A common witness of the Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Wider Church Ministries, a covenanted ministry of the United Church of Christ

October 17, 2000

"What does the Lord require of you?  To seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

 On October 4 in Jerusalem, the Common Global Ministries Board (CGMB) of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) co-executives, Dr. Dale Bishop and the Rev. Patricia Tucker Spier, presented the CGMB's 1999 Award of Affirmation to the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Christian.  As the founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, the Rev. Ateek has consistently and persistently called for "justice, and only justice" in resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  This call is as appropriate, and urgent,  now as it has ever been.

 Tension and violence has escalated over the past two weeks to the extent that an emergency summit is taking place today in Sharm al-Shaikh, Egypt.  Levels of crisis have reached heights unseen in several years, provoked by Likud leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque area on September 28.  Palestinian reaction to the visit, called intifada of Al-Aqsa, has been one of anger and frustration, a marked contrast to the 1987 intifada which was full of hope that the Israeli occupation would finally be "thrown off."  This time, events could more accurately be described as a war between two unequal forces: a powerful and sophisticated Israeli military, and the largely unarmed Palestinian populace.  Even so, the tragedy of the last two weeks is that, while more than 90 of the 100 people killed so far are Palestinian, each death represents the ultimate loss for a family and a community.

 As President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak meet with Presidents Mubarak and Clinton, with King Abdullah II, and with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, tensions remain high and hopes are low.  Demonstrations and clashes continue in opposition to the summit meeting.  While the U.S. has taken a lead role in convening the summit, it has done little so far to pressure the Israeli government to acknowledge responsibility for the continuation and perpetration of unjustified control over the Palestinian people and occupation of Palestinian lands.

 While international attention is focused upon these negotiations, a deeper concern is for the children who live in such a violent situation: children who are unable to go to school because schools are closed for security reasons; children who feel the stress from which their parents attempt to shield them; children who begin to sense that their parents may not be able to offer them the security that only parents can offer; children caught in the violent daily exchanges between adversaries.

 In the midst of crisis, it is the Church's responsibility and vocation to advocate on behalf of the voiceless. Thus, we as leaders of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ):

condemn the acts of violence and aggression committed during the current crisis, recognizing that Israel has at its disposal, and has employed, a preponderance of military capability;
call upon the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to be bold in assuming responsibility for the escalation of violence, and to do all in their power to end it;
cautiously commend the result of the Sharm al-Shaikh summit meeting, but call upon all parties involved to join in a renewed commitment to resume negotiations aiming for a just and lasting peace with resolution of the outstanding issues of Jerusalem's final status, the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, and the rights of Palestinians for self-determination and of both peoples for security;
affirm the right of the Palestinians and the Israelis to live within secure and recognized borders, according to UN resolutions and international law.
urge the U.S. administration to strive to embody a more balanced stance so that it may demonstrate true leadership in the role it aspires to play.

The two churches also commit to offer prayers for

Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers, especially CGMB partners, who are often forgotten when events are portrayed in terms of the conflict between Judaism and Islam
the people of the two nations (Israel and Palestine) and the three faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) who live in uncertainty every day, but who continue to maintain a hope for a day when there is a just resolution; and for their leaders that they may be guided in wisdom to seek that just resolution; and
missionaries serving in Israel/Palestine, especially UCC and Disciples appointees Marla Schrader and Dale and Betty Schwicker.
 As Rev. Ateek closes his book, Justice and Only Justice, so we are reminded of our responsibility:  "The challenge to Palestinian Christians, and indeed to all Palestinians and to all people in this conflict in Israel-Palestine, is: do not destroy yourself with hate; maintain your inner freedom; insist on justice, work for it, and it shall be yours."

The Rev. John Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
The Rev. Richard Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Dr. Dale Bishop
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries
United Church of Christ
Co-Executive, Common Global Ministries Board

Rev. Patricia Tucker Spier
President, Division of Overseas Ministries
Thr Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Co-Executive, Common Global Ministries Board