I think you will agree that that January is often a challenging month. After the highs of the Christmas season, the short-lived New Year resolutions, the credit card bills, long dark nights and typically cold weather, we can so easily be demotivated if not down right discouraged.
In my former parish, just after Christmas I would get the whole church family engaged in a collective exercise. I would ask them to reflect back on the previous year and identify what were their personal highlights to celebrate. I would collate all their feedback and distribute a summary of memorable events.
We began the first Church Council meeting in January praising God for all that he had accomplished among us and distributed a copy to every church member early in January. We encouraged them to keep the page in their Bibles and use it to fuel their praise and prayer, as a reminder of how the Lord was working among us, building his Church to reach our community for Christ.
We found this really helped strengthen their faith and raised their expectations of what the Lord might accomplish in and through us in the year ahead.
I have done the same in what follows, highlighting an event or Initiaitve for each month of 2022. I have also appended a taster of our emerging vision for 2023.
“Every time right minded Black South Africans have the opportunity to visit Israel/Palestine, they come away with a profound sense of shock, and it is the shock of recognition, of profound disorientation, of relived trauma: this is apartheid. It is the sense that something as irrelevant as the colour of one’s skin or what is called “racial identity” has condemned you from birth. It is the onslaught upon your dignity through discrimination, a thousand humiliations every day in every imaginable situation, and the relentless, deliberate process of dehumanisation.
It is the sense not only that your very life is being threatened at every turn, but that your life does not matter. It is the ongoing tragedies of dispossession through land theft and forced removals, destruction of property, and devastation of communities, legalised and legitimised by the law and enforced by the violence of the state. It is the myriad ways in which one is told that one has no place in the country of one’s birth. And it is always the violence: systemic, structural, physical, pervasive, and permanent.
In my experience, peacemaking is most effective when undertaken in collaboration with likeminded people. From our very beginning Peacemaker Trust has partnered with charities and NGO’s who share one or more of the Five Marks of Mission. I am pleased to share with you news of our most recent projects and initiatives.
Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) recently facilitated a relaxing day by the seaside in Bournemouth for about 50 adults and children seeking asylum. SWVG are a group of volunteers who befriend and support adult asylum seekers and refugees in the Southampton area.
Members of the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) were pleased to able to deliver Christmas packs of food and cosmetics this week to people seeking asylum in Southampton. The gifts were kindly provided by St Peter’s Church, Winchester and the parishes of the South Downs Gateway Benefice.
We are also very thankful to Revd Damon Draisey and the South Downs Gateway parishes, for their generous donation of brand new toys for the children of asylum seekers.
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.”
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.
The Together with Refugees coalition held a rally advocating for asylum seekers in Parliament Square this afternoon. It was awesome to see such a diverse range of organisations coming together to challenge the UK government’s Asylum Bill and show solidarity with refugees.
The Sabeel-Kairos Annual Conference will be held on Saturday 25 September. The theme wil be ‘A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid’. With Jonathan Kuttab giving the keynote address, worship by Canon Garth Hewitt, a variety of breakout rooms to chose from and updates from our partners Sabeel Jerusalem and Kairos Palestine, this promises to be an exciting event