Reflecting on Palestine and the Presbyterian Church

Dec 11, 2002 07:40 AM EST

ATLANTA — I recently had the opportunity to lead a delegation of Presbyterians to Palestine and Israel. I saw firsthand the conditions of the Palestinians and the Israelis. Three million Palestinian Arabs — Christians and Muslims — in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem have been under an illegal military occupation for thirty-five years.

For the last two years, the Palestinians have waged an uprising against this military occupation. The uprising has resulted in the deaths of 600 Israelis and 1,600 Palestinians. The Israeli defense forces and illegal Israeli settlers have injured more than 40,000 Palestinian Arab Christians and Muslims.

Palestinian suicide bombers have also injured scores of Israelis.

My trip to Palestine and Israel gave me a sense of why I was elected moderator. It is “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) that I am called to plead the case of the Palestinian people —my people — before the church, that we might hear the agony of their pain, suffering, and fear of being transferred from their homeland for the fourth time in the last 53 years.

The church is the only hope for justice. I am called to plead the case of the Palestinians before our American government and citizens that we might work for peace and healing between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

I join all of the heads of churches in Palestine in asking us to pray for justice and peace for both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. They also ask us to pray for the Palestinian Arab Christians, for strength and courage to continue their struggle for freedom and liberty and the right to remain on their historic land.

I also ask all of you to join me in praying for the Presbyterian Church (USA). Our struggles with each other seem at times to be filled with hatred and animosity. Can we really share the good news of the coming of the Messiah into the world when we appear to have such ill feelings toward one another?

It was into a troubled world that Jesus came. It is still a troubled world — here at home and all around the globe. May the child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, help us to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God” (Micah 6:8).

By Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel