‘Go and Tell’: largest Protestant association says listen to Palestinian stories and struggles

The largest official Protestant association of churches released in late October “Focus: Palestine,” a digital textbook that places the Israeli occupation of Palestine in historical, political, and theological contexts. The compilation is divided into three sections – Voices and Lenses, Theologies, Ideologies, and Resistance, and Systems of Sin and the Jerusalem Microcosm and is published by the World Communion of Reformed Churches, which represents 232 denominations and 100 million members. 

“While we centered the resource on Palestinian voices and experiences, we took a deep dive into exploring the websites and theological statements of WCRC churches around the world,” said Katherine Cunningham. The resource was co-authored by Cunningham and Noushin Darya Framke.

Michael Lynk, United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, keynoted the October launch. “No change is going to come to the present status,” he declared, “unless and until there are loud voices coming from civil society, including faith-based organizations, to demand its end and to demand political and diplomatic leaders place this as one of the more important issues on the international agenda.” 

When later asked to comment further, Lynk said, “The ‘Focus: Palestine’ handbook is an outstanding guide to understanding the struggle for justice in Israel and Palestine. In clear, vivid and truthful language, it informs the reader about the long cry for hope from Palestinians, the commitment by many churches to stand beside those Palestinians and Israelis searching for equality, reconciliation and a shared future together, and it names the barriers – such as settler colonialism, impunity and an acquisitive occupation – that stand in the way of a compassionate peace.”

South African Dutch Reformed Church cleric and anti-apartheid activist Allan Boesak spoke during the launch. “For the church in South Africa, joining the struggle against apartheid on political as well as theological grounds became a question of faith,” he said. “If you are not in this on the right side, you are betraying the gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot ignore the suffering and death of Palestinians and then claim to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

During the event, Munther Isaac, the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and pastor of Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, was asked, “Why should the church be concerned?” He offered five reasons: the obvious injustice in the land; an injustice that is happening, in large part, in the name of the Bible; the church’s already destructive involvement through the political/theological activism of Christian Zionism; the tenuous future of Christian presence in the Holy Land; and, he said, “finding a just solution to the end of the occupation will have a positive impact on the region.”

(Image: Visualizing Palestine)

Powerful images are interspersed throughout the document, along with links to over a dozen videos and graphics provided by Visual Palestine, turning the book, one pastor observed, into something just short of a work of art. Users of the resource will hear leading Palestinian Christian theologians and engage with their writings. “Focus: Palestine” discusses the groundbreaking 2021 reports from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch which found Israel practices apartheid.

“I am so sorry that the Bible, the same book that I read and study every day, that brings life to many people, is bringing pain and suffering to the people of Palestine,” Dario Barolin, an executive of WCRC’s Latin America division, said. He cautioned, “It is very problematic for religions to support injustice. As Waldensians [one of the WCRC’s member denominations], we have learned to never use our faith to justify the use of power or oppression.”

Ranjan Solomon, a human rights activist in India, spoke of the value that “Focus: Palestine” will bring to human rights movements around the world. He said it “It will help church people everywhere discern the injustices in their own lands and commit to do far more to transform the church into an instrument of justice.”

“The handbook is badly needed in Germany and would be a revolution as far as ecclesial material on Palestine-Israel is concerned,” said Ulrich Duchrow, a professor and co-moderator of the Kairos Palestine Solidarity Network in Germany. Hoping that the book will be translated into German, he added, “Focus: Palestine” is grounded in biblical theology, international law and human rights, clearly naming the reality of the people in Palestine-Israel, not trying to be ‘neutral’ as many churches do, particularly in Germany.”

“In our [long-standing] commitment to justice, the World Communion of Reformed Churches seeks to set a standard for global church study and activism,” said Philip Vinod Peacock, an executive with the WCRC. “Focus: Palestine” is a comprehensive resource to lift up the cries of the Palestinian people to draw attention to the abuses and atrocities that are faced by Palestinians on a daily basis.” 

Mondoweiss is a nonprofit news website dedicated to covering the full picture of the struggle for justice in Palestine. Funded almost entirely by our readers, our truth-telling journalism is an essential counterweight to the propaganda that passes for news in mainstream and legacy media.

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