For some of us, the Middle East Study Committee’s report was a long-awaited recognition of the suffering of the Palestinian people, particularly our Christian brothers and sisters, and a stirring call to action and solidarity. For others of us, the report seemed indifferent to Israeli concerns for a secure homeland and the Church’s ongoing relationship with the Jewish community. Coming into the Assembly, some of us were lined up to push the report through; others of us were determined to defeat it.
Today, we still have disagreements on items in the report, on methods we should pursue, on arguments we should make. But today, by God’s grace, we have discovered that together, we may actually be more faithful and effective in seeking peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis than separately. To that end, we stand together in support of the report as amended by the Middle East Issues Committee as witness to a new way of approaching this intractable problem and, indeed, a new way of being the Church.
We have learned that we do not have to choose between our commitments. We have learned that we can risk trusting people with whom we were afraid to engage. We have learned that addressing the conflict in the Middle East cannot be a question of winners and losers. We must model how the conflict itself will be resolved: if someone loses, everyone loses. Beyond any expectation, we find ourselves discovering a new model of ministry together, a model committed to seeking, hearing, and responding to the fullness of narratives and commitments with the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Through Isaiah, God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and rivers in the wilderness.” Let us all give thanks for this new thing that God is doing and commit ourselves anew to work together for peace with justice.
Bill Harter, Co-Convener, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace
Carol Hylkema, Moderator, Israel/Palestine Mission Network
Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Theological Seminary
Ron Shive, Chair, Middle East Study Committee