Seventy-five years since Al-Nakba, religious leaders reiterate calls for a just, lasting peace
Marking 75 years since Al-Nakba—the Arabic term for the events of 1948, when many Palestinians were displaced from their homeland by the creation of the new state of Israel—religious leaders reflected on what Al-Nakba means today.
In a statement, the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem reiterate the churches’ call to strive for a just and lasting peace for in the Holy Land.
“Our faith teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity, and that we must unite and work together to achieve peace, tolerance, and justice,” reads the statement. “Christianity has taught us that love, compassion, and mutual respect are the path to achieving peace in the world, and this is especially applicable to our beloved Holy Land.”
The statement urges everyone to work together to build a better and more humane future for all. “We remind everyone that peace can only be achieved when there is fairness and respect for human rights and international law,” the statement reads. “We believe that justice and peace are the keys to stability and prosperity in the region, and we declare our readiness to work with all concerned parties to achieve these noble goals.”
The statement further calls upon the international community to play a greater role in supporting the protection of communities and in preserving holy sites
“We pray for God to grant us all wisdom as we work to move towards a better future, and to provide the Palestinian people the right to self-determination, state building, and prosperity—allowing all the peoples of this land to live in peace, dignity, and prosperity,” concludes the statement.
On the same occasion, Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah reflected that arms and war do not guarantee peace—but equality and justice do.
“In the past, Israel has tried to guarantee its security by looking across the seas to those who supply it with weapons,” said Sabbah. “However, Israel’s security depends on those that are near and in particular on the Palestinians. Peace must begin with them. Only peace with them will liberate this land, called to be holy, from bloodshed.”
Sabbah added: “Only justice and peace, equality and reconciliation can pave the way to the realization of the vocation of this land to be truly a holy land, a secure home in which both Palestinians and Israelis can celebrate life.”
World Council of Churches Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay expressed solidarity with member churches in the Holy Land. “The ‘nakba,’ the catastrophe Palestinian families experienced 75 years ago, continues to cause unresolved dispossession and suffering for many Palestinians—particularly for the people of Gaza,” said Pillay. “That unarmed civilians – including children – are shot at with live ammunition, even killed, and many injured – cannot be defended legally or morally as an expression of ‘the right to self-defense of a state.’ ”
Rev. Dr Munther Isaac, moderator of the Global Kairos for Justice Coalition, spoke of the memory of what, in his eyes, is a painful disaster. “We don’t experience disaster; we live it,” he said. “We are still living in the reality of immigration; our rights are being violated.”
Isaac said there were a large number of Christian villages destroyed in Al-Nakba. “Today we need a conscious read of what happened in 1948.”
Without justice, he reflected, there is no peace. “We need to keep hoping for a new reality; a better future for our boys and girls; a future without exclusion or discrimination.”
The Arab Educational Institute also released a message describing Al-Nakba as a catastrophe and calamity. “The expulsion of the Palestinian people was a war crime, and the Nakba continues against our people, our land, and our homes to this day,” the message reads. “Our people are still demanding for the right of return to their homes and land in Palestine until this day.”
The Arab Education Institute also noted that resistance is continuing. “The Nakba continues, the resistance continues, and the hope of freedom is near, if we unite and stay steadfast,” reads the message. “Union is our strength.”
WCC marks 75th commemoration of “Al-Nakba” (WCC news release, 16 May 2023)
Council of Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem reiterate calls to strive for a just, lasting peace (WCC news release, 15 May 2023)