What do we do with the conflict in Gaza between the Israelis and the Palestinians? I’m not sure I always know what to do. This conflict has been going on for decades and it seems to flair up every now and again. In seminary, I took a specialized class on the Church and Public Policy in my 2nd year. I am about as apolitical as you can get, but I wanted to challenge myself to enter the arena, so this class on the conflict in Israel and Palestine seemed like a good one to tackle especially in terms of advocacy work.
Advocacy is not a casual or random undertaking; it is a fundamental aspect of the Christian way of life. Many individuals may not even realize that they serve as advocates in their day-to-day existence. While the concept of visiting Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. may seem overwhelming, the church, particularly the Lutheran Church, has a rich history of engaging in advocacy. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes reference to the Paraclete, often translated as "advocate." Jesus supported and pleaded with God on behalf of those he cared for, and after his departure, the Holy Spirit continued in that role. As Christians, we are called to be advocates for others, just as Jesus and the Holy Spirit serve as mentors for us.
The church possesses a significant message to convey to the world, particularly those who hold influence over the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. You see, many individuals, especially here in the United States, remain unaware of the true realities unfolding in that region. They may have a vague understanding or feel compelled to support Israel, but they fail to truly comprehend the devastation and problems caused by the settlements. It is easy to focus on extremist attacks from both sides and assume that is the norm, but we seldom hear about the everyday struggles faced by ordinary people who reside in those areas. By advocating for justice and peace in this troubled region, we can help shed light on these issues and foster understanding among those who have the power to effect change.
As members of the ELCA in the U.S., we have a responsibility to support and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and other partner churches and schools in the region. Despite Christians making up just two percent of the population, they play a vital role in the Palestinian community and are directly affected by the ongoing settlements. This blog post aims to shed light on the challenges faced by Palestinian Christians and emphasize the importance of advocating for justice and peace in the Holy Land.
Advocating for Palestinian Christians:
Palestinian Christians face numerous challenges in their daily lives due to the barriers imposed by borders and checkpoints. These obstacles hinder their access to education and healthcare, while also preventing them from reuniting with their relatives. As members of the ELCA, it is our duty to advocate for these individuals and the Israeli people, striving for a society where all can live in peace and harmony. Our message stems from genuine concern and care for all people, not from a place of triumph or superiority.
Uniting as One Faith Community:
Through baptism, we are united as one faith community. This connection should inspire us to extend our care and support to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, as well as those suffering in places like Haiti. Our mission is not about asserting superiority; instead, it revolves around seeking justice, harmony, and peace for all. This message aligns with the teachings of Jesus and echoes the words of Micah: "To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
Being the Voice for the Voiceless:
We must be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Advocating for justice and peace means working towards the establishment of independent states and sustainable governments for both Israelis and Palestinians. Our message emphasizes the importance of living as neighbors, not as contenders in war. As the church, we carry this message to members of congress, other churches, institutions, and individuals who may be unaware of the situation. It is an essential message deeply rooted in the Christian faith - promoting shalom (peace) rather than schism, shalom instead of walls. The church can lead the way in this endeavor by collaborating with other groups and bodies ecumenically.
Seeking Knowledge and Understanding:
To effectively address the conflict in the Holy Land, we must educate ourselves about its complex background and the numerous failed attempts at peace talks and strategies. However, the church excels at offering accompaniment and support to those in need. Let us stand in solidarity with both Israelis and Palestinians, recognizing that we are all one body in Christ.
In the midst of the things we cannot fully comprehend, we turn to God for guidance. We trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of eternal life. As members of the ELCA church, let us embrace our responsibility to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, advocating for justice, peace, and an end to the conflict. Together, we can make a difference and work towards a future of harmony and coexistence. Amen.