Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Christian Leaders' Declaration on the 60th Anniversary of Israel's Declaration of Independence

The Declaration
We, the undersigned, church leaders and representatives of our different denominations and organisations, join together on the 60th anniversary of the Israeli state to offer a contribution to that which makes for peace.

We recognise that today, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel (Yom Ha'atzmaut). For many, this landmark powerfully symbolises the Jewish people’s ability to defy the power of hatred so destructively embodied in the Nazi Holocaust. Additionally, it is an opportunity to celebrate the wealth of cultural, economic and scientific achievements of Israeli society, in all its vitality and diversity.

We also recognise that this same day, millions of Palestinians living inside Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the worldwide diaspora, will mourn 60 years since over 700,000 of them were uprooted from their homes and forbidden from returning, while more than 400 villages were destroyed (al-Nakba). For them, 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.

To hold both of these responses together in balanced tension is not easy. But it is vital if a peaceful way forward is to be forged, and is central to the Biblical call to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14). We acknowledge with sorrow that for the last 60 years, while extending empathy and support to the Israeli narrative of independence and struggle, many of us in the church worldwide have denied the same solidarity to the Palestinians, deaf to their cries of pain and distress.

To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future. Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness.

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.
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)

What they are saying...
“A just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is both vital and possible. So is global solidarity to that end. This declaration joins human and Christian compassion for two wounded people's with the political passion to see right prevail. It is timely and essential.” Simon Barrow, Co-director of Ekklesia

“The Lord our God has always valued love and justice more than land and prosperity. ‘But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows…’ As His people, we must agree with Him and stand for justice for all in the Middle East.” Lynn Green, International Chairman of YWAM

“A necessary and timely reminder that for 60 years Israel's ‘celebration’ of statehood has come at a high price for millions of refugees and occupied residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel's ‘60th anniversary’ could become a moment for profound introspection and self-examination for a state that wishes to be known for democracy and justice in the Middle East. It is not without reason that Palestinians call 1948 – Israel’s birth – the ‘catastrophe.’” Gary Burge

Background to the Declaration
As Israel marks its 60th anniversary this May, for Israelis and Palestinians the conflict and the suffering continues. We believe that this landmark is an important opportunity for Christian leaders around the world to add their voices to a special call for a justice-based peace.

The statement acknowledges the pain of both peoples – and the rights of both peoples to security and dignity. Grounded in biblical truth and supported by pastors, professors, heads of organizations and editors across denominational, national and political lines, this historic statement will be a prophetic cry and a powerful witness.

On May 8, Israeli Independence Day, the joint statement and a full list of signatories will be published on this blog and sent to the national press in the US and UK. To add your name to the list of signatories, or to get a copy of the statement as a Word document, email Philip or Ben at the address below.

Spread the word - the more people who get behind this call for justice and peace, the more powerful an impact it will be able to make.

Blessings and peace.

Ben White & Philip Rizk, 18 March 2008

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