MC USA responds to appeal from PalestiniansBy Annette Brill Bergstresser Mennonite Church USA
ELKHART, Ind. — In December 2009, after years of prayer, struggle and anguish, Palestinian Christian leaders spoke with one voice to the global body of Christ in an 11-page appeal, “Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth.”
They hoped the piece would be welcomed and find support, as was the 1985 South Africa Kairos document, which became a tool in the struggle against oppression and occupation in that region.
“Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God,” wrote the 15 Palestinian church leaders. “We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid, urging them to work for a just peace in our region, calling on them to revisit theologies that justify crimes perpetrated against our people and the dispossession of the land.”
In October, Mennonite Church USA leaders responded to the Palestinian Christians’ appeal, committing to expand opportunities for Mennonite leaders to visit Palestine and learn firsthand about the suffering there.
They also wrote a letter to members of MC USA, asking them to read and discuss the Kairos document, to study Scripture together on the matter and to consider how their financial lives may be enmeshed in the occupation of Israel.
The response, sent by MC USA executive director Ervin Stutzman in consultation with the Executive Board, acknowledges the suffering described in the Palestinians’ letter and their persistence in clinging to hope and love.
“We are humbled and grateful for the way, even in your situation, you trust in the power of love as modeled and inspired by Jesus Christ,” Stutzman writes. “We are deeply moved by your testimony that even in the midst of cruel circumstances, you bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge. We are inspired by your continued vision that the only way forward is for Palestinians and Israelis to see the face of God in each other.”
In his letter to MC USA members, Stutzman notes that across the church, people’s perspectives and commitments related to Israel and Palestine vary greatly.
For more than 65 years, Mennonites have lived, studied and ministered in Israel and Palestine, forming deep friendships and bonds of faith with brothers and sisters there.
People representing a range of opinions about the conflict and Mennonite responses to it have been in conversation with MC USA leaders and were consulted as the response was drafted.
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