At an International Peace Consultation on 20 June, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine issued on open letter to the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement, stating, “There is still no justice in our land.”
In today’s Palestine, discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule, the letter states: “Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leader’s callings – Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality.”
The coalition expressed its concern with Israel’s “systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance,” and with the fact that religious extremism is on the rise, with religious minorities paying a heavy price.
The letter also thanks churches for their efforts toward refugees and toward ending the conflicts in the region. “We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria,” states the letter.
Christians in Palestine need the ecumenical movement more than ever, the letter reflects. “We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians.”
The letter urges churches to recognize Israel as an apartheid state; condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust; take a clear theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant; stand against religious extremism; revisit and challenge religious dialogue partners; lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities; defend the right of Palestinian Christians to resist the occupation creatively and nonviolently; create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians; and create a strategic program within the WCC to lobby, advocate and develop active programs towards justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.
The letter expressed the urgent situation of the people in Palestine: “We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse,” the letter states. “This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.”
The WCC leadership will bring the letter to the next meeting of its Executive Committee in November in Amman, Jordan. The WCC also invited its members churches and partners worldwide to read and share the letter as a local voice from today’s Palestine.
Five voices heard at the consultation in Bethlehem
Nora Carmi, Civil society worker on justice and peace issues:
The NCCOP’s Open Letter to the WCC and the ecumenical movement is an honest, heartfelt call urging people of conscience to act now before a catastrophic collapse occurs. It is reminding the church of its longstanding prophetic tradition as faithful witnesses to “learn to do right; seek justice and defend the oppressed” (Isa,1:17). Now, even at this “impossible moment,“ it is an opportunity to adopt nine bold steps that will save the Christian presence in this land and achieve a just peace. This costly discipleship requires the courage to recognize Israel as an Apartheid state, to condemn the Balfour Declaration, to take clear and strong theological stands, to combat religious extremism, to challenge dialogue partners, to direct pilgrimages of justice, to defend the right to resist occupation and injustice, to create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians, and to develop justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.
Together we will make a change!
Rifat Kassis, Kairos author:
This is an unprecedented document, a means of communication. The National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) is comprised of a number of reputable and well represented Palestinian Christian organizations, who came together to address openly and without barriers their sisters and brothers in the ecumenical movement and the WCC about our own situation. It is also meant to demonstrate that the conditions in Palestine are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse, and this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in our area. W, Palestinian Christians hope that our letter will be taken seriously by our brothers and sisters worldwide and by the leadership of the WCC. Furthermore, we pray that they will do their utmost in bringing justice to our people, who have been suffering for the past century.
Nidal Abu Zuluf, Manager, Joint Advocacy Initiative, the East Jerusalem YMCA/YWCA of Palestine:
It was another Kairos moment that made the NCCOP members write this letter. It was the urgency of the Palestinian situation and despair that brought this language of clarity, calling things as they are with no fears. It was also our hope that the WCC and the whole ecumenical movement will be responsive and act as urgently needed. I believe that it is time to be outspoken, to be prophetic and to act, time to be creative in resisting this occupation and oppression in a way that creates results.
The responses we have had in a few days are so empowering. I always believed that the ecumenical movement is so powerful and can make great impact and changes in peoples’ lives. I have no doubt that this letter will stir up more debates that it will result in building a strategy of costly solidarity with the Palestinians in the WCC and other ecumenical movements.
Mira Rizeq, National General Secretary YWCA of Palestine:
The National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) launched today a historic statement during the World Council of Churches Consultation "50 Years of Occupation, and the Ecumenical Response" held in Beit Sahour. The statement emphasizes the urgency of the situation in Occupied Palestine and calls for action. The statement questions whether the Palestinians have reached the "impossible moment, because things were built from the very beginning - a hundred years ago- on an unjust premise?” The Palestinians are calling on the WCC, churches around the world, and the ecumenical movement to "break down the walls" of fear and disguise, face the truth, unmask the realities and take a bold stand toward a just peace.
The Palestinian community hopes that, as Israel continues to escalate its oppression and violations and narrows down the space for freedom of expression and proactive action, the WCC and churches around the world will disseminate this statement as widely as possible to educate their constituencies, general assemblies, partners and other stakeholders, and work together in the next two days to collectively come up with an action plan that will bring us all closer to the aspirations of the Palestinian people for peace.
Rania Murra, Director of the Arab Educational Institute, member of the International Board of Pax Christi International:
After more than 50 years of occupation, I think it is urgent to be united and to raise the prophetic voice of the churches to speak out clearly since "right is might."
I think this is a strong call, which shows our unity as Palestinian Christians; and I urge local and international churches as well as civil society and human rights organizations, to endorse the call, not only as a statement but also as a strategy for action in order to end the occupation put Palestinians on the road to security, prosperity, justice and endurable peace.
The positive reactions and the strong stand of some international churches' representatives have given me some hope against hope personally, as a mother of three teenagers. I need your strong stand and actions to help light the candle of hope in my children's hearts and minds and to encourage them to stay on the land; to have sumud (steadfastness) and never to lose hope.
As a member of the International Board of Pax Christi International, I would like to say that our Catholic peace movement is concerned that Palestinians, after 50 years of occupation, have reached the “moment of the impossible.” Opportunities are needed for a peaceful solution. With regard to future ecumenical action, this letter of Christian organizations in Palestine is of utmost importance. As called upon by the vice-president of the NCCOP and the general secretary of the WCC at the conference, we will share the message with our network and Catholic church leaders.
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