Finding the Church’s Prophetic Voice: Revd Naim Ateek

This past year, during the pandemic, Rev. Naim Ateek, put together a collection of his writings including lectures, sermons, largely unpublished but mostly delivered at various universities, colleges, and churches over the years.

A number of them have been organized by topics and published in booklet forms. This is a work in progress. So far, six booklets have been published. They are now available through Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. The contents and titles of these booklets are as follows:

I was invited to review one of the booklets, “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back! Finding the Church’s Prophetic Voice for Palestine”. Here is my video review recorded at the book launch.

I am delighted to commend Revd Dr Naim Ateek’s “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!”.  It contains the distilled wisdom of over 50 years prophetic ministry.  This is an immensely significant and urgent call (as well as loving rebuke) for the Western church to find its prophetic voice and speak truth to power over Palestine. 

For far, far too long our church leaders has been silent about injustice in Palestine and in so doing have compromised their witness.  They seem to care more about not offending Zionist friends than defending their sisters and brothers in Palestine. I know they are fearful of being accused of antisemitism. If so, it is their own fault for adopting, so uncritically, the IHRA definition of antisemitism.  I call it a pseudo-definition because numerous lawyers have pointed out that it is not actually a definition.  A definition by definition cannot be indefinite which the IHRA purposely and intentionally is. 
It is designed to silence criticism of Israel by equating antizionism with antisemitism.

It is telling that I know of only one Anglican Bishop who has publicly endorsed the Kairos “Cry for Hope: A Call for Decisive Action” published 18 months ago. Only one out of more than 100 in England.

In “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!” Naim explains how Christians, especially her leaders, have “quenched the Spirit and choked the prophetic”, caring more about personal interests than fidelity to God’s truth.  Silence in the face of oppression and injustice leads to self-censorship and complicity.

Naim embodies what a prophetic ministry looks like. Lonely? Yes. Controversial? Most certainly. Impactful? Definitely. I remember in November 2005, participating in a Sabeel conference in Canada on MRI. The day before, B’nai Brith organised a press conference to dissuade Canadian clergy from participating.  We went along and sat in the back row to find out what they were saying about us. I remember the spokesman asking “Who is Naim Ateek?” “where do they get their money from?” I felt like standing up and answering  “We don’t have any!” One astute journalist asked a question. “Why did you have to fly three clergy from New York to convince Canadian clergy not to attend?” 

They were not very subtle. Canadians don’t like Americans telling them what to do. Why go to such trouble and expenses?  They were in panic mode because Sabeel was challenging their apartheid narrative. They clearly took Sabeel seriously, because, then as now, Sabeel is a prophetic voice standing peacefully and non-violently against oppression and injustice in Palestine. 

At the heart of “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!” Naim provides short bible expositions, offering a clear, Christ-centred, theology of justice and peace.  He shatters the illusion that somehow Jesus was apolitical.

The inclusion of the testimonies of contemporary Palestinian Christian leaders who, as faithful “martyrs”, have shown courage in challenging the injustice and oppression of Israeli apartheid, is also deeply inspiring.  Naim also cites the prophetic words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Apartheid in the Holy Land”

“My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured…

Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or – I hope – to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.”

I found “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!” particularly valuable in outlining the practical steps we need to take to recover our prophetic voice and so fulfil our God-given mandate. I will be using this valuable resource in future lectures and presentations. And I hope you will also.

Let me give the last word to Naim. This is how he concludes, “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!”. 

“Achieving a just peace for the Palestinians can be done if we are willing to stand and face together the inter- nationally recognized illegal occupation. The challenge before our church leadership globally is to recognize the evil nature of this morbid occupation, and to confront it head on using the power of prayer and nonviolence. Let us remember the plea of Palestinian Christians expressed in the Kairos Palestine Document and addressed to the churches of the world, “Are you able to help us get our freedom back…?” This cry is a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” 

Read more here

We pray, Lord, to bless Pastor Dr. Naim Ateek, who has worked over the years to raise awareness about the reality of Palestinians, issues of liberation, and strive for fair peace and participate in international gatherings and haunted events. God bless this version and the different versions that narrate the reality of what is going on in the country.

Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) Webinar on Christian Zionism

ICAHD USA hosted a webinar on 7 November entitled ‘Christian Zionism: What Is It, How Does it Impact on the Palestinian Question, and How Do We Combat It?’ The three guest speakers were Jonathan Kuttab – Executive Director, Friends of Sabeel, North America, Dr Don Wagner – Author, co-author of five books dealing with Christian Zionism and Christian history in Palestine / Israel, and myself. Here is a recording of my presentation:

“The very being of the church, the integrity of the Christian faith, and the credibility of the Gospel is at stake.  We declare that support for the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether passive or active, through silence, word or deed, is a sin.  We assert that Christian support for Zionism as a theology and an ideology that legitimize the right of one people to deny the human rights of another is incompatible with the Christian faith and a grave misuse of the Bible.” (2020 Kairos Palestine: ‘Cry of Hope’)

Watch a recording of the full webinar here

Carlisle Diocese Endorses Kairos ‘Cry for Hope’ in Support of Palestinian Christians

Carlisle Diocese passes historic motion endorsing the Kairos, ‘Cry for Hope’ in support of Palestinian Christians.

On Saturday 9th of October 60 members of the Church of England gathered together under the leadership of the Bishop of Carlisle, The Rt Revd James Newcome for their autumn Diocesan Synod meeting. Members included clergy and lay people. On their agenda was a motion passed by Solway Deanery, calling on the Church of England to be more proactive in its support and solidarity with Palestinian Christians.The motion, presented by Solway Deanery member Valerie Hallard, read as follows:

That This Synod:
• Endorses the “Cry for Hope” expressed by Palestinian Christians and the ‘Global Kairos for Justice’ coalition (GKfJ);
• Requests that the Faith and Order Commission produce a report which analyses and refutes any theological justifications, for example, those promoted by some Christian Zionists, for the oppression of Palestinians;
• Instructs the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to provide guidance to the National Investing Bodies (NIBs) and Dioceses that will enable them to screen their investments and thereby make decisions regarding engagement with, and divestment from, companies which profit from the occupation.

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A Biblical Critique of Apartheid

What does the Bible say about apartheid? How has the Bible been used to justify supremacism, segregation and racial purity? How is apartheid easily refuted from the Bible? This presentation will provide some answers. The introduction gives a brief historical overview showing the lineage of European supremacism, slavery, segregation and apartheid. It also examines why apartheid has been designated a crime against humanity, and shows the similarities between the South African and Israeli variants.

Download a copy of this presentation here

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Kumi Now: Christian Zionism

Kumi Now are working to connect activists around the world with the organizations working on the ground in Palestine and Israel to bring a just and lasting peace based on international law and nonviolence.

All Palestinians regardless of their faith face similar challenges. However, Palestinian Christians face a specific kind of challenge from Christian Zionists who manipulate scripture to support the oppression of Palestinians. On August 22, 2006 Palestinian Christian churches addressed the threat of Christian Zionism with the “Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism.” We mark the anniversary of the declaration by learning about Christian Zionism and learning what you can do so that together we can rise up.

Continue reading about Kumi Action and resources for download Kumi Now

Find additional resources here

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A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid

Although we would love to meet in person, this year we have made the decision to keep our conference online in the hope that as many of you as possible are able to join us.

This year our theme is ‘A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid’. We will be hearing from two excellent speakers about apartheid in both the Palestinian territories, and inside Israel itself.

Alongside this we will be joining together in worship, reflection, and action, and we will be hosting a number of workshops in breakout rooms, looking at how we can work within our Churches and communities to combat apartheid.

We will also be hearing direct from our partners Sabeel Jerusalem and Kairos Palestine about their work on the ground in Palestine/Israel, and the highs and lows of the last year!

We are very much looking forward to this event, and hope that you can join us.

Sabeel-Kairos UK

The Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice

The Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice at Bethlehem Bible College invites you to enroll in its fully online course beginning this September 2021

Introduction to Peacemaking and Justice in the Palestinian Context 1

This asynchronous, guided, online course, taught by Palestinian and international professors, explores fundamental concepts in peacebuilding and justice, the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and present realities on the ground; Biblical theologies of peace; reflections on peace and justice from the perspective of Judaism and Islam; non-violence and peacemaking; the practice of sulha in Arab societies and how it relates to other models of reconciliation, and more.

The course may be taken for credit or audit by either students already enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs, or by non-traditional students. The course is offered internationally and to people of all faiths.

All the course material, including required reading, is located on the educational platform, Its Learning, which the Institute uses. The tuition is inclusive of reading assignments.

The tuition fee is determined on a per-credit basis. The rate for the academic year 2021/2022 is $495 ($165 per credit hour) for internationals and $240 ($80 per credit hour) for local and auditing students. The course is for 3 credits.

This course especially serves:

Those who are passionate about affirming the relevance and reasonableness of peacemaking in the world.

Those who desire to learn more about the Palestinian Christian experience – its joys and sorrows – in peacemaking.

Those who want to explore the holistic discipline of peacemaking and justice studies.

Find out more at www.bipj.org or direct your inquiries to Info@bipj.org.

Jewish Network for Palestine: Convivencia

The Jewish Network for Palestine recently invited me to give a short presentation on ‘Convivencia’ or coexistence at their 2021 annual meeting.

Convivencia simply means ‘coexistence’. It is an academic hypothesis, first proposed by the Spanish philologist Américo Castro, regarding the coexistence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities during the period of Spanish history from the Muslim Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the early eighth century until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

By extension the term can describe the contemporary religious and cultural interaction and exchange fostered by such proximity as a way to challenge the various forms of ethno-supremacism and exclusive religious nationalisms emerging in different parts of the world. 

Christ at the Checkpoint Young Adults

Statement by young Palestinian Christians

This statement was written with urgency by Palestinian Christian young adults from all across the land, expressing repentance and hope regarding the ongoing injustices. If you identify with this statement, it is yours to hold as well. We urge all to read and reflect seriously on its call.

“Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5 : 23-24)

Statement of Repentance and Hope

We Palestinian Christian young adults from the 48 territories, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; cannot remain silent with what is happening in our community. Based on our understanding of our spiritual, ethical and national responsibilities, we declare the following:

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Prayer Vigil for Gaza

A vigil for Gaza was held in Reading town centre on Saturday 5th June organised by Reading Muslim Council with contributions from the Jewish Network for Palestine, Cordoba Foundation, Green Party, Slough PSC and Jewish Voices for Labour. Organisers estimate that around 250 people participated in the vigil while many people out shopping stopped to listen to the presentations. At the end of the vigil balloons were released in memory of each child killed in Gaza. I gave a short presentation (below) and also offered prayers for the bereaved and injured.

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