FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2018
Lausanne Initiative on Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine
2018 Press Release/Report
Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians Address Social Justice Issues in Israel-Palestine
The fourth conference of the Lausanne Initiative on Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine met in Limassol, Cyprus, January 11-15th 2018, to explore and address issues of Social Justice in Israel-Palestine.
Over four days of presentations, panel and group discussions, the 29 participants from Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian communities from Israel, the West Bank, the UK, and the USA, studied biblical and contemporary understandings of justice in their divided societies, prayed, planned and strategized for future activities. Participants represented the multi-generational and multi-cultural diversity that makes up the region’s population. The age range was from 22 - 82. Over one third of the participants were female.
The key question we addressed in presentations, group discussion and working groups was “How do we fulfill our role as Jewish and Palestinian followers of Jesus in a divided and conflicted land, and pursue Social Justice in our individual lives, faith communities and wider societies?”
Beginning with an overview of the concept of social justice in political discourse, speakers outlined the fundamental ideas of social policy and explored the concept of biblical justice as the foundation of their pursuit of social justice. Daily Bible reflections focused on the book of Amos, looking at his teaching on justice and his prophetic calling to his people, complete with the warnings if they failed to return to God. Our theology and how we understand biblical justice, the ethics of scripture and the heart of God as expressed in the message of the prophets must shape our responses to these issues in our societies and our conflict.
Panel discussions reflected the diversity of political and theological positions. The participants represented the broad spectrum of Israeli and Palestinian views. Each person was listened to with respect. Despite some strong and deeply held differences of opinion, a deep sense of unity in our shared faith and our common resolve to address and respond to issues of social injustice affecting our communities was very clear.
It was a moving experience for participants to share in the pain of each other’s communities, which is often increased through ignorance or insensitivity to the problems faced. The heart-felt sharing and highly engaged discussion as well as our mutual vulnerability contributed to a powerful sense of deepening relationships.
The group watched two films about social justice issues in different contexts– “Manpower” and “5 Broken Cameras”, followed by in depth discussions of the films’ social justice themes.
We asked ourselves what are we doing well and what we are doing less well in addressing needs for social justice in our communities, and what are the issues we would ask the other community to address more fully. The conference called for each community to address the issues of social justice in their respective communities. The conference committed itself to ongoing dialogue and discussion, especially on sensitive issues and on matters of faith and practice. The conference issued a call for repentance, reconciliation and restoration of relationships across the walls of conflict that divide their communities.
We identified several broad categories of social justice including, the Occupation, relief and development, social transformation and political engagement to change social, economic and legal systems to foster justice. Specific issues addressed included advocacy, equality, judicial systems in Israel and Palestine, poverty, the theology of justice, social integration within and across our communities, recognition and legitimization of one another’s suffering, etc.
Inauguration of the Sabbath in Messianic Jewish style, and focus on the Palestinian Christian celebration of Christmas brought an added dimension of colour and tradition as the communities shared their respective traditions.
Experienced external moderators and mediators, Rev. Dr. Trevor Morrow, previously Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and Joseph Campbell, an experienced mediator in social, religious and political conflict facilitated the discussions.
Discussions of practical steps in the service of social justice that could be jointly undertaken generated suggestions that were creative and achievable. The three communities represented discussed a number of practical actions and committed themselves to at least one joint activity between January and May 2018. (Listed below)
Palestinian Israeli Christians
A visit to Nazareth with possible pilgrimage to the uprooted, abandoned village of Biram.
Attendance as a joint group to the Alternative Memorial Day in remembrance of the suffering, deaths and losses of both peoples. April 17, 2018 in Tel Aviv.
Palestinian Christians (West Bank)
Theological reflection day. Intentional discussion, studying together, possibly include others who’ve been to previous conferences.
Each group expressed a desire to meet one another on an informal basis in the coming months.
Messianic Jewish Co-Chair Lisa Loden said “We openly addressed social justice issues within our own communities, and across the communities. The strong focus on social justice issues in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an important challenge for all of us, whatever our loyalties and theologies. We encouraged each other to actively engage with the issues that our neighbours struggle with daily, and to take a pro-active stance in partnering with and supporting each other; investing time and effort in making justice a reality in our divided land.”
Palestinian Christian co-chair Botrus Mansour said “We want to encourage Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians to meet each other not just as friends but as partners and co-labourers in the challenging task of seeing God’s perfect justice lived out and practiced in our conflicted societies. We cannot achieve reconciliation without engaging with the practical issues of the conflict. As disciples of Jesus, the practical steps we are taking are to be encouraged and prayed for.”
A variety of activities are being planned for the coming months and discussions are underway for a further conference in 2019.
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