by Samia Khoury
Palestinian Christians are among the indigenous people of the land, whose presence in the Holy Land goes back to the days of Jesus Christ. It is from their land that His message of peace and love for all was sent out to the whole world. At one time they were the majority of the population, but due to political changes in the region over the years they were a little more than 10 percent before the Nakba in 1948. After 45 years of
Israeli military occupation their number has dwindled to less than 2 percent. As a precursor to the Kairos Palestine Document, MCC partner The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center issued “A Call for Morally Responsible Investment: A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation” in 2006. There have been many responses to Palestinian Christians calls for boycott and divestment, including articles, church statements and resolutions, press releases and other items of interest that can be found at http://www.fosna.org/ investment-activism.
Palestinian Christians are part of the Palestinian people, struggling together for liberation and self-determination. The brutality of the occupation has been endless. Enough is enough. It is a Kairos moment—a moment of truth.
Palestinian Christians needed to raise their voice. A voice intended to reach the international community, which has been watching without any action beyond statements and resolutions. But it was also a voice addressed to political leaders of the region, to local churches and churches around the world, and to the Palestinian and Israeli communities. Kairos Palestine 2009 was inspired by hope, faith and love. It is the fruit of prayer and reflection by a group of Christians— clergy and lay, men and women. It called the occupation evil, and a sin that needed to be removed. It asserted the right of every person to resist evil, but not with evil. So it was a call for peaceful and non-violent resistance, including tactics such as BDS.
Ever since the second intifada, and the suffering that ensued, Palestinian civil society organizations have been calling for non-violent resistance. In fact the weekly peaceful protests against the confiscation of land and the apartheid wall that had started in Bilin as early as January 2005 have now spread out to different parts of the Palestinian Territories, and are often joined by international and Israeli solidarity movements.
The churches in the U.S. and Canada, who have been trying to promote BDS have been harshly criticized, as well as pressured and intimidated not to pass resolutions regarding such campaigns.
While many churches have taken courageous stands, and have reacted very positively to the Kairos Document, some continue to be reluctant to raise their voice against the Occupation for fear of hindering interfaith dialogue. But then what is the use of interfaith dialogue if it is not going to help the groups engaged in such a dialogue to make use of the common morals and values of each faith for the welfare of humanity? If interfaith dialogue is a means of silencing the prophetic voice of truth and justice then it seems to be not only useless, but a very harmful and hypocritical exercise.
Western Christian leaders continue to be concerned about the emigration of Christians from the Holy Land. Conferences, seminars and meetings are held for that purpose as well as studies showing the seriousness of the issue. No further studies are necessary because the root cause of the emigration is the Israeli military Occupation; an Occupation that is suffocating every aspect of the lives of the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims. The Bethlehem area, which seems to be the concern of so many Christians abroad, has lost most of its land to Israeli settlements and has been isolated from Jerusalem by a wall that snakes through the area. With regard to the Occupation and its brutal measures that deprive people of their right of residency and their right of return, the prophetic voice of the church leadership needs to be raised repeatedly.
It remains to be said that due to the Occupation, Christians as well as Muslims have been leaving the country. But because the number of Christians is small in the first place, the mosaic of the Palestinian society will be affected should more Christians emigrate. However, the Christians of the land have for a long time been small in number, yet they managed to survive and to assert their presence, raise their voice, and contribute to the development of their community.
Samia Khoury has served as a board member for MCC partner Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, and chairs the MCC Palestine Advisory Committee. This article was initially published in the MCC Peace Office Newsletter entitled, “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: A Question for the Church”.