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‘Focus: Palestine’ is a new resource available from the World Communion of Reformed Churches

The digital textbook looks at the region’s theological, historic and political contexts

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Bethlehem is almost completely surrounded by a 26-foot-high concrete wall. (Photo by Douglas Dicks)

LOUISVILLE — The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) has released a new comprehensive resource called “Focus: Palestine.” View the resource here.

The resource was created to “lift up Palestinian voices while placing the situation into theological, historical, and political contexts,” according to the WCRC. It is co-authored by Rev. Katherine Cunningham and Noushin Darya Framke, longtime members of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network.

The authors were commissioned by the WCRC and tasked with researching many resources, but primarily partner churches in the WCRC, sibling churches to the PC(USA), and predominately churches of the Southern Hemisphere — churches that were historically colonized.

“We aimed to make this a comprehensive document — though not exhaustive — even as changing news and events kept us needing to update sections,” said Framke. “I believe readers will find this resource answers many of the questions they might have.”

Cunningham said the resources includes graphics that are easily used in contexts where English is not the dominant language.

“Users will also find the leadership of Palestinian Christians centered in the discussion, as well as the leadership of communities within the WCRC who have shown solidarity with the Palestinian cause,” said Cunningham. “They will be able to ‘meet’ and engage with the writings of leading Palestinian Christian theologians and hear them in the videos. There is also the opportunity to engage with confessional documents and Reformed theology through the lens of Palestinian experiences and personal witness from Palestinians.”

A number of videos created for the project can be accessed through these links:

  • A presentation by the Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and pastor of Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, “The Other Side of the Wall, A Challenge to Christian Zionism,” available here.
  • Episode 6, on settler colonialism, can be seen here.
  • Episode 8 is about the endgame: “The Way Out: Decolonization.” It’s a shortened interview with Israeli anthropologist Jeff Halper and can be seen here.
  • Episode 11, on steadfast hope and resilience, can be seen here.

These are samples of the 13 video episodes included in the new resource.

The authors said the resource can be used by leadership in churches globally within the congregational context as well as in a seminary setting.

“Mostly we hope that communities will adapt it to their contexts and engage in an interconnected way around issues of social justice, political, economic and human rights concerns, and elaborating the dynamics of what the WCRC is coming to call global apartheid and the mission of the church to be about transforming that in its ministry and theology,” said Cunningham.

Framke said the various parts of the resource can be used in a modular way, meaning they can stand alone. Study leaders can decide which parts work best for them in their context.

“For me it was learning in a more substantive way about the pervasive oppression and violation of human rights globally as I researched in the websites of the churches who are part of the WCRC family,” said Cunningham. “The realities of interconnected struggles and hopes, along with the church’s complicity and simultaneous challenging of those realities, gave me a deeper nuance of the Palestinian struggles in global Southern contexts. By that I mean that the ‘general’ awareness I had was sharpened, focused and deepened by the research about Palestinian solidarity in the churches whose websites and ‘deep dives’ we encountered.”

South African Dutch Reformed Church cleric and anti-apartheid activist the Rev. Allan Boesak spoke during the video launch of the project.

“For the church in South Africa, joining the struggle against apartheid on political as well as theological grounds became a question of faith,” he said.

Ranjan Solomon, a human rights activist in India, spoke about the value of the resource to human rights groups around the world. “It will bring to human rights movements around the world,” Solomon said. “It will help church people everywhere discern the injustices in their own lands and commit to do far more to transform the church into an instrument of justice.”

The World Communion of Reformed Churches is comprised of 233 church members and more than 100 million Christians in Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s partnership with the WCRC forms a network of ecumenical and mission partnerships that is important to the way in which the PC(USA) connects to churches globally and engages in solidarity and the support of justice and human rights.

Established by action of the 216th General Assembly in 2004, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network “encourages congregations and presbytery mission committees, task groups and other entities toward specific mission goals that will create currents of wider and deeper involvement with Israel/Palestine.”

Go directly to the new resource by clicking here.

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