South African church delegation: Why we’re going to Palestine

Press release issued on 6 December:

A group of South African Christian leaders and members will be in the occupied territories of Palestine on a one week solidarity visit till the 9th of December to visit the Palestinian people, and particularly the Palestinian Christians.

Delegates include the Southern Africa heads of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and a senior member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Some of the delegates are:

1.    Bishop Zipho Siwa (Head of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa)
2.    Dr Braam Hanekom (Western Cape Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church)
3.    Dr Jerry Pillay (Head of the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa)
4.    Reverand Moss Nthla (Secretary General of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and Chairperson of Kairos SA)
5.    Father Michael Deeb (Director of the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission)
6.    Father Zweli Tom (Secretary General of the Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation of Christian Churches)
7.    Dr Stiaan vd Merwe (Kairos Southern Africa)
8.    Ms Marthie Momberg (Kairos Southern Africa)
9.    Ms Nonhlanhla Shezi (Anglican Church, youth leader)
10.    Ms Theresa Ramphomane (South African Council of Churches, Women’s Desk)
11.    Ms Nobuntu Madwe (Methodist Church, Women’s and Children’s Desk)
12.    Nonqaba Esther Dlula (Anglican Church, Eastern Cape)

This South African Christian solidarity visit has been undertaken in direct response to an invitation by Palestinian Churches and Christians through their 2009 Kairos Palestine call, which asked the world’s Churches to “come and see” the reality on the ground, to come “as pilgrims” and to pray together in the spirit of “peace, love and reconciliation[…] Our appeal is to reach a common vision, built on equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security.  We say that love is possible and mutual trust is possible.  Thus peace is possible and definitive reconciliation also.  Thus, justice and security will be attained for all”. It is in this spirit that the solidarity visit takes place.

The South African Christian delegation will also listen to various voices in the Occupied Palestinian territories. As South Africans we feel that we have a moral duty to listen to those who are systemically oppressed as our country was a recipient of the world’s solidarity during the struggle against apartheid – a crime against humanity.  We can never forget how we benefitted from the world’s support when we cried out for help.  Whilst we remain intensely and painfully aware of the weaknesses and the prevailing injustices in our own South African context, our delegation will also share with the Palestinians the Church in South Africa’s experience of opposing apartheid and our challenges in helping to build a reconciled democratic state for all people. Moreover, we expect to learn from the Palestinian people and also to be re-inspired by them to work against injustices in this and in other contexts.

We also come with the understanding that all humans – Jews, Muslims, Christians and all others –are created in the image of God, and that, as phrased by the Palestinian Christians, “this dignity is one and the same in each and all of us.  This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect.” 

As Africans we in turn bring our understanding of the spiritual concept of “ubuntu” whereby a person is a person through others, thus recognising the interconnectivity between all people and which expresses the value and meaning of life and of relationships.  As such we recognise the humanity and the dignity of both the oppressed and the oppressor. We resist fundamentalist, exclusivist theologies and ideologies, but we do not do so from a perspective of hatred, violence or separateness.

Finally, we look forward to join in the celebrations of the third anniversary of the launch of the Kairos Palestine call/document and to reflect together with Palestinian Christians on the meaning of Christmas.

Issued by:  Kairos Southern Africa on 6 December 2012

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