Ex-President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney has introduced a proposal to establish an awareness-raising campaign throughout the Church on the plight of the Palestinian Christians and the Palestinian people.
The campaign will include promotion of the boycott of goods from illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Rev. Prof. Dutney explained that the proposal builds upon the 2011 decision of the Assembly Standing Committee ‘to join the boycott of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements’ and developed 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),” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.
“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 experienced some of the daily humiliation, intimidation and danger experienced by our brothers and sisters there. It is on their behalf that I bring this proposal.”
Rev. Prof. Dutney said there were two theological principles which compelled a response to this 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,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.
“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 two per cent of the population of Palestine. In 1948 Christians comprised an estimated 20 per cent 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.”
Rev. Prof. Dutney reminded the 14th Assembly that in 2009 the 13 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 and reiterated the call to 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,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.
The 14th Assembly will return to the proposal on its final day tomorrow.