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Ateek and Braverman Challenge UK Churches

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Bring together a Jew steeped in Zionism and a Palestinian Christian theologian and you can expect fireworks. Especially when the meeting takes place at Pentecost.

But, instead of conflict, the outcome was a powerful challenge to Britain’s churches to end their “deafening silence” on Palestine and to speak out for justice.

When Mark Braverman preached at the Pentecost Sunday Eucharist in Iona Abbey, the Jewish American revealed a personal moment of truth. On a visit to the Holy Land, as he stood before the 24 foot high concrete separation wall in Jerusalem, he realised he had to break down a personal barrier that prevented him facing up to what his own people were doing to the Palestinians.

He said there was a tragic irony that, from the Nazi Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, you look across at the ruins of Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village, where more than 100 men, women and children were massacred by Jewish forces in 1948.

As a Jew, steeped in the Zionist narrative, he said he experienced a profound change of mind. He became and remains, a committed advocate for the Palestinian struggle for human and political rights.

"It is", he said, "the most Jewish thing I have ever done."

Now he and the Rev Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel liberation theology centre in Jerusalem, are urging Britain’s churches to speak out for a just peace. Referring to the South African Kairos initiative (1985) they expounded the *Kairos Palestine document which asks “Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?”

More than 70 people from all over Britain took part in the international consultation on the Hebridean island of Iona. The outcome was a joint appeal in which they said:

We ask our churches to challenge how the Bible has been used to justify oppression and injustice.

We urge Christians to participate only in those pilgrimages which give opportunity to listen to the experiences of Palestinians and to engage with the harsh realities of occupation.

We support Palestinians in their non-violent resistance to Israeli injustice and oppression. We endorse their call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions and other forms of non-violent direct action.

We call on Christians to put pressure on governments and the European Union to demonstrate a commitment to justice for Palestinians and security for all people.

In pursuit of the above we intend to establish a UK Kairos network, linked to the Kairos Palestine global movement, to alert our churches to the urgent situation in Palestine. We challenge Christians and churches to engage in prayerful study of the Kairos Palestine document in openness to what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev. 2.7). We must read the signs of the times and act in obedience to God's will (Matt. 16.3).

Difficult though this journey may be, we seize this Kairos moment with conviction and hope. We recognise our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to speak the prophetic word with courage.

*See also: Christians leaders issue Kairos Palestine Document - ICN December 11 2009