Caring for Asylum Seekers at Christmas

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.

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 Naim Ateek, put together a collection of his writings including lectures, sermons, largely unpublished but mostly delivered at various universities, colleges, and churches over the years.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

A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid

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

Please sign up for free here:

SWVG Joins Together with Refugees

I am a trustee of Southampton & Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) and am delighted we have joined a new coalition, Together with Refugees. With over 100 other organisations, we call for a better approach to supporting refugees that is kinder, fairer and more effective.

How we treat refugees is about #WhoWeAre. If we feared for our lives, we’d want to know that others would help us to safety. Together, we are calling for a better approach to supporting refugees that is more effective, fair and humane. This means standing up for people’s ability to seek safety in the UK no matter how they came here. And ensuring people can live in dignity while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. 

It means empowering refugees to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to our communities. And it means the UK working with other countries to do our bit to help people who are forced to flee their homes.

New government proposals abandon people fleeing war and persecution. We’re calling for a more humane approach to people seeking protection in the UK. Two in three women and children that the UK accepts as refugees now, would be turned away under proposed new government rules. Read more here.

Christian Zionism as Imperial Theology

Munther Isaac is a Palestinian Christian pastor and theologian. He now pastors the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. He is also the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College, and is the director of the highly acclaimed and influential Christ at the Checkpoint conferences. 

Munther is passionate about issues related to the Palestinian theology. He speaks locally and internationally and has published numerous articles on issues related to the theology of the land, Palestinian Christians and Palestinian theology, holistic mission and reconciliation. He is the author of “The Other Side of the Wall”, “From Land to Lands, from Eden to the Renewed Earth”, “An Introduction to Palestinian Theology” (in Arabic), and a commentary on the book of Daniel (in Arabic). He is also involved in many reconciliation and interfaith forums. He is also a Kairos Palestine board member. 

Munther originally studied civil engineering in Birzeit University in Palestine. He then obtained a Master in Biblical Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary and then a PhD from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.

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