By Ben White
As the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel approaches, Western church leaders are putting their names to a historic joint declaration calling for a just peace in Palestine/Israel. Recognising that for many Israelis and Jews around the world, this landmark is a cause for joyful celebration, the declaration goes on to recognise that Palestinians will mark the same occasion by remembering 60 years since the Nakba (Catastrophe). Furthermore, for the Palestinians:
This day is not just about the remembrance of a past catastrophic dispossession, dispersal, and loss; it is also a reminder that their struggle for self-determination and restitution is ongoing.
Signatories to the declaration “acknowledge with sorrow” that since 1948, “many of us in the church worldwide” have not shown to the Palestinians the same kind of solidarity afforded to the Israelis, “deaf to their cries of pain and distress”. The declaration concludes,
We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
Since the declaration began circulation in mid-March, a large number and variety of Christian leaders have added their names to this call for a just peace. Current signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the National Director World Vision in Jerusalem, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU), Brother Andrew, International Chairman of YWAM Lynn Green, and Friends of Sabeel UK, to name but a few.
So far, there are Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, around a dozen Church of England bishops, theologians and professors, but there is still plenty of time for new signatories. The declaration will stay open until May 8, Israel’s official Independence Day, when it will be sent to the national press in the UK and US.
-Ben White is a freelance journalist specializing in Palestine/Israel. His website is at www.benwhite.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com