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Palestinian Christians urge Western Church to repent of 'appalling' Israeli support

by Heather Preston

Palestinian Christians have launched an open letter expressing their "horror" at the "unwavering" support many Western churches are showing towards Israel amid the ongoing conflict.

Undersigned by Palestinian Christian institutions and groups, the petition, 'A Call For Repentance', details the loss of loved ones and ongoing violence many Palestinian Christians have experienced since Israel began bombing Gaza in response to Hama's attack on the country.

More than 6,500 people have died in Gaza since the Israeli strikes began on 7th October, according to Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry.

The letter condemns all attacks that have resulted in the loss of civilian lives, adding, "we are also profoundly troubled when the name of God is invoked to promote violence and religious national ideologies".

It goes on to criticise the unwavering support of some Western Christians for Israel's actions and calls for repentance and change: "We are disturbed by the silence of many church leaders and theologians when it is Palestinian civilians who are killed.

"We are also horrified by the refusal of some western Christians to condemn the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine, and, in some instances, their justification of and support for the occupation.

"Further, we are appalled by how some Christians have legitimised Israel's ongoing indiscriminate attacks on Gaza, which have, so far, claimed the lives of more than 3,700 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children."

Israel's attacks on the region - which have included cutting off water and energy supplies - have destroyed schools, churches, hospitals and entire neighbourhoods and displaced over one million Palestinians.

The letter rejects any theology that justifies war and calls for an acknowledgement by Christian leaders of Israel's systemic oppression and occupation of Palestine, which it cites as "the root causes of the conflict".

The State of Israel was established in 1948, which resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, with both sides seeking sovereignty over the same land. It has resulted in numerous wars, diplomatic efforts, peace processes, and ongoing violence.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Following Hamas' takeover in 2007, it was used to prevent the militant group from smuggling weapons but has also restricted the flow of essential goods and limited the freedom of movement for Gaza residents.

"Israel's cruel blockade of Gaza for the last 17 years has turned the 365-square-kilometer Strip into an open-air prison for more than two million Palestinians," the letter reads.

The authors have called upon Western church leaders and theologians to "align with the biblical tradition of justice and mercy" and re-examine their support for Israel's "crimes against Palestine".

"We hold Western church leaders and theologians who rally behind Israel's wars accountable for their theological and political complicity in the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, which have been committed over the last 75 years. We call upon them to re-examine their positions and to change their direction, remembering that God 'will judge the world in justice' (Acts 17:31)."

The letter's signatories include Kairos Palestine, Christ at the Checkpoint, Bethlehem Bible College, The East Jerusalem YMCA, The YWCA of Palestine, Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem, Arab Orthodox Club, Jerusalem, The Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches and Arab Education Institute Pax Christi, Bethlehem.

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