By Sandra Cox (*)
An influential document full of hopes and aspirations, having received worldwide acclaim for highlighting the struggle of Palestinians against oppressive Israeli occupation, continues to seek a future after its fifth anniversary was celebrated in December last year.
When Kairos Palestine’s A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestine suffering was issued in 2009, it was the first time lay people, churches of various denominations and Palestinian Christians had spoken with a single voice on the Palestine-Israel situation. What started as a local ecumenical document soon became an international movement.
A Moment of Truth is a call to people of faith and other “peace-builders” to help end Israeli occupation by standing with the Palestinian people who, it says, have suffered oppression, displacement and “clear apartheid” for more than six decades. The effort was inspired by the “Kairos Document” of 1985, a theological statement issued by South African theologians and other church leaders on the crisis they faced in the final years of their nation’s apartheid era.
The text from Kairos Palestine sets out to counter theology that justifies occupation and distorts the word of God. It calls for nonviolent resistance by promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, moves that it describes as an effort to avoid “repaying evil with evil”. It encourages a responsible and just pilgrimage to Palestinian as well as Israeli territories, and warns against illegal measures in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and occupied territories, such as land confiscation, new settlements, home demolition and movement control.
One document, a global response
A Moment of Truth is available in over 20 languages. Its impact has been widespread.
Since it was written, churches around the world have looked to it for inspiration, according to Rifat Kassis, speaking shortly before his recent departure as general coordinator of Kairos Palestine.
Although it has created controversy in some churches, it has been a source of revelation for many struggling to respond to the Palestine-Israel question.
Many churches now question their investments, deciding to walk away from support of companies that back Israeli occupation. Many pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land now include meetings with Palestinians in their itineraries. Kairos Palestine working groups have been formed in many countries and regions around the world.
In Germany, action groups related to the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a member of the WCC, were faced with the hesitant and reserved response of the church to the call of Palestinians. The action groups questioned the official position on Israel-Palestine and set to work promoting A Moment of Truth and building networks.
“By spreading the message, organizing public events and developing educational tools, the movement is challenging the churches and keeping the issue alive,” states the German faith-based group Kairos-Palestine Solidarity Network.
“In this way, movements can become agents for change, and there is still hope that the German churches could cease to side with the oppressor,” in the words of a representative of the network.
The statement from the fifth anniversary conference, held in December 2014 in Bethlehem, said many people inspired by A Moment of Truth linked their own struggles for justice with the Palestinian fight for freedom and dignity for all in Palestine and Israel.
However, not all the document’s goals had been achieved. Participants pledged to keep critiquing theology in the search for a “fair and correct” understanding of the situation, rather than a biased view that distorted the word of God. They promised to keep resisting Israel through noncompliance, civil disobedience, boycott, divestment and sanctions until the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories was ended.
A joint struggle, not another solidarity movement
“Kairos is a vision of steadfastness, resistance and victory,” Kassis said. “We as Christians live in victory, and so we Palestinian Christians live with hope. As Palestinians we chose to keep our hope alive, not by wishful thinking but by action.”
A Moment of Truth is not simply another document on the shelf but a movement that inspired people everywhere, in the view of Kassis.
Supporters and “enemies” of Kairos Palestine would agree A Moment of Truth is like a missile, he said. “In five years, we managed to reach the whole globe. If you google “Kairos”, you will get millions of hits. Many organizations were consulted and formed behind Kairos.
“We are not talking about another solidarity movement but a joint struggle,” he said.
Until occupation ended, A Moment of Truth would remain a rallying point for Palestinians and Christians worldwide. The recent surge of countries recognizing Palestine was a sign of hope but more signs were needed. “This conflict can end without bloodshed. We are still under occupation, but there are signs that the world is more willing now than any time before to recognize that this is unjust.”
Where politicians had failed to bring justice and peace, the church should step in and provide the ethical and moral voice, he said. Churches need to listen to Palestinian Christians, even more so in the context of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, a vision promoted by the WCC’s 10th Assembly.
“Even if churches say they are not political, it is their responsibility when human beings are in danger and dying on such a scale. I pray they take their faith in Jesus seriously and not support the oppressors or stay silent,” Kassis said.
(*) Sandra Cox is a freelance writer and photographer whose interest in ecumenical and humanitarian news stems from nearly two decades as a journalist and development worker.