“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’” (Luke 2: 10-11).
This December, as Christians from across the globe prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christian community in Israel and Palestine continues to suffer due to the ongoing occupation. Despite the continuing conflict, however, the coming of Christ into the world brings a glorious message of hope to all people. This Advent season offers a chance to reflect on how we as Christians can do more to ensure that peace will become a reality in the land where Jesus lived.
“Those who believe in God’s mystery in Christmas throughout the world—true believers, and sincere rulers—should be able to see the light, and act for justice, peace and equality in the land of the Nativity,” writes Michel Sabbah, Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem, as part of Kairos Palestine’s 2020 Advent message. “Achieving peace in our land is our responsibility and the responsibility of believers all over the world.”
In a December 11 letter, 17 Christian denominations and organizations called for the incoming administration to change the course of U.S. policy and undertake renewed efforts to bring peace to the Holy Land. The letter requests that the administration take six concrete steps to “build towards a future where human rights violations are ended and there is equality between Palestinians and Israelis.”:
- Ensure that all parties are respected and included in negotiations towards a just and lasting peace based on international law.
- Restate the U.S. position that settlements are illegal under international law and take action to ensure that any further Israeli settlement construction and growth results in political consequences.
- Resume funding to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and other UN and humanitarian actors working in the West Bank and Gaza.
- Ensure aid accountability such that no U.S. funding to Israel is used to further the occupation or to support human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinians.
- Reiterate the U.S. position that territory controlled by Israel following the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, are occupied territories subject to international law and are not recognized parts of Israel.
- Make clear that criticism of Israel, including support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions actions, is constitutionally protected and legitimate speech.
Over the last four years, U.S. policy has moved in directions that have alienated the U.S. from many of its international partners and supported the deepening of Israel’s occupation while undermining long term efforts to realize a just and lasting peace. If the U.S. remains committed to furthering peace with justice in Israel and Palestine, there is a need for an immediate change in policy and approach when the new administration enters office.
Jesus Christ came “to give light to those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:70). Urge Congress to work closely with the incoming administration to implement these six important steps towards ending the occupation, resisting racism and discrimination, and establishing justice in order that God’s peace may be realized in the Holy Land.