Pope Francis, American Churches, and Palestinian Rights
By Grace Said and Joanna Springer / al-shabaka.org

Pope Francis’ September 2015 visit to the US will doubtless reinforce his reach to the new audiences he has attracted beyond the Catholic Church with his strong positions on such issues as the environment, poverty, migrants – and Palestinian rights to freedom and equality.

Yet the Catholic Church is among a handful of establishment US churches – the Episcopal and Lutheran churches are two others – that has yet to endorse divesting from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine or boycotting products made in the illegal Israeli settlements.

Pope Francis could have arranged to make the time during his US trip to find out why the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has not responded to the call that Palestinian Christians issued in 2009. Inspired by the Kairos South Africa document issued in 1985, Kairos Palestine called on Christians worldwide to make theKairos document “a non-violent instrument, striving for peace with security and dignity for every human being in this Holy Land by bringing the occupation to an end.”

Grassroots organizers at mainline American churches responded by redoubling their efforts at the parish, regional and national levels. Decades of organizing were crowned in the past few years, when the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ (UCC) adopted resolutions for divestment or boycott.

And yet, despite significant progress at the diocesan level, the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church failed for the second time to pass any resolutions involving boycott or divestment. In the Catholic Church, meanwhile, there has been little grassroots advocacy even though Pax Christi and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns have been outspoken on the issue.

There is speculation that churches with active institutions in the Holy Land are reluctant to pass resolutions for boycott or divestment because their sister institutions are vulnerable to Israeli retaliation. The Episcopal bishops who voted down the resolutions pointed to advice from Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Diocese of Jerusalem, who subsequently claimed the bishops acted independently of him.

Others who have worked with churches for years as they debated and eventually took the decision to respond to Kairos Palestine’s call for action through boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) believe that the church leadership is most worried about the reaction of Jewish religious organizations in their communities, with which they often partner in domestic projects to alleviate poverty and fight racism. But this misplaced emphasis on interfaith dialogue must not prevent churches from speaking up for the rights of a people under occupation.

Indeed, the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, waschastised by members within the church for promoting Jewish-Christian dialogue over the human rights of Muslim as well as Christian Palestinians in Gaza during the 2014 war.

Calling on the bishops to remember their baptismal vow to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being,” Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of the ecumenical Palestinian Liberation Theology Sabeel movement pointed out that the Israeli government was the only entity to benefit from the Episcopal bishops’ vote.

It is important to remember that the PresbyteriansMethodists and UCC also partner with organizations in the Holy Land. Palestinians of all faiths and backgrounds depend on these hospitals, schools, and other ministries for vital services. The fact remains that church institutions in the Holy Land do not exist in a vacuum but are made up of real people living under conditions of oppression and injustice.

It is also vital to remember that there are American Jewish voices on both sides of the issue. For instance, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) with 200,000 members and supporters has taken a clear stand in favor of BDS. The church leadership needs to broaden its perspective to hear the demands of the many other US-based Jewish organizations in support of actions such as boycott and divestment to end a cruel, nearly 50-year occupation and even longer violations of basic rights.

Palestinian Christian voices also need to be heard at this crucial juncture and more Palestinian Christians in the US are coming together to speak up in church forums.

Pope Francis’ voice is sure to shake up establishment churches in the US with a faith that addresses poverty,economic injustice, and the burden of climate change on the poorest of the earth.

As for Israel’s occupation and denial of rights, so far the challenge in the US has come as a response to grassroots pressure within the church. The older and deeper the institutional relationships, the greater the grassroots pressure has had to be. Pope Francis should call on American Christians to make their faith real by responding to Kairos Palestine and following “the logic of peaceful resistance…. sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice.”

3.5 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
This Polish Ad Will Give You The Feels, For Reals
3 min · 14,088 views today · This is an ad for Allegro, a Polish company similar to eBay, and it's heartwarmingly lovely.
6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal
Mark Manson · 12,882 views today · There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe read a few...
Time-Lapse Satellite Images Give a Startling Snapshot of Past 30 Years on Earth
2 min · 12,276 views today · Working with satellite images from NASA and the US Geological Survey, Google has created a searchable snapshot of the past 3 decades on Earth, creating startling time-lapses of...
Dr. Maya Angelou: Love Liberates
5 min · 5,455 views today · Words to live by from Dr. Maya Angelou. Love each other.
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 5,126 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 2,075 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 1,953 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,181 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,103 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The Lid Is off, The Truth Is Coming Out
Charles Eisenstein · 1,056 views today · It is getting harder to keep a secret these days. The collective shadow of our society, once safely relegated to the dark basement of the unmentionable, is now exposed to...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,022 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 964 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
Sleaford Mods on Brexit Britain
4 min · 894 views today · In early 2014 the Guardian hailed duo Sleaford Mods as ‘the most uncompromising British protest music made in years’. Here, we go backstage at a Sleaford Mods gig in their...
How to Expose Trump's Dastardly Bait-And-Switch
Robert Borosage · 818 views today · Trump is not an economic populist, he’s just playing one on TV.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 538 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 461 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Why You Should Stop Apologizing for Doing All That You Can
Kelly Hayes · 436 views today · I’ve noticed lately that a lot of allies and accomplices I talk to about NoDAPL and other struggles will name what they are trying to contribute to the cause, and then promptly...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 388 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Black on Black Crime Isn't a Myth
Donyae Coles · 350 views today · Let’s talk about Black on Black crime. Maybe you’ve heard about it on the news, specifically likely in regards to Black people murdered by other Black people. Perhaps you’ve...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 319 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Pope Francis, American Churches, and Palestinian Rights