Within the churches we promote the Kairos document, a declaration made in December 2009 by senior Christian figures in Palestine. The introduction states “In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity”. The document is available in several languages and you can read it HERE. In August 2013 a British Christian response, Time for Action, was published and you can read it HERE.
Kairos Palestine issued a further call for decisive action in July 2020. You can read it HERE. It invites Christians and churches to reject the oppression of the Palestinian people and any use of the Bible to justify this injustice and to:
- Initiate processes at local, denominational and ecumenical levels that recognize the present kairos and the urgent requirement for decisive action regarding the denial of Palestinian rights and the misuse of the Bible. These actions will express the unity of the church in its commitment to stand up to injustice wherever it is to be found.
- Engage in study and discernment with respect to theologies and understandings of the Bible that have been used to justify the oppression of the Palestinian people. Offer theologies that prophetically call for an inclusive vision of the land for Israelis and Palestinians, affirming that the creator God is a God of love, mercy and justice; not of discrimination and oppression.
- Affirm the Palestinians’ right to resist the occupation, dispossession, and abrogation of their fundamental rights, and join the Palestinians in their creative and nonviolent resistance. The 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides a framework for economic, cultural, and academic measures and for direct political advocacy as nonviolent means to end occupation and oppression. The purpose of BDS is not to punish or isolate Israel. It is rather to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and to call upon its government and its people, in the spirit of the Word of God, to enter into the ways of justice and peace, thereby affirming its own rights as well as the rights of the Palestinian people.
- Demand also that governments and world bodies employ political, diplomatic and economic means to stop Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.
- Oppose anti-Semitism by working for justice against anti-Judaism, racism and xenophobia; oppose the equating of criticism of Israel’s unjust actions with anti-Semitism.
- Support initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians and interfaith partnerships that combat apartheid and occupation and create opportunities to work together for a common future of mutual respect and dignity.
- Come and see the reality in the Holy Land with compassionate eyes for the suffering of Palestinians, and stand in solidarity with grassroots initiatives on the part of all faiths and secular groups who challenge the occupation and who work for a just peace.
A response from Pax Christi International can be found HERE.
In September 2021 the charity Christian Aid produced a report entitled Where is Palestine: a story of loss, inequality and failure. “This report details the repeated violations of basic human rights, that Palestinians experience, drawing on Christian Aid’s decades of work with the poorest communities in the region and the expertise and experience of our partners. We show how the situation takes away the dignity that we should all be entitled to live with.” You can download the report from HERE.
Strange as it may sound, there is a growing risk of Christian organisations being forced out of the Old City of Jerusalem. In December 2021 the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued this statement:
Throughout the Holy Land, Christians have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups. Since 2012 there have been countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches, with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives. These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land.
We acknowledge with gratitude the declared commitment of the Israeli government to uphold a safe and secure home for Christians in the Holy Land and to preserve the Christian community as an integral part of the tapestry of the local community. As evidence of this commitment we see the government’s facilitation of the visit of millions of Christian pilgrims to the holy sites of the Holy Land. It is therefore a matter of grave concern when this national commitment is betrayed by the failure of local politicians, officials and law enforcement agencies to curb the activities of radical groups who regularly intimidate local Christians, assault priests and clergy, and desecrate Holy Sites and church properties.
The principle that the spiritual and cultural character of Jerusalem’s distinct and historic quarters should be protected is already recognised in Israeli law with respect to the Jewish Quarter. Yet radical groups continue to acquire strategic property in the Christian Quarter, with the aim of diminishing the Christian presence, often using underhanded dealings and intimidation tactics to evict residents from their homes, dramatically decreasing the Christian presence, and further disrupting the historic pilgrim routes between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Christian pilgrimage, in addition to being the right of all the Christians around the world, brings great benefits to Israel’s economy and society. In a recent report by the University of Birmingham, it was highlighted that Christian pilgrimage and tourism contributes $3bn to the Israeli economy. The local Christian community, while small and decreasing in number, provides a disproportionate amount of educational, health and humanitarian services in communities throughout Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.
In accordance with the declared commitment to protect religious freedom by the local political authorities of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, we are requesting an urgent dialogue with us the Church Leaders, so as to:
- Deal with the challenges presented by radical groups in Jerusalem to both the Christian community and the rule of law, so as to ensure that no citizen or institution has to live under threat of violence or intimidation.
- Begin dialogue on the creation of a special Christian cultural and heritage zone to safeguard the integrity of the Christian Quarter in Old City Jerusalem and to ensure that its unique character and heritage are preserved for the sake of well-being of the local community, our national life, and the wider world.
While the references to ‘radical groups’ is ambiguous, the Greek Orthodox patriarch Theophilos made it clear that Israeli activists are causing the problem. In an article for the Times in January 2022 (reported HERE) he said “Our presence in Jerusalem is under threat, Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly. Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalised. Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation.”
A general update from January 2022 is HERE. The position of Christians is summarised by Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud in this way: “It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimised equally as their Muslim brethren… They have also played a significant role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship.”
In February 2022 the principal Christian authorities registered THIS PROTEST against designating sections of the Mount of Olives as an Israeli ‘national park’,. classing such a move as an attempt to alter the nature of one of Christianity’s holiest sites. The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, added this on twitter: “Muslim and Christian Palestinians are united in their struggle against the Israeli occupation.”
The Orthodox Church’s Greek Garden on Mount Zion was attacked, not for the first time, by Israeli extremists on 6 June 2022 as reported HERE.
The beginning of 2023 has seen Christian buildings including churches subjected to the same settler violence and vandalism as Palestinians experience. See THIS REPORT.
In the USA, the Presbyterian church has in July 2022 declared Israel to be an apartheid state and has made Nakba Remembrance a part of its official calendar. “This overture is pursued with the hope it will lead to a peaceful reconciliation for the people of Israel and Palestine similar to that which occurred in South Africa when apartheid was acknowledged internationally,” their committee explained. “Christians spoke out in the 1950s against segregation in the United States and later against apartheid in South Africa. They must again raise their voices and condemn Israel’s discrimination against Palestinians and give a name to the crime against humanity that this discrimination represents, the crime of apartheid.”
The statement from the Lutheran World Federation (June 2022, HERE) also expresses concern at “the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the recent escalation of violence, including the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, other journalists and other innocent victims.”
RIP DESMOND TUTU
The world mourned the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on 26 December 2021. He is best known for his resolute opposition to apartheid in his native South Africa. Messages from all parts of the establishment have tended to omit his equally forthright condemnation of Israeli apartheid (an example is the short clip HERE).. Even the Guardian newspaper took its time before including THIS TRIBUTE. Desmond Tutu helped many to understand the similarities between the systems of Israel and apartheid South Africa and was not afraid to make his views clear. We will remember him.
Doubtless with him in mind, the Anglican Church’s South African committee passed THIS RESOLUTION on 27 September 2023,,noting that Israel is regarded as an apartheid state and giving some guidance on how pilgrimages to the Holy Land should be conducted.
Closer to home, we have given out THIS LEAFLET at the Christmas services of both Liverpool Cathedrals.
Our Silent Voices exhibition, documenting life in Bil’in, has shown in several churches and both Liverpool Cathedrals
We are happy to provide speakers or exhibition materials for Church groups.
It is traditional for Muslims during Ramadan to break the daily fast by eating a date. We urge a boycott of Israeli dates and promote Palestinian dates.