This is a truly inspirational story of how a young conservative white evangelical Christian became a passionate life-long campaigner for Palestinian rights.
The book reveals the heavy price Don has paid for his commitment to justice, peace and reconciliation. Don clearly stands in the subversive but non-violent tradition of Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandella.
I simply could not put this book down. It is a compelling, detailed, eye-witness commentary on the unfolding tragedy of Palestine over the past 40 years. It is also a searing indictment of the failure of the West, tragically with the complicity of the Church, to hold Israel accountable to its obligations under international law and repeated UN Resolutions.
Don does not mince his words, describing Zionism for what it has become, a “brutal Israeli Apartheid-settler colonial regime.” p. 20.
At the same time, the book records the pioneering role Don and others have played in galvanising mainstream Western Christian engagement in the Middle East and in particular, advocating for, and partnering with, Palestinian Christians.
I have known Don personally for over 25 years and it has been a privilege to accompany him on several significant journeys to Palestine. Indeed, his early writings were the inspiration for my own PhD which examined the history, theology and politics of Christian Zionism.
Although I am confident this book will sell many copies, I am sure that what matters more to Don will be the extent to which readers are motivated to engage in the struggle for truth, justice and peace. For this is also a practical book. It is a call to action, indeed, a ‘Cry for Hope’. In the concluding chapters Don helpfully draws attention to numerous resources and initiatives which will enable readers to advocate and connect with fellow Christians in Palestine.
There are so many excellent quotes. I’ll restrain myself to one: “Palestine becomes at once a metaphor and a living reality of a people rising from the ashes of defeat to claim what is rightfully theirs – justice and only justice.” p. 20.
After serving for five years as a pastor in a remarkable Black church, Donald Wagner comes to fully understand the original sin of racism. As his journey continues, he encounters another marginalised people the Palestinians and witnesses their struggle for justice and equality. Touched by their resilience and fight against injustice, he leaves the pastorate to assume full time work as an advocate for Palestinian political and human rights.
The memoir begins in mid-September 1982, with a gut-wrenching day interviewing survivors of the Sabra-Shatila massacre in Lebanon, as they wept and waited for the bodies of family members to be pulled from the rubble. Donald Wagner’s conversation with the local Imam ended with a challenge: You must return home and tell what you have seen. This is all we ask. Go back and tell the truth.” Glory To God in the Lowest is a metaphor for his counter intuitive journey with the victims of the “chosen people” in the “unholy land”.
I am sure I am not alone in acknowledging a deep debt of gratitude to Don for his unflinching example of what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
In June, Christian Aid hosted a meeting at their Central London HQ with Sabeel-Kairos UK for staff and volunteers to hear presentations by Hagai El-Ad from the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, and Raji Souranifrom the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza. Representatives from the Sabeel-Kairos denominational groups attended (Anglican, Church of Scotland, Methodist, Roman Catholic, URC).Continue reading
Statement from the Sabeel-Kairos Theology Group Consultation held at the Gladstone Library, Hawarden, Flintshire, 15-17 March 2022. Endorsed by Sabeel-Kairos UK.
1 We met during the days immediately following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces on the orders of President Vladimir Putin, recognized by the United Nations as a flagrant breach of international law, and causing millions of Ukrainian families to flee for their lives, cross borders, and add to the ever-growing number of refugees.
2 We remembered that in the wake of another war in 1948 three-quarters of a million Arab Palestinians (60% of the Arab population) were driven from their homes and became refugees as the State of Israel was born. Although every year their right to return is renewed by the UN, it is ignored with impunity by the Israeli state. Since 1967 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have endured an ongoing violent military occupation, and those living inside Israel are designated as second-class citizens. So, why after all these years are we still here, calling for an end to this seemingly unending denial of human rights?Continue reading
We are delighted to co-sponsor the Sabeel Holy Saturday celebration. Similar in fashion to our recent Memorial Service for Archbishop Tutu, the service will be led jointly by Sabeel Jerusalem and Friends of Sabeel North America, along with our international Sabeel and Kairos/Sabeel sister organisations.
Please register at the following link: https://fosna.nationbuilder.com/easter2022.
We are delighted that Rifat Odeh Kassis has agreed to join our international Board of Reference.
Rifat is the General Coordinator of Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, being one of its founding members. He co-authored the Kairos Palestine documents ‘A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering’, ‘Kairos for Palestine’ and ‘Cry for Hope’: A Call for Decisive Action.
Rifat Kassis was born in Beit Sahour and for more than twenty five years has been a leading figure and expert in the Palestinian, regional and international child rights community.Continue reading
Sabeel-Kairos UK are pleased to offer our members, supporters and churches a new briefing guide, produced by several of our theology experts, on Christian Zionism.
This briefing document outlines the origins of Christian Zionism, the political agenda it supports, the response from Middle Eastern Churches, and practical information about how you can delve deeper into the issues by signposting other resources. It is an ideal guide for someone new to the issues, or looking to expand their knowledge.
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.
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