Presbyterian group sees parallels between struggles for rights, liberation
by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has endorsed the platform of the Movement for Black Lives (MBL) saying the group is “in full solidarity with the MBL struggle.”
Bob Ross, associate professor of global cultural studies at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, leads advocacy efforts for IPMN. He says the group’s endorsement “follows the lead of Palestinian brothers and sisters” who’ve already identified with the justice concerns of Black Americans.
“These justice struggles are linked in that the people of Palestine are in solidarity with Black people in America struggling for freedom, justice and equality,” says Ross. “The Black struggle and the Palestinian struggle for justice are not just parallels, but they’re struggles where there is an exchange of ideas.”
Known for raising awareness of justice issues encountered by Palestinian people and for spearheading boycott, sanction and divestment (BDS) efforts in the PC(USA) against companies supplying support for Israeli settlement expansion, IPMN’s endorsing statement expresses unity in these causes, saying, “We cannot, therefore, continue to call for a just peace in Israel/Palestine without also working in solidarity with Black people in America toward justice and liberation.”
“For quite some time now we’ve felt as Christians, in general, but as Christians working for justice in particular, we can’t limit ourselves to one place or one issue or one set of people,” says Ross. “We need to keep our eyes and hearts open to other justice struggles around the world and here in the U.S.”
The Movement for Black Lives platform includes calls for an end to violence against Black people, reparations, an invest-divest strategy, economic justice, community control and political power. The platform was written in collaboration with more than 25 groups including the Black Lives Matter Network and asks endorsers to carry these issues into local, state and federal arenas.
“We will discuss [the endorsement] at our annual member meeting, asking, ‘What does this mean for us, other than that we put our name next to this platform?’” says Ross. “How do live this out while still keeping our focus on the Palestinian struggle for equal rights with the Israelis. We’re not abandoning or compromising that, but what does this mean as individual Christians and as Presbyterian organization. How do we enact this endorsement?”
The closing statement of the IPMN endorsement challenges Presbyterians to join actions that will address racial injustice, saying, “We encourage Presbyterians who have long struggled against racism in the United States to join the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality in Israel/Palestine. As the platform authors state, ‘We recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.’ And as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his letter from a Birmingham Jail, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
The Rev. Jeff DeYoe, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Ft. Myers, Florida, and IPMN’s moderator, says he sees partnerships in justice concerns as a long-term strategy for IPMN, especially as it gains younger members.
“We’re interfacing with [many organizations] because all these solidarity groups are joining together and realizing their cause of justice is on the same track and they need to be supporting each other,” he says. “Up until the 2014 General Assembly the IPMN’s work was more insular—we were looking inside the denomination. What we discovered after the successful divestment vote is that it linked us in with similar groups working on the same justice type issues. The Movement for Black Lives is most certainly part of that, including their statements on Palestine.”
The Israel Palestine Mission Network will hold its annual meeting October 27-29, 2017, at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. A workshop session during the meeting will address the intersectionality of Palestinian and Black justice movements.
You can read the IPMN endorsement in its entirety at this link.
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