PRESS STATEMENT: Church leaders representing over 50 million Christians urge for “economic pressure” against Israel
American and African Christian leaders, representing churches with over 50 million members, have issued a joint statement comparing the situation of Palestinians under Israeli occupation to that of black South Africans under Apartheid. The statement follows a “Pilgrimage Group Visit” to Israel-Palestine by a delegation of American and African church leaders. Part of the joint statement reads:
“We visited Palestinian communities and homes where people are not allowed to have freedom of movement or self-determination […] We visited a refugee camp of displaced persons who still hold the keys to their homes confiscated over 70 years ago. We met and heard stories of men, women and children who have themselves or family members been victims of state sanctioned violence in the form of detention, interrogation, teargassed, beatings, forced confessions and death…We met with families who are fighting to keep their homes from being taken for Jewish settlements and developments […] we saw the patterns that seem to have been borrowed and perfected from other previous oppressive regimes [including] the ever-present physical walls that wall in Palestinians in a political wall reminiscent of the Berlin Wall […] roads built through occupied Palestinian villages, on which Palestinians are not permitted to drive; and homes and families divided by walls and barriers […] the heavy militarization of the [Palestinian] West Bank was reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa [and] the laws of segregation that allow one thing for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians; we saw evidence of forced removals […].”
In their statement the church leaders conclude with urging for the option of “economic pressure” and commit to “work alongside the oppressed Palestinian people, to advocating in our own countries among our governments for actions and policies that will help lead to a resolution of the conflict”. Click here for the full Church statement.
African church leaders on the Pilgramge visit and who added their name to the joint statement include: the General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, 15 million members), Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (Bishop Zipho Siwa, 1.7 million members), Founder of Grace Bible Church (Bishop Mosa Sono), Bishop of the Central and Southern Africa District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (Bishop Geroge Crenshaw, 1.4 million members), President of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (Pastor M.G. Mahlobo, 1.2 million members), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town (Most Reverend Archbishop Stephen Brislin), Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Natal (Right Reverend Dino Gabriel), Acting Presiding Bishop of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church (Bishop Zandile Myeni), and the Executive Director of Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (Dr Nomasonto Magwaza).
American church leaders who formed part of the delegation and who issued the statement include: President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (Jim Winkler, 40 million members), General Secretary Emeritus for the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts, 2.5 million), Presiding Prelate of the Mid-Atlantic District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (Bishop Darin Moore), Senior Pastor of Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church based in Jefferson City, Missouri (Dr Cassandra Gould), Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District and Ecumenical Officer of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (Bishop Rev Dr Teresa Snorton), Presiding Elder of the Birmingham District Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (Reverend Lawrence Jefferson-Snorton), the 1st Vice-President of the Lott Carey Foreign Missions (Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart) and Associate General Secretary for justice and peace of the National Council of Churches (Rev. Aundreia Alexander). The delegation also included Rev Dr Raphael Warnoch, the Senior Pastor at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church – spiritual home of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, welcomes this latest move by Christian leaders. We call on all Christians worldwide to play the role in Israel-Palestine once played by Churches in the isolation of and struggle against Apartheid – to celebrate the God of love and justice, through action! Let’s jointly walk with Palestinian Christians, Muslims, our Jewish Israeli allies and all other progressive people around the world in opposing Israeli apartheid, and follow in the footsteps of all our Prophets who insisted on speaking truth to power. It was, after all, Jesus Christ himself who instructed us to “open your mouth for the speechless […] and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8,9) to “defend the poor and orphans; do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:3) and “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion” (Zechariah 7:9).
People often confuse the Land of Israel mentioned in the Bible with the modern State of Israel (created in 1948 at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians). There is also confusion between the Israelites of the Bible with Israelis of the modern State of Israel. Palestinian Christians, descendants of the first followers of Christ, insist that they, together with all Palestinians, share the same suffering under Israel’s regime of Apartheid. Palestinian Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna explains that: “Israel desires to conceal the Christian dimension of the Palestinian issue […] attempts to present this conflict as a Jewish-Muslim religious conflict, and it also attempts to neutralize the Christian position, and, therefore, it is irritated by the growing Christian voices raised on the Palestinian issue.”
Churches across the world are increasingly holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law. Churches that have adopted a BDS boycott of Israel or similar measures in recent years include the over 500 000 member United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), the 2 million strong Episcopalian Church in the USA, the Mennonite Church of the USA, the Presbyterian Church of the US, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the over 1 million member Council of African Independent Churches (CAIC) and the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), representing over 80 million Christians.
ISSUED BY TISETSO MAGAMA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA
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