Sabeel-Kairos on Christian Zionism

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.

Download a copy

Other resources on Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism: The definitive website

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 Naim Ateek, put together a collection of his writings including lectures, sermons, largely unpublished but mostly delivered at various universities, colleges, and churches over the years.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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Sabeel-Kairos UK: A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid

During the annual Sabeel-Kairos UK conference held in September, I led a short bible reflection on Apartheid based on Isaiah 56. I also led a workshop for which I prepared a research paper as well as a Bible study for personal as well as group discussion.

The following statement, presented by the Sabeel-Kairos UK trustees with the support of both Kairos Palestine and Sabeel Jerusalem, was endorsed by conference participants.

‘Having considered a Christian response to Israeli apartheid, we affirm that all people are created equally in the image of God; we commend the B’TSelem and Human Rights Watch documents designating Israel as an apartheid state; we repudiate all forms of racism and discrimination; and we recommit ourselves to working for justice, peace and reconciliation in Israel/Palestine.”

Morally Responsible Investing

Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and flouting of United Nations resolutions is ongoing and unwavering. Dozens of international corporations profit off this oppression by contracting with the Israeli government and participating in the construction of illegal settlements. As we mark the beginnings of the BDS Movement on July 9, 2005, here’s what you need to know about morally responsible investment and what you can do so that together we can rise up.

Our guest will be Charlotte Marshall of Sabeel-Kairos UK.

Time: Tuesday, July 13, at 4:00pm London time (6:00pm East Jerusalem, Palestine time UTC+3)

Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/94679502800

(There’s no registration page, so please set an alarm for yourself and use this link on Tuesday.)

Remember, if you’d like to receive a reminder about the gathering an hour before it begins, please use the registration form at the bottom of the page.

The Greatest Threat to Peacemaking

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)

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Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions by Anita Damiani-Shanley

Like other Western colonial-settler experiments, for over 70 years, Zionists have been systematically erasing the culture and history of indigenous Palestinians to justify their forced removal and the theft of their land. Ilan Pappe, in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, calls this ‘memorocide’ and in The Palestine Nakba, Nur Masalha elaborates, 

“The founding myths of Israel have dictated the conceptual removal of Palestinians before, during and after their physical removal in 1948… The de-Arabisation of Palestine, the erasure of Palestinian history and the elimination of the Palestinian’s collective memory by the Israeli state are no less violent than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of historic Palestine.”

This is why books such as Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions are so vital in recording the memories and eyewitness accounts of Arabs and Palestinians who experienced the arrival of Western colonialists to the Middle East, were co-opted into their wars, witnessed the rise of Zionism and then became refugees in the Palestinian Nakba.  Anita Damiani-Shanley’s book will most certainly help perpetuate their heritage and rightful historic claim to Palestine.

Ancestral Journeys is however much more than the story of two families, one Arab and the other Scottish joined in marriage. It traces the influence of missionaries, archaeologists, traders and colonialists competing with each other for a share of the Near East as the Ottoman Empire met its demise. Richly illuminated with family photos, the three main chapters trace the ancestral journeys of Damiani-Shanley’s extended family from Scotland and Lebanon to Iraq and then to Palestine. A fourth chapter traces the role of the Anglican Church in Palestine.  

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