“Compelled to Witness”

 “Compelled to Witness”

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter, Truth is lacking…The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene…”

Isaiah 59:14-16

O God, Creator of the heavens and the Earth, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in the life of Jesus. We thank you for the many blessings and challenges that have come in our following him. Renew in us the capacity to be appalled, like you. Then grant us the wisdom, the passion, and the courage to act for truth, and to intervene in the many places around the world where people—created in your own image—continue to suffer the ravages of racism, militarism, ecological destruction, and ongoing settler colonialism. Move us to seek places of fellowship, prayer, and play that will sustain us for the long haul. Amen.

 “Compelled to Witness”

Many of us remember the day in 1990 when Nelson Mandela, a leader in the nonviolent movement to end South Africa’s apartheid system, was released from Robin Island Prison. We celebrated the fall of a cruel system of institutionalized racism. Today, human rights organizations—including the leading Israeli human rights body—have declared that Israel’s laws, policies, and practices meet the international definition of apartheid. Those following the news are reading how the current Israeli prime minister has appointed a cabinet with openly racist members who are insisting that Israel is a nation only for its Jewish citizens.

At this time, a draft resolution is circulating that calls on the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to declare that Israel has established an apartheid system, which is a contradiction to the message of the Hebrew prophets and the life and teachings of Jesus. The draft resolution will be brought before the General Board for consideration. It is co-sponsored by Disciples Peace Fellowship, the Division of Overseas Ministries, and four local Disciples of Christ congregations. This includes leadership by my home congregation, Heart of the Rockies Christian Church. The draft resolution follows the Compelled to Witness pastoral letter released by Disciples leaders last year, and explicitly condemns speech and acts of antisemitism, rejects any interpretations of Scripture that elevate the rights of one people over another, and insists that criticism of the State of Israel is not inherently antisemitic.

“Come and see. Go and tell.”

Alternative tourism, also known as responsible tourism, is an increasingly popular way to travel the globe. Tour operators are responding to calls for sustainable, ethical, justice-driven, and ecologically conscious tourism. It’s no surprise that Disciples and UCC members are turning from the typical Holy Land tour that focuses only on holy sites and ancient history. Instead, they are turning to pilgrimages that also engage the people living there and connect the teachings of Jesus in 1st-century occupied Palestine to the realities of 21st-century occupation.

My wife and I hosted two recent Global Ministries People-to-People tours to the Holy Land. Pilgrims from Bethesda’s Westmoreland United Church of Christ and students from Phillips Theological Seminary walked in the footsteps of Jesus and visited the ancient stones. They also met the living stones, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, who resist injustice, courageously work for just and lasting peace, and understand that the land was never intended for one people but that it, “has a universal mission”—as Palestinian Christians wrote in a foundational document, Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth.

One of the Westmoreland participants wrote in her journal, “The trip was a mixture of sightseeing and informational sessions with unimaginably courageous and dedicated Palestinians and Israelis trying to make a difference for a disadvantaged, persecuted people. … At the end of the trip, we felt transformed. Just how that is will make itself clear … as we find ways to express outrage and dismay, to advocate for justice, and to contribute to [our church’s] already strong commitment to giving aid to a suffering people.”

Those who want to learn more about and experience what is happening on the ground in Palestine and Israel are invited to respond to the Palestinian Christians’ plea, “Come and see. Go and tell.”

Appointments are made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.