December 29, 2021
Looking Ahead: Prophecy, Struggle and Hope

As we prepare to greet the New Year, we are called upon to resist despair and hopelessness and to renew our commitment to our core values as members of communities, citizens of nations, and members of faith communities. To that end, we draw inspiration and strength from the stories of courage and struggle celebrated in this newsletter. Over the past year, Palestine Portal has delivered news and analysis of what can best be summarized by the term “church struggle.” 

Coined in the 1930s to describe the situation of the German church under National Socialism, the term was equally well-suited to describe the groundbreaking work of South African church leaders, theologians and activists in the fight to liberate their churches and nation from apartheid. The term applies equally to the pivotal role of the churches in the struggle for Black liberation in the United States and the miracle of liberation theology that emerged from the base communities of the poor in Latin America. In our day, the kairos theology emerging from Palestine has spawned a global movement of church struggle against colonialism and the ongoing denial of human rights.
In this issue we bring you the latest developments from the Church of Sweden, where grassroots efforts to have the Church take a stand for human rights for Palestinians has prompted a struggle for the soul of that church. In the second story we pay homage to a church leader whose example will continue to inspire and give us hope for the journey before us.
Palestine Portal keeps you updated with in-depth reporting and analysis on the global church struggle. Please consider a gift to support this service in the coming year. A generous donor will match gifts up to a total of $2,500.00. Donate online or by check to Kairos USA, 1815 NW 27th Ave., Portland OR 97210.
Church of Sweden Calls for Investigation of Israel's Human Rights Record
Earlier this month the Church of Sweden formally moved to investigate Israel's violations of Palestinian human rights. The General Synod, the Church's formal decision making body, commissioned its Central Board, working through ecumenical and international bodies, to "raise the issue of scrutinising the implementation of international law in Israel and Palestine, also from the perspective of the United Nations convention on apartheid and the definitions of apartheid in the Rome Statute." The story was covered
in depth in the Middle East Monitor and Haaretz.

Reactions from within the Church ranged from outright opposition, to equivocal acceptance, to passionate endorsement. In the first group, bishops joined with voices from the organized Jewish community in Sweden in effectively accusing the Church of antisemitism in "singling out" Israel for its human rights violations. A second group of senior Church leaders expressed discomfort with the motion, but stopped short of opposing it, attempting to walk the increasingly narrow path of responding to pressure from the grassroots to take a stand against inequality and tyranny while attempting to protect relationships with the Jewish community. The Church's Archbishop, for example, stated in a public letter that “an image of the decision is now being spread that is not entirely correct, and which can easily lead to misunderstandings and overinterpretations...the use of the word ‘apartheid’ that provokes anger and sadness. I myself would not have used the word in this context. But I am also aware that Israeli and other human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, Yesh Din and Human Rights Watch have used the term in their reports.”
A third group expressed unqualified support. Responding directly to the charge of anti-Israel bias, Rev Dr Anna Karin Hammar, Ecumenical Coordinator of Kairos Palestine-Sweden offered a three-point rebuttal to the charge of anti-Israel bias. The Palestinian people, she wrote, are "one of the few people still affected by settler colonialism and surely the only people deemed by experts on international law to experience a regime of apartheid." Six international church workers from Sweden provided a passionate defense of the church motion on the basis of previous church statements, international law, and fundamental Christian principles. They took particular issue with the charge of anti-Jewish bias expressed by several bishops, and what they characterized as those leaders' disregard of international law in their failure to recognize the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the State of Israel.

Every historical era presents challenges to the church to be true to its core mission. The mixture of voices raised in protest, in agonized ambivalence and in passionate support are the signs of church struggle. It is to be celebrated. The true church, wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is "the living, confessing and struggling church." Today, it is the Palestinian cry that summons the church to its legacy as a community born in resistance to tyranny -- in John de Gruchy's words "the community in which God manifests in history."
Only Palestine Portal brings you these stories of church struggle, unfolding on every continent and increasing in frequency and urgency as the reality of the Palestinian plight becomes inescapably clear and the voice of the global church grows in strength.

Please support our work with a tax-deductable donation today. Donate online or by check to Kairos USA, 1815 NW 27th Ave., Portland OR 97210.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu 1931-2021
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was without peer among church leaders throughout the world in his advocacy for the Palestinian cause. His voice rang out in protest against Israeli apartheid decades before the issue rose to prominence among the churches of the world.

Archbishop Tutu stood out in particular -- and before his time -- in challenging the equating of criticism of Israel with antisemitism. He took aim with devastating accuracy at the efforts of Jewish advocacy organizations, often assisted by church leaders, to thwart divestment efforts on the part of mainline Protestant denominations by leveling the charge of intentional or latent antisemitism. In 2012 a resolution to divest from companies profiting from the oppression of Palestinians was brought before the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Twelve hundred American rabbis released a letter beseeching Methodists to reject the resolution. Archbishop Tutu had this to say in a letter addressed directly to the rabbis' appeal:

"I believe that the rabbis and other opponents of divestment are sadly misguided. My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws."

In 2015 the Archbishop directed these words to the German churches meeting at their biennial assembly: "BDS is not antisemitism. Do business with Jews, organize with them, love them. But don’t support – militarily, economically or politically – the machinery of an apartheid state." He continued: “Beware of anti-Semitism, and all other forms of racism, but beware also of being cowed into silence by those who seek to stifle criticism of the oppressive politics of Israel by labeling you anti-Semitic."

Archbishop Tutu's commitment to the struggle for justice in Palestine was inseparable from his dedication to the struggle of his own people.Throughout his tireless work for racial equality in his own country he exemplified Martin Luther King's principle that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Palestine Portal is a program of Kairos USA. Support the work of promoting the voices of prophetic leadership by making a gift today. Donate online or by check to Kairos USA, 1815 NW 27th Ave., Portland OR 97210.
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