• ISRAEL \ Jul 23, 2011
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    The Presbyterian Church in Canada responds to Karios document
The Presbyterian Church in Canada responds to Karios document To the Authors of the Kairos Palestine Document

His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah
His Eminence Archbishop Atallah Hanna
Rev. Dr. Jamal Khader
Rev. Dr. Rafiq Khoury
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek
Rev. Dr. Yohana Katanacho
Rev. Fadi Diab
Dr. Geries Khoury
Ms. Cedar Duaybis
Ms. Nora Kort
Ms. Lucy Thaljieh
Mr. Nidal Abu Zuluf
Mr. Yusef Daher
Mr. Rifat Odeh Kassis – Coordinator

Bethlehem, Palestine

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As part of our deliberations, The General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, meeting in London, Ontario, Canada in June of 2011, adopted a response to the KAIROS Palestine document and asked that it be forwarded to you as follows.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your life and witness to the gospel in the land in which Jesus walked. After hearing your word of faith, hope and love from the heart of your suffering, we write to you in deep humility to express our concern for you and to assure you of our prayers and our solidarity with you in Christ. We are reminded of the words of Paul speaking about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it”. We cannot read your words without being moved by your profound faith and hope in the face of a desperate situation and the role that you play as the voice of Christ in the midst of violence and hate.

We cannot know fully what you experience day by day. However, through your words we have been able to understand more of your life and context and particularly your sense that you have reached an impasse in resolving the tragic consequences of the forty-four year Israeli occupation of your land. In addition to your words, we have heard from those from among us who have visited you and accompanied you in your life and ministry. They have also brought an urgent message of the need to end the occupation and to bring a just and lasting peace to all involved in the conflict.

Despite our distance from you and limited knowledge of your situation, we know that we are not without our own connections to the current impasse whether historical, political or theological. At times we hear voices that would simply have us throw up our hands in despair as if there is nothing we can do to help bring about a just peace in the land of Jesus. Our continuing support for the existence of the State of Israel and our long-standing dialogue and solidarity with Jewish neighbours in Canada have sometimes made it seem that we could not hear your cry. At times we hear voices who would have us believe that you are simply a footnote to God’s plan for the land and are expendable. We confess that at times we have failed to recognize you as the “living stones” of the church who carry on the ministry of Jesus in the land of his birth. At times we hear voices that tell us that we should resolve our own problems before reaching out to others. We know that we cannot speak about injustice in another land without acknowledging the injustices of our own land, particularly the injustices known by Aboriginal people in Canada in which our church has played a part. Yet we know that with the prophets we are called to hear the cries of those who suffer and speak out against injustice wherever it may be found.

With you, we are alarmed at the emigration of Christians from the Middle East and particularly from Palestine. There are many who have come to Canada and have enriched our common life here. However, their numbers have pointed to a crisis in the lands of their birth and a diminishing of the witness to the gospel in those lands.

Together with Christians from other churches in Canada and around the world, we have sought ways to walk with you and to know your situation better. For many years we have been in partnership with the Middle East Council of Churches and its work related to Palestinians. Several Presbyterians have participated in the World Council of Churches’ “Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel” (EAPPI). Others have participated in programs such as the Young Adult Conference at Sabeel. We have encouraged Presbyterians who are visiting Israel-Palestine to be in touch with Palestinian Christians to hear their stories and to know more of their lives and witness. This year we have organized a study tour to Israel-Palestine in order to understand your situation better. Also this year we have participated in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity services based on resources written by the churches in Jerusalem. We have encouraged our members to buy fairly traded products made by Palestinians and have urged our government to take steps to stimulate trade between Canada and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. We have also urged our government to introduce a certification of origin to ensure that products produced in territories occupied since 1967 are excluded from the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement and to ensure that neither Israeli nor any Canadian policy impedes trade relationships between Canada and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Our Women’s Missionary Society has been providing financial support to a health program for women and children sponsored by the Near East Council of Churches in Gaza. We have participated in interfaith dialogue and action with Jewish and Muslim neighbours and have raised concerns about the situation in Israel-Palestine in these dialogues. At our General Assembly this year we have organized an evening with a focus on Christianity and the Middle East and have tried to draw on the best resources in our church and beyond to help commissioners deepen their knowledge of Christian witness in the region. On several occasions we have addressed our government concerning the situation in Israel-Palestine and have always encouraged them to demand an end to the occupation and to work for a just peace based on United Nations resolutions.

We have been moved by your invitation to us to “Come and see”. We pledge to you to continue in the ways we have mentioned above and to seek other ways that we can join with you in the struggle for a just and lasting peace in the way of Jesus. While our understanding of the situation is limited (as in 1 Corinthians, now we see through a glass dimly...), we will actively and prayerfully continue to seek ways to inform ourselves about your history, life and witness. One response to your call to us is that our theological colleges have committed to using your words in courses for those preparing for ministry in our church. We are encouraging our members to bring a particular focus to your suffering, isolation and pain in the season of Advent 2011 when we reflect upon the Saviour’s incarnation in the land which came to be known as Palestine. We pledge to work together with those Christians, Jews and Muslims here in Canada who are working toward a just peace in Israel-Palestine. As sisters and brothers in Christ, we pledge to stand with you in faith, hope and love and pray for you until peace will come to your land.

This comes wishing you God’s blessing in your important work for peace.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Kendall
Principal Clerk