TodayFelicity Amery and I introduced a proposal to the 14th Assembly of the UCA to “establish an awareness-raising campaign throughout he Church on the plight of the Palestinian Christians and the Palestinian people, including promotion of the boycott of goods from the illegal settlements in the West Bank”.
It builds upon the 2011 decision of the Assembly Standing Committee “to join the boycott of goods produced in he illegal Israeli settlements” and to develop a process to enable members and congregations of the UCA “to consider taking action” themselves (ASC 11.33).
In no way does it represent a compromise in our “commitment to the existence, in peace and security, of the state of Israel” or our “conviction that anti-Semitism in all its expressions is an affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Assembly Statement, Jews and Judaism, 2009).
It is a response to the direct request from our Palestinian sisters and brothers for this expression of solidarity. It is a request that has been conveyed through official inter-church channels, but it was also conveyed personally – Christian to Christian – when I led a group of Uniting Church ministers to Jerusalem for a conference last September and continued on in a solidarity visit with the Christian community in Palestine. In a limited way we felt some of the daily humiliation, intimidation and danger experienced by our brothers and sisters there. It is on their behalf that we bring this proposal.
There are two theological principles which compel a response to their request:
- We are part of the one body of Christ; “if one member suffers, we all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
- We are disciples of Jesus, whose life and ministry fulfills the prophetic tradition of bringing good news to the poor and seeking freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:18-21, Isaiah 61:1)
Palestine has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. The prospects for a negotiated peace and a “two-state solution” are bleak. The Occupied Palestinian Territories, consisting of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, are controlled by Israel. Gaza is under a military blockade. Illegal Israeli settlements and other Israeli land confiscations have taken over nearly half of the West Bank. Palestinians have little hope for a better future.
Palestinian Christians now comprise less than 2% of the population of Palestine. In 1948 Christians comprised an estimated 20% of the population. Palestinian church leaders fear that the Christian presence in the Holy Land is under severe threat and their churches are becoming little more than museums. The grief and trauma of Christians in Palestine over the disappearance of the church there, the “mother church”, is painful to witness personally.
In 2009 the thirteen Jerusalem Heads of Churches endorsed the call of the Kairos Palestine statement for the worldwide church to take peaceful action against the oppression and injustice suffered by Palestinians. In 2014 an international church conference supported by the WCC was held in Bethlehem to mark the 5th anniversary of the Kairos Palestine document reiterated the call the worldwide church. And last September our new friends, our Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ, asked us in person to join the international, peaceful movement to support them in their struggle for justice by raising awareness of their plight throughout the church and by joining the boycott of goods from the illegal settlements in the West Bank.