EA song: ‘Come and take a walk with me’

This song was written by Emma about her experience as an Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem this Spring. She filled the church of St Andrews with her moving rendition of this song during the handover ceremony of group 56. We thank all our EAs, especially those who just returned home, for their unique contributions and work towards a just peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.

15.06.15 Jerusalem. Group 56 handover ceremony at St Andrews Church, Photo EAPPI I.Tanner

15.06.15 Jerusalem. Group 56 handover ceremony at St Andrews Church, Photo EAPPI I.Tanner

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Open Letter from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ

I send very warm greetings from Cape Town to you all.

Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag is a special organization that occupies a special place in this old man’s heart.

It has played an exemplary and prophetic role in gently nudging modern Germany, with its powerful economy, towards using its power actively and compassionately for justice.

I remember how, in the 1980s, you struggled with your consciences over taking “a clear stand” against apartheid – and ultimately acted on your impulse to do the right thing, closing your accounts at Deutsche Bank over its dealings with South Africa. Thank you.

You understood how inter-connected we human beings are, our family ties, as it were – sisters and brothers as we all are in God’s family on

Today, many of us are concerned about the conflict in the Holy Land, a conflict with roots extending all the way back to World War II that contributes to a level of global insecurity the world has never experienced before.

Much as we condemn those who fire rockets from Palestine at civilian targets in Israel, Israel’s military assault on Gaza in response, last year, was not only cruelly disproportionate; it was also a brutal demonstration of Israel’s contempt for the people of Palestine.

The beliefs, ideological convictions and fears of leading voices on both sides of the equation – Israeli and Palestinian – are too extreme for them to be able to view the situation through a sufficiently wide prism to be able to stop the cycle of violence and hatred. There has been too much hurt.

The Conference Statement of the Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary in December 2014 expressed deep concern about Israel’s ongoing and expanding occupation of Palestinian territory. In 2013, more settler homes were approved for construction on Palestinian land than in any year since 1967. The statement warned that repressive societal dynamics, on top of the continuing settlement policies, “make an independent state of Palestine existing in peace alongside the State of Israel almost impossible to imagine”.

The Kairos Palestine Document (Section 6 – Our word to the Churches of the world) urged churches “to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed”.

As South Africans and Germans, we arguably know better than most, from our own histories, what damage the authors of injustice and hatred inflict upon themselves. Those with the power to commit inhuman acts profoundly damage their own humanity.

Because of our special knowledge about human rights and justice, I believe that there is a particular onus on our countries to contribute to lasting peace and stability in the Holy Land. Is that not how families should work?

As Christians, it is our duty to side with the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, the prejudiced and unjustly treated – ALWAYS. There is no place for neutrality, because it favours the oppressors. Always.

Did the prophet Elijah not support Naboth over Ahab, the king of Israel,
who stole his land?

Does Psalm 99.4 not proclaim, “Mighty king, you love what is right; you have established justice in Israel; you have brought righteousness and fairness”?

In 2007, the World Council of Churches issued “The Amman Call”. The full text is too lengthy to include here, but, having heard the voices of the Christian churches of Palestine and Israel, it concluded with a number of challenges.

Christians were challenged to, “Act with us to liberate all peoples of this land from the logic of hatred, mutual rejection and death, so that they see in the other the face and dignity of God.”

And to:“Raise your voices along with ours as we speak “truth to power” and name with courage the injustices we see and experience. The illegal occupation has stolen two generations of lives in this tortured place, and threatens the next with hopelessness and rage.”

Last July, the World Council’s Central Committee issued the “Statement on Economic Measures and Christian Responsibility towards Israel and Palestine”. Brave and creative initiatives by the churches were needed, “to become better stewards of justice in economic affairs which link them to ongoing violations of international law in occupied territory”.

Finally, the Conference Statement, Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary (2014) notes: “We commit to promoting in both churches and in our societies the Kairos call, which echoes Palestinian civil society demands, for the implementation of boycott, divestment, and sanctions as appropriate non-violent avenues of creative resistance until the illegal Israeli occupation is brought to an end.”

BDS is not antisemitism. Do business with Jews, organize with them, love them. But don’t support – militarily, economically or politically – the machinery of an apartheid-state. We can’t do business as normal because conditions in the Holy Land are totally abnormal.

Please tell your government that mere words of concern are insufficient. They don’t change anything. The appropriate response when confronting injustice is to take real steps to confront and eradicate it.

The late Richard von Weizsäcker, former President of Germany and President of the Kirchentag, demanded just this in a letter to the EU signed by many European elder statesmen in 2010.

Beware of anti-semitism, and all other forms of racism, but beware also of being cowed into silence by those who seek to stifle criticism of the oppressive politics of Israel by labeling you anti-Semitic.

I implore you to listen carefully to what Kairos Palestine is saying. Our Christian sisters and brothers in the Holy Land cannot use balanced synod statements expressing sympathy for oppressor and oppressed alike. They are asking all of our help to win their collective freedom back.

Please join the ecumenical Kairos movement and raise your voice in public solidarity to liberate Palestine so that Israel can be free, too.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Cape Town, South Africa

Open letter from Archbishop Emeritius Desmond Tutu to Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentage.

Source: http://desmondtutu.org/

The Road to Emmaus

A reflection on Luke 24:13-35 as a model of Accompaniment from EAPPI’s 2014 Annual Meeting.

by Steve Weaver

The ancient city of Emmaus is where the West Bank Palestinian village of ‘Imwas used to be. Its buildings were leveled, its residents expelled, in 1967. Today it is Canada Park, a popular Israeli leisure spot. It is operated by the Jewish National Fund, established with $15 million of support from Canadians. A series of signs in the park describe the historical significance of the landscape, and a handful of ancient buildings, in terms of their Biblical, Roman, Hellenic, and Ottoman pasts. But no mention is made of its recent Palestinian past.

The biblical story of Emmaus is in a place that has become a contemporary story of dispossession, of injustice. And so here we are – the global church, most of us foreigners, outsiders, responding to the local church, to our Palestinian brothers and sisters to accompany them, to walk together, as we work to end dispossession and injustice.

What does this passage of the road to Emmaus tell us about accompaniment? What can we learn from it as we begin these days together to discuss our work?

Many commentators on this passage highlight that it is only at the end, at the table, in the breaking of bread that the two men finally see and understand who is before them. At first they didn’t recognize Jesus, he is a stranger to them. They think he is a foreigner, from another place, and doesn’t know of the terrible things that have happened, the sorrow they are feeling. But then he takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it, and gives it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

I’m struck when I read EA accounts how often they make reference to drinking tea with people or being invited to dinner in someone’s home It is in these intimate spaces that ‘otherness’, ‘foreignness’, ‘strangeness’ are often overcome. “Say yes to tea” an EA emailed me when I told her I was coming to this annual meeting.

As one commentator on this passage has written:

“In Luke’s gospel, we hear about the encounter of two travelers on their way to Emmaus with the risen Christ. This story seems to indicate that we best bear and recognize the imago [God’s image] we know intimately in Christ, not when we teach, or preach, or even when we proclaim the prophets, but when we break bread and extend the hospitality we have been taught by Christ.”

But I am not a theologian. I am not a biblical scholar. Rather than expound further on my reading of the passage, I will turn to the refection of a church leader, a Palestinian, whom we know well.

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, ELCJHL, has written on this. It is found in EAPPI’s publication Theological Reflection on Accompaniment. Here are some of his thoughts:

“Accompaniment in the Middle East is not a new notion. It goes back to the Old Testament. When the Hebrews left Egypt to Sinai, God accompanied them by cloud by day and by a fire that lit up the night (Exodus 14). It is this accompaniment as solidarity with the other that the Bible teaches us. Accompaniment took root in the flesh in God’s incarnation, when God became one of us. In Jesus Christ, God engaged with our brokenness and sin. He accompanied groaning humanity in order that it might regain the image of God through the salvation of the cross. So this accompaniment that God calls us to do as companions with the global Church is an accompaniment with groaning humanity that seeks forgiveness and the justice of God in order that all may be brokers of justice, instruments of peace, ministers of reconciliation, and defenders of human rights.

“Such accompaniment can be seen in the story of the walk to Emmaus in St. Luke 24:13-43. Two frustrated men who had experienced the horrible week of suffering and the cross, returned back to their village, Emmaus. Their hopes were shattered. In their depressing situation, Jesus accompanied them. He heard their stories and contributed to their understanding of the Scriptures. He accompanied them, giving them encouragement. So accompaniment is walking together with Jesus Christ in companionship and in service to God’s mission. In walking together on the road to Emmaus, as the Lord revealed himself to his two companions, their three stories became intertwined. As their stories came together, God’s plan in Jesus’ resurrection became clearer. A new community, the Church, began to emerge in Jerusalem. In sharing a meal and breaking the bread the companions recognized the presence of Jesus with them. Accompaniment is valued for its own sake as well as for its results. It is open-ended with no foregone conclusions. The companions learn together through the journey the peace, justice and hope that God intends for humanity. Accompaniment binds companions more closely to their Lord and one another as they seek to live out this mission. (p. 23-24)

“Your accompaniment is similar to the road of Emmaus. We walk together as equals in humanity, and as equals in salvation. We walk together bowed in head, seeking the truth, comforting the Church of God. We accompany each other, trusting that in our wonder and uncertainty, God will inform us of our mission and our witness in a broken Holy Land. For this reason, accompaniment is an instrument and tool of the Holy Communion through which we are commissioned to be God’s witnesses for justice, peace, and reconciliation. It makes both companions witnesses of hope in a hopeless situation, witnesses of love in a world of hatred and retaliation, witnesses of faith in a world that ignores God, witnesses of truth in a world of propaganda and lies.

“We thank you who dare to be our accompaniers on the road.” (p. 35)

Bishop Younan”

Our God – Be with today as we reflect, share, break bread and continue to learn the meaning of accompaniment. – Amen

Steve Weaver is the Middle East Regional Coordinator for Church World Service, and the EAPPI National Coordinator in the USA.