Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's TIME for Palestine! (Kairos that is)

Dear Friend,

Friends Cindy Holder-Rich and Don Wagner have combined to send us a powerful document. (Don writes the article; Cindy provides the venue on

I'm bringing you the last part of it for a careful read. For the complete document, click on the link for "" on the bottom of this post. For access to the complete Kairos Palestine document (which I will be exploring with the class April 15, 22 and 29, 10:15 a.m in the Chapel at Christ Memorial Church), go to

A Western Michigan Kairos USA chapter is envisioned with participants from Holland, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo for starters.

Thank you Don Wagner, Cindy Holder-Rich, Mark Braverman, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA and many, many others, for your efforts to bring about wrenching but needed change in Israel/Palestine. JRK

". . . Palestinian Christians have been appealing to the world for nearly five decades concerning the rapid decline of Christianity in the occupied Palestinian territories. Few have listened. It is no mere coincidence that when Israel’s military occupation began in June 1967, Palestinian Christians were 13% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip population. Today they are a meager 1.1 to 1.2% and well below 1% if you factor in 500,000 Jewish settlers now living in illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories. Some church leaders fear that at this rate there will be no Christians left in these parts of the Holy Land within a generation, unless something dramatic causes Israel to change its intransigence.

Palestinian Christians have stepped up their appeals to the world in recent years, culminating in the December, 2009 Kairos-Palestine Document. The statement is modeled after the 1985 Kairos South Africa document that awakened the global church and peace movement concerning the evils of the white South African Apartheid system and declared Apartheid a “sin.” Kairos-Palestine pinpoints the Israeli military occupation in the same way, a “sin” that has in fact become a racist apartheid system, privileging Jewish settlers and exploiting Palestinians within their own territories.

Like Kairos-South Africa, Kairos-Palestine is a prophetic cry to the global church and civil society, calling for an immediate response and courageous, prophetic actions. The authors of Kairos-Palestine summarized the essence of their message in a postscript to the Declaration: “In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.”5 Echoes of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are unmistakable.

In one of its most controversial sections, the authors invoke non-violent strategies, like those conducted during the struggle for civil rights and opposition to Apartheid in South Africa. No one in the pro-Israel community complained when these methods were used in those cases, and Israel used the boycott strategy in a number of cases. But when Palestinians call for divestment or boycotts, and their friends follow their lead, everything is different.

Kairos-Palestine argues that endless peace conferences, dialogue, and diplomacy have only brought more suffering to the Palestinian people. Now it is time for other methods, and they choose to follow the ethics of Jesus: “Christ our Lord has left us an example we must imitate. We must resist evil, but he taught us that we cannot resist evil with evil. This is a difficult commandment, particularly when the enemy is determined to impose himself and deny our right to remain here in our land…(Therefore) Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation. We understand this to integrate the logic of peaceful resistance. These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly and sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice.”6

Inspired by Kairos-Palestine, a group of U. S. clergy, theologians, and laity met recently to consider “a bold, prophetic stand for justice in the Holy Land.” They added: “In acknowledging this Kairos moment, we call on the U.S. churches to take up the challenge. There is an urgent need to support nonviolent resistance to oppression on the part of Palestinian and Israeli civil society and to continue to build the growing international grassroots movement that will break the current political log-jam.”7

“Kairos-Palestine: A US Response” plans to bridge the divide among U.S. Evangelicals, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and African-American denominations, as all were represented at the organizing meeting. Among the programmatic goals of this response are calls for pilgrimages to Israel/Palestine; dissemination of a “Call to Action” with accompanying study materials for churches, universities, and community organizations; convening a summit on the theology of the land, peoplehood, and prophetic justice; and connecting U.S. churches, synagogues, and mosques to civil society in Israel and Palestine, as well as to Kairos Palestine movements around the globe.

The timing of these efforts could not be more relevant as at least two major U.S. Protestant denominations will consider resolutions on morally responsible investment in the coming months. In late April 2012, the United Methodist Church will consider such a resolution at their international assembly in Tampa, Florida, followed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in July 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA at its General Assembly. Both resolutions are responses to the call from their sister churches in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The churches are applying the same ethical principles for morally responsible investment as they have applied in previous cases such as Apartheid in South Africa, Sudan ethnic cleansing in Darfur, and divesting from corporations producing weapons or instruments that destroy lives or the livelihood of civilians.

Perhaps it is ironic that the global church, and particularly churches in the United States, are being challenged by a courageous, prophetic “call” from a small but courageous community, their sisters and brothers in the very lands where the Christian message was first heard. These sisters and brothers are hoping and praying that the global church will not let them down in their hour of need and will begin to embody prophetic consciousness.

1. Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, Augsburg Fortress Publications: (2012, Kindle Edition).

2. Luke 4: 24 (English Standard Version; read Luke 4:14-30 for the whole incident).

3. “Christian Palestinians: Israel ‘manipulating facts’ by claiming we are welcome,” Amira Hass. Ha’aretz (March 26, 2012) ( accessed March 26, 2012)

4. Ibid.

5. Kairos-Palestine,

6. Ibid.

7. “Kairos-Palestine: A US Response” will provide theological analysis and resources starting with a “US Document”; please address requests to

Rev. Dr. Don Wagner is the National Program Director of FOSNA, Friends of Sabeel–North America, working closely with faith based communities in the US and Canada to promote a just peace in Israel/Palestine. Previously he was a Professor of Middle East Studies and Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago. He is an ordained PC(USA) clergyman.