavy system of barriers hermetically besieges Gaza which is forced into the most inhuman conditions. AUnited Nations News Centre reported recently that- Gaza could become uninhabitable in 2020 if current trends persist....
Harming the environment
In this context, it is worthwhile to refer to a long but thorough report on environmental injustice in occupied Palestinian territory – by Al-Haq which fully describes the injustice but also provides prospects and legal remedies to overcome them and realize a future peace in the land.
The excuse of security
Israel continues to claim that the measures it adopts against the Palestinian people are necessary as a measure of self-defense. While self-defense is sanctioned by the United Nations as a right to all nations, hence also to Palestinians suffering the brunt of occupation, it also conditions it to adherence to international law. In any case Israel’s use of security as an excuse is not convincing as exposed by various analysts and the Report by B'Tselem and Bimkom - Under the Guise of Security Routing .... This report explicitly states the reasons behind the construction of the Wall are purely political and contradict international law.
Encroaching colonial settlements
According to ARIJ in its report onIsrael's settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory ... “satellite imagery shows that there are currently 196 Israeli settlements in addition to 232 settler outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which take up approximately 45% of the West Bank area. Currently, there are at least 750,000 settlers residing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In addition, settlers have also been responsible for crimes such as the murder of Palestinian civilians, and often operate with impunity. From June 2014 to May 2015 there were at least 222 settler attacks against Palestinian civilians, 236 attacks against Palestinian religious and historical sites, and 160 attacks against Palestinian property.”
Uprooting Olive Trees
During the last few years, Palestinian olive trees — a universal symbol of life and peace and an important source of livelihood for Palestinians – have been systematically uprooted by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank as reported in this article, Palestinian Olive Trees: Destroying a Symbol of Life – by Counterpunch
The way forward: Resistance with love as its logic
While the above is not an exhaustive list of injustice, the Palestinian people with some exceptions pursued the path of nonviolent resistance so well described in the book of Dr. Mazen Qumsiyeh, Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and ... - Amazon.com
Christian Palestinians spoke prophetically on the ways of peace and the ‘dismantling of dividing walls’ of conflict in the historic Kairos Palestine document, (English - Kairos Palestine). The document describes the occupation as an evil that should be resisted because it destroys the humanity of both the oppressed and the oppressor.
As a movement that calls for active non-violent resistance to the occupation and to injustice, Kairos Palestine advocates for creative resistance in the logic of love and draws on all energies to make peace. “The culture of love is the culture of accepting the other. Through it we perfect ourselves, and the foundations of society are established.” (KP: 5.4.3) This is a humanistic approach that allows an exit from the cycle of violence and concentrates on correcting the evil done to people, their lives, and their livelihood.
Palestinians have opted to resist creatively through their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to halt the occupation’s discriminatory and unjust policies and practices, as did their brethren in South Africa and in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. We at Kairos Palestine understand that divestment and boycott integrate the logic of love and peaceful resistance. Its objective is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil and ongoing impunity.
These are critical times where the threat of violence and terrorism is overwhelming not only in our region but the world. This is the time for deeds not for words only. More churches are called upon to join the prophetic and courageous action for peace by studying and responding to the Kairos Palestine call. Working for justice cannot but include informing about the truth of occupation, respecting and ensuring respect to international law, revisiting theologies that sanctioned occupation and oppression, support active nonviolence as the right of the oppressed and ‘come and see’ in search of the liberating truth.
THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH STANDS BY JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS
17 August, 2016
Kairos Palestine (KP), the voice of Palestinian Christians www.kairospalestine.ps welcomes the recent resolution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) calling on the US government to end aid to Israel until the latter freezes the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land and respects international law and human rights.
The resolution also calls on the President of the USA to recognize the State of Palestine, to allow the application of the state of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations and to promote a time-bound peace agreement. The ELCA also voted to set up a screen and not invest in any company which profits from Israel’s occupation.
The resolution was voted by a landslide majority of 82% at the Church-wide Assembly in New Orleans on August 13, 2016. By this resolution ELCA adopts the prophetic role necessary to build true and durable peace in the Holy Land and helps to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians live in peace, justice, equality and dignity.
We echo the words of Rabbi Michael Davis, Dale Leopp and Philip Farrah in their recent Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-farah/evangelical-lutheran-chur_b_11369272.html) supporting the resolutions of ELCA in order “to prevent complicity in injustice in the Holy Land” and as an expression of “our responsibilities as conscientious Christians and American citizens”.
Since the launch of the Kairos Palestine Document in 2009, which called on the Global Church to act in respect of international law and help bring the end the occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of the Palestinian people, Israel has been adamant to deepen occupation and oppression and hence increase suffering and despair.
A growing number of churches, church organizations and secular groups opted to respond positively to the Kairos Palestine Document. Justice-driven churches such as the United Methodists Church, The Presbyterian Church, The United Church of Christ adopted boycott and/or divestment action, so did some members of Pax Christi and others including secular groups like Black Lives Matter.
We, at Kairos Palestine, commend ELCA for their resolution at this "Kairos" moment, the opportune time to work for justice and peace. We continue to urge the Global Church to live up to its mission at the forefront of peace-building work in the Holy land, not only through respect and ensuring respect of international law, but also, to critically review theologies that support the continuous oppression, dispossession and displacement of the Palestinian people, to "Come and See" the reality of occupation and to support the rights of Palestinians in their decades-long nonviolent struggle for equality, freedom and dignity that is due to all human beings.
Pax Christi is the international Catholic peace movement. The regional chapter of Pax Christi Metro DC and Baltimore has just endorsed the Kairos Palestine Call and support of the BDS global movement!
Kairos Palestine welcomes this initiative with the following statement:
Bethlehem, April 22th 2016: In the Cremisan Valley, which neighbors the towns of Beit Jala and Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Israeli Ministry for “Defense” has started the construction of the Annexation Wall on the lands owned by 58 Palestinian Christian families, close to a monestary and its sister convent.
The assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries has issued a statement on the current situation in Palestine and Israel. Like Kairos Palestine and many civil society organizations call for an end to the violence, also the Commission for Justice and Peace clearly states that the recent uprising is the cry of Palestinian youth who lost their belief and hope in achieving a just and peaceful solution to the Occupation of Palestine. Justice and peace will come when the occupation ends, the wall falls and everybody is granted a life with dignity!
Sunday, 29th of November 2015, is the first day of Advent as well as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People initiated by the United Nations. Tragically in Palestine, this time of Advent is beginning at a very dark time. In Bethlehem, clashes erupt almost daily, Israeli forces have closed down Hebron completely and Palestinian Jerusalemites are facing another round of harsh discrimination and house demolitions. In fact, instead of preparing for Christmas, Palestinians are struggling with the consequences of the past weeks.
Kairos Palestine, representing the voice of Palestinian Christians suffering under Israeli occupation, strongly condemns the pursuit of the colonial settlement expansion in the West Bank and the ongoing construction of the Apartheid Wall. Contrary to Israeli propaganda, the Wall is not a security precaution, especially since 85% of it separates Palestinian Christians and Muslims from their land, and water resources and destroys the socio-economic fabric of Palestinian society. According to international law, these same lands are designated for an independent Palestinian state, a state whose creation will bring about a just and durable peace.
Global and local statistics confirm that around 80 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in northern cities, while the remaining 20 percent live in four camps: Za’atari, Marjeeb al-Fahood, Cyber City, and Al-Azraq.
Since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, northern Jordan has exploded with Syrian refugees fleeing the war. The Jordanian residents of this area – already poor themselves – responded with their natural hospitality, willingly hosting their Syrian brothers and sisters. Jordanian and Syrians alike thought that their problems would last for days or weeks at most.
“They are poor people”
On an early visit as Representative of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Jordan, I went to a village called Mafradat in Mafraq. There I met a Jordanian man who was supporting his family and was himself receiving assistance from LWF. Despite his own poverty, he had been voluntarily caring for two Syrian refugee families who lived in an abandoned factory nearby – another generous gesture from the factory owner himself. When I asked the man if he was related to the two families, he said no; he had met them just recently. Noting my raised eyebrows, he added, “They are poor people.” This is a man who lives in a tent with his family on a piece of land offered to him by a nearby plantation owner; the owner had asked him to guard the place for 100 JD a month – in addition to free electricity and water, which he had to transfer from the plant to his tank.
In a Middle East region that continues to suffer from the consequences of violence, the people of Palestine continue to live under occupation and in exile. Palestinian Christians, the descendants of the first Christians, are an integral part of the Palestinian people, continue to suffer, just like our Palestinian Muslim and Samaritan brothers and sisters, we have been denied of our national and human rights for almost a century. From Jerusalem, our occupied capital, we send our urgent message to the whole world and particularly to Europe: We are yearning for justice and peace. Recognizing Palestine and defining Israel’s borders is a first step towards that goal.
The war in Gaza may be over for now, but unless a long term agreement based on justice and human rights for all in Palestine/Israel is agreed, the cycle of violence will continue. We call on all Christians to act NOW to ensure that this tragedy cannot happen again. Read the statement here.
What is going on these days in Gaza is not war. It is a massacre of civilians, men, women and children. More than 650 people killed and over 4000 injured, the majority being civilians; this cannot be justified as an act of self-defense!
PRESS RELEASE: Response to Gaza violence
Friday, 11 July 2014 11:00, Cape Town
Kairos Southern Africa believes that all lives have the same value, and that all violence is destructive. The current and ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine poses a critical test for the international community’s commitment to international law and human dignity.
In October 2012, Rifat Odeh Kassis, the General Coordinator of Kairos Palestine, wrote "A Word to the PC(USA) and the Course of Justice - On Divestment at the Presbyterian Church PC (U.S.A.) 220th General Assembly". As the PC (USA) 221st General Assembly is voting again on the same issue of divestment today, Mr. Kassis's letter is still spot on:
"People’s interpretations vary enormously in response to the recent decision made by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), during its General Assembly in Pittsburgh, not to divest from specific companies profiting from the illegal Israeli occupation. Some view the vote as a defeat for the pro-justice camp within the church. Others view it as a win-win for both parties: the vote was 333 to 331, after all, with such a thin margin that both sides could claim victory." Read the document here
BADIL issues a joint statement with more than 60 Palestinian (amongst others with Kairos Palestine) and international organizations and networks:
"66 years of ongoing Nakba – Back to Basics: The Right of Return is a national and inalienable right"
September 02, 2013
Bethlehem – Once again, the drums of war are sounding in our region. Once again, the US is leading the campaign for this war, this time on Syria. And once again, the US and some European and Arab countries are justifying it in the name of democracy, human rights, and humanity itself. We have heard all this before… Many American and European-led wars have been waged in these lands, and are still being waged, under the same pretexts. All of these wars have failed to bring about peace, security, and democracy. On the contrary: they have sowed political and social instability and encouraged more extreme movements to flourish and expand their reach.
June 19, 2013
On Tuesday 4th June, Kairos Palestine expressed in a press statement, its deep concerns about the 'price tag' - attack on Jerusalem's Dormition Abbey last Friday.
Overnight Friday, vandals attacked the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem by spraying graffiti on its walls with anti-Christian slogans saying "Christians are monkeys", "Christians are slaves" and "Havat Maon", referring to a settler outpost in the West Bank. Two days before this attack, Palestinian cars in Jerusalem were 'price tagged' with graffiti as well.