PC(USA), other faith groups ask Biden to protect Christians in Israel/Palestine

Letter seeks equal treatment for Palestinians and Israelis

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem stands empty against a blue sky just after dusk. (Photo by Douglas Dicks)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one of 17 denominations and faith-based organizations to sign a letter to the incoming Biden administration seeking safety for indigenous Christians living in the Holy Land.

In a letter to President-elect Joe Biden dated Friday, the churches note that “while attention is turned toward the ‘little town of Bethlehem’” during Advent, “the Christian community in Israel/Palestine continues to suffer as a result of the ongoing occupation.”

“As Palestinian Christians continue to emigrate, we face the real prospect that the survival of the indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land may soon be in danger,” according to the letter. “By ensuring the U.S. government stands firmly in support of peace and justice for all in the region, your administration can help ensure the Christian community, along with all in the Holy Land, can flourish.”

Over the last four years, the letter states, “U.S. policy has moved in directions that have alienated the U.S. from many of its international partners and supported the deepening of Israel’s occupation while undermining long-term efforts to realize a just and lasting peace.”

“Moving forward,” the letter says to Biden, “we hope that your administration will invest in new approaches that build towards a future where human rights violations are ended and there is equality between Palestinians and Israelis.”

The letter includes six requests of the Biden administration:

  • Ensure that all parties are respected and included in negotiations towards a just and lasting peace based on international law.
  • Restate the U.S. position that settlements are illegal under international law and take action to ensure that any further Israeli settlement construction and growth results in political consequences.
  • Resume funding to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and other UN and humanitarian actors working in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Ensure accountability in such areas as military aid, travel bans and human rights abuses.
  • Reiterate the U.S. position that territory controlled by Israel as a result of the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, are occupied territories subject to international law and are not recognized parts of Israel.
  • Make clear that criticism of Israel, including support for boycotts, divestment and sanctions actions, is protected and legitimate speech.

“As Christian churches and organizations in the United States, we strongly urge you to pursue engagement in honest, credible and serious efforts with Palestinians, Israelis, regional parties and the international community to seek a just and lasting peace,” the letter states near the end. “And we pray that we may soon join you in celebrating a region where all are at peace and enjoy their rights and liberties without regard to race, ethnicity or creed.”

In addition to the PC(USA), the letter is signed by these denominations and faith-based organizations:

American Friends Service Committee

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Christian Reformed Church in North America, Office of Social Justice

Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

Church World Service

Churches for Middle East Peace

The Episcopal Church

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Reformed Church in America

United Church of Christ

The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society.

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