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The Kairos Palestine Document, a prayerful call of Palestinian Christians to end the occupation

Palestinian family watches as Caterpillar bulldozer destroys their olive grove near Bethlehem, Credit:
Palestinian family watches as Caterpillar bulldozer destroys their olive grove near Bethlehem, Credit:

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The Kairos Palestine Document, a prayerful call of Palestinian Christians to end the occupation

Introducing Kairos Palestine

On December 11, 2009, Palestinian Christians sent out a plea to the churches of the world and to people of good will everywhere. It was a cry from the heart, issued from the City of Bethlehem, and it was titled Kairos PalestineA moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.

What is Kairos?

The Greek word Kairos refers to a moment in time, a moment when God is present in opportunity, when the world’s axis is the Word of God. It affirms that the moment to speak truth is now!

Remember South Africa

The Kairos Palestine document recalls a powerful statement from South African Christians in the apartheid era, the Kairos Document: Challenge to the Church, issued in 1985. It called on the churches to side with the oppressed and led to heated debates within the faith communities.

Jerusalem comes first

Jerusalem is highlighted in Kairos Palestine: “Jerusalem is the foundation of our vision and our entire life.” The document calls for a political resolution to the struggle for Jerusalem, based on the prophetic vision of peace: “The city is inhabited by two peoples of three religions.” Kairos Palestine is very clear: “This is the first issue that should be negotiated.”

Occupation is sin

The statement calls Israeli occupation of Palestinian land “a sin against God and humanity.” The theological context of this declaration is God’s desire for life with love and dignity for all people. This is not a political position. The occupation deprives Palestinians of dignity and basic human rights, and it “distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become the occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinians living under occupation.” Kairos Palestine does not argue with Israel’s right to exist, but it calls for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Economic measures and BDS

Kairos Palestine affirms economic measures as a legitimate means of nonviolent resistance, including divestment, boycott and economic sanctions (BDS). These efforts “must be carried out with courage,” the message says, to resist injustice in an attitude of love and put an end to evil.

Hope and love

The Christian leaders who wrote Kairos Palestine affirm their faith in “one God, a good and just God,” who has spoken to us in Jesus, a native son of their land. The document is a word of hope and of love, because it speaks of “seeing the face of God in every human being” as one’s brother or sister.

The fruits of prayer

Kairos Palestine was developed after more than a year of prayer and discussion, guided by faith in God and love for God’s people. The authors accepted advice from many friends and supporters: Palestinians, other Arabs and the wider international community.  

The message has three parts

First: “Our word to the Churches of the world is firstly a word of gratitude for the solidarity you have shown toward us in word, deed and presence among us.” And secondly, Kairos Palestine extends an invitation: “In order to understand our reality, we say to the Churches: Come and see.” Lastly, the document calls for a response:  “Understanding the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike,” it calls on the churches “to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

Beyond the churches

While Kairos Palestine is a message to Christians worldwide, it reaches out to a wide range of others: Muslims, people who are not religious and people loyal to various political parties. The message to Jews is, “Even though we have fought one another in the recent past and still struggle today, we are able to love and live together.”

Nonviolence always

Kairos Palestine calls for resistance to injustice and violence. Nonviolent resistance is based on hope and on love that “puts an end to evil by walking in the ways of justice.” 

The land

The document emphasizes the connection of Palestinians to the Holy Land, acknowledging that the entire land belongs to God and is inhabited by two peoples. Kairos Palestine is not a comprehensive analysis of the Middle East or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it does point to the expulsion of Palestinians from the land of their history, the desire of the West to “make amends” for the suffering of the Jews of Europe, and the errors in some Western Christian attitudes concerning the State of Israel.

Kairos USA

Two years after Kairos Palestine was released, clergy and laypersons in the U.S. met to discuss how American churches could answer the call from their counterparts in the Holy Land. The result was a 2012 document titled A Call to Action: U.S. Response to Kairos Palestine and the formation of Kairos USA, which aims to “mobilize U.S. churches to respond faithfully and boldly to the situation in Israel-Palestine.”

Read, share and act

Kairos Palestine should be shared widely and studied in North American churches with a mind to increasing understanding and advocacy efforts. Bring it into your church. Show it to your pastor. Ask for an opportunity to lead a study group in your church. Discuss it with various groups in your church (be sure to include youth and young adults), ecumenical and interfaith groups. Write an op-ed for your church newsletter, a denominational publication or local newspaper. Pull out several main ideas to use as talking points when you contact elected political leaders. Add your signature and encourage others to sign Kairos Palestine at 
Respond with prayer and advocacy.

Check these denominational websites for more resources:

United Methodist Church

Presbyterian Church USA

United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ

The authors are:

● Patriarch Michel Sabbah
● Bishop Dr Munib Younan
● Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna
● Rev. Dr Jamal Khader
● Rev. Dr Rafiq Khoury
● Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb
● Rev. Dr Naim Ateek
● Rev. Dr Yohana Katanacho
● Rev. Fr Fadi Diab
● Dr Jiries Khoury
● Ms Sider Daibes
● Ms Nora Kort
● Ms Lucy Thaljieh
● Mr Nidal Abu Zulof
● Mr Yusef Daher
● Mr Rifat Kassis - coordinator of the initiative.

A list of signatories of the document can be found here.

Click here to read the Kairos Document in English or a wide variety of other languages.

Click here for a Congregational Study Guide of the Kairos Document