It’s time for Palestine
Participate in World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel
By the Rev. John Calhoun
World Council of Churches initiative invites you to worship, educate, and advocate May 29-June 4 for a just peace in the Middle East.
The world’s attention has been focused on the dramatic events unfolding around the Middle East in recent weeks. Across North Africa and through to the Persian Gulf, ordinary citizens have been rising up against their illegitimate leaders and demanding political freedoms.
Regimes already have fallen in Tunisia and Egypt. In other capital cities, protests and demonstrations continue. The winds of change are blowing. For millions across the Middle East, the future will be radically different from the past.
Those living under [Israel’s] illegitimate control are the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Unfortunately, one state’s undemocratic, militaristic rule over millions of civilians suffering under its administration looks likely to continue unchallenged. That state is Israel, and those living under its illegitimate control are the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
As the world applauds heroic freedom fighters standing up to dictators and fraudulent presidents across the Middle East, widespread support for the Palestinian people’s aspirations to live free from Israeli occupation is faint.
Following a brief war in 1967 against armies of its Arab neighbors, Israel occupied the territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Gaza Strip along the border with Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab civilians were driven from their homes and forced to take shelter in refugee camps.
On Nov. 22, 1967, the United Nations Security Council, with the consent of the United States, passed Resolution 242. Central to this resolution was the unambiguous call for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
Israel has ignored the requirements of this resolution that carries the weight of international law.
For the past 43 years, Israel has ignored the requirements of this resolution that carries the weight of international law. All U.N. member states, including Israel, are bound to accept Resolution 242’s provisions, though.
Over the decades, Israel has strengthened its hold on its occupied territories by building thousands of housing settlements there, again in violation of international law, as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 49. In 2005, Israel withdrew its settlers and military forces from the Gaza Strip, but it continues to maintain a blockade of the territory. The blockade denies Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip freedom of movement and commerce — again in defiance of the U.N. Security Council (Resolution 1860, Jan. 8 2009).
United Methodist Church’s voice?
Of what concern is this conflict to United Methodists? To many members of our denomination, this conflict is distant, complicated and shrouded in historical nuance. Even among those knowledgeable of the history and current status, significant disagreement exists about which actors bear the most responsibility. The simplest response to such complexity and discord seems to be silence.
As members of The United Methodist Church, however, we are inheritors of the traditions of the Wesleyan movement. One of these is social activism, expressed through engagement in the political issues of the day. Another is a refusal to remain indifferent to injustice.
For more than 200 years, members of the Wesleyan movement have met regularly in conference, on a local, national and more recently, global level. Conferees have discussed issues of interest and import, prayed for guidance and wisdom, and made decisions that reflect the values of the church body.
Book of Resolutions
One manifestation of these efforts is the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, a volume filled with decisions on critical social, economic and political issues made over the years in the name of the denomination.
Several resolutions speak to the situation in the Palestinian territories. For example, Resolution 6031, “Holy Land Tours,” encourages United Methodists traveling to Israel and Palestine to worship with indigenous Christian communities, and to support efforts aimed at achieving Palestinian self-determination.
Another, “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land,” states:
The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a “Greater Israel” that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings (Resolution 6073).
Even more significant is Resolution 6074, “United Nations Resolutions on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” It was adopted by General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body, in 2000, then revised and readopted in 2008. It states, “The United Methodist Church calls upon Israel, the Palestinian National Authority, and all States to abide by and uphold U.N. resolutions, International Court of Justice rulings, and international law as the basis for just and lasting peace in Palestine/Israel.”
The position of The United Methodist Church on this conflict is clear. The denomination affirms the will of the international community, expressed through U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international law instruments, in condemning the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory. The denomination opposes continued Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory. The church stands with the Palestinian Christian community, and supports Palestinian efforts towards economic and political self-determination.
In short, the United Methodist Church supports a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel.
What can we do?
In worship services and congregational events throughout the year, United Methodists pray and work for a just, peaceful resolution to the conflict in Palestine and Israel. Several years ago, the World Council of Churches, of which The United Methodist Church is a member, launched an initiative to strengthen the efforts of local churches and community groups working for a just peace.
This initiative, World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, takes place from May 29 to June 4 this year. During the week, congregations and community groups are encouraged to make a common witness by participating in prayer and worship services, educational events and acts of advocacy in support of a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. In 2010, churches and communities in more than 20 countries held such events.
Focus of the week this year is on Jerusalem. Participants are encouraged to pray for the peace of Jerusalem using a prayer written especially by the heads of churches there. Other liturgical resources for the week are also available.
The initiative offers the opportunity for church members to be further educated about the conflict, and to teach others about the need to end the injustices. World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel invites participants to respond through action: to engage in acts of political advocacy that seek to influence those who make decisions relevant to the conflict.
The United Methodist Church stands for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, and for political self-determination for its people. The United Methodist Church stands for a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel.
Editor’s note: The Rev. John Calhoun is a member of the New York Annual Conference. He is serving as convener of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.
More information about World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, including prayers, liturgies, educational tools, and other resources for the week, can be found at www.worldweekforpeace.org.
March 29, 2011
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