SA EAAPI Statement on Palestine and Israel

31 July 2014

We, as a group of 70 South African ecumenical accompaniers who have monitored and reported human rights abuses in Palestine cannot remain silent at a time like this. We remember how often Palestinians told us that if we as South Africans can have a just freedom, then it must be possible for them too.

South African ecumenical accompaniers have worked side to side with other internationals in occupied Palestine since 2004 in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI was established by the World Council of Churches in response to a call from the Heads of Churches in the Holy Land. EAPPI provides protective presence to the vulnerable Palestinian communities and supports Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. We have witnessed multiple and layered injuries and losses by Palestinians whether Christian or Muslim. We value and recognise the safety and dignity of all those in Israel and Palestine. Yet we are not impartial when it comes to international law.

SA-EAPPI is appalled and devastated with the ongoing bombings, shelling and rocket firing in Israel and Palestine. However we absolutely reject any arguments that position the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis as two equal sides. The disproportionate killing of civilians including so many children horrifies us. That people are deprived of shelter, food, electricity, water and the hope of freedom is a source of shame to all who value the sacredness of life and the protection of international law. The current escalation in the conflict is not a war, let alone an act of self-defence, but a punitive, planned, strategic, militant expedition by a regional super-power to deepen Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. Moreover, Israel’s systematic, systemic, institutionalised oppression of the Palestinians that violates international law on a daily basis makes the conflict a-symmetric.

SA-EAPPI endorses the Memorandum to the South African Government issued by the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) on 28 July 2014 in Cape Town. In addition, we appeal to:
• South African citizens to not buy any Israeli produce or services;
• all faith communities to critically review their interpretations of sacred texts in a quest to uphold those values and principles that foster the flourishing of life for all;
• South African churches to take a clear and unequivocal stand for justice and a viable peace;
• the South African government to break its resounding silence and to demonstrate to the world what sustained, visible solidarity can mean for the freedom of an oppressed people;
• the United Nations’ Security Council to agree on resolutions to end both the conflict and the occupation, and to appoint an honest and an impartial broker for peace talks between Palestine and Israel; and
• the international society to ensure the consistent implementation of international law.

Meditation by John de Gruchy: Peace in Jerusalem


Matthew 23:37-39
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

The Old Testament exhorts us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:6) Yet, despite this, and the fact that its name means “city of peace,” it has been a centre of conflict for thousands of years, and remains so today. The current war in Gaza may be about Israeli security and the Palestinian demand for the lifting of the Israeli blockade and the release of Hamas prisoners, but it is ultimately about the peace of Jerusalem. A city over which ancient Israel, the Syrians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, Turks, the British, Germans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, have all fought, as do Palestinians and Jews today. Jerusalem is the key to peace in the Middle East; it is also a key to peace in the rest of the world. To pray for the peace of Jerusalem is to pray for the peace of the world. But what are we praying for in relation to the present war in Gaza, and why is the United Nations now accusing Israel of crimes against humanity? Was not the State of Israel founded in 1948 in response to the Nazi Holocaust so that Jews might have their own homeland where they could control their own destiny in peace?
I have visited several former concentration camps in Europe built by the Nazi’s to incarcerate and murder those whom they considered undesirables: communists and homosexuals, and millions of Jewish people of whom six million were exterminated simply because they were Jews. This was the result of centuries of anti-Semitism in Europe propagated by Christians. If you have not yet visited the Holocaust Museum in Cape Town then you should do so to be more informed about this sordid crime against humanity. The State of Israel was established in 1948 to make sure that this would never happen again. But does the Holocaust justify what Israel is now doing to the Palestinians whether in Gaza or the West Bank?
The story is a complex one, but simplistically put, the founding of the State of Israel was the result of a war fought by Zionist Jews against British control in Palestine, in order to take control of Jerusalem. And the British Mandate that eventually led to its formal establishment was a European solution to the “Jewish Problem,” but much against the interests of the Palestinian majority living in the country. Naturally there was Palestinian and Arab resistance and even violent attempts to destroy the new state, not helped by some serious errors of judgment. But Zionism prevailed, and Israel has flourished, but at the ongoing expense of the Palestinians, including Christians.
Many Christians in the West think, however, that all this is in fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and therefore they give their uncritical support to the State of Israel. But Israel as the people of God in the Old Testament is about the Jews as a “light to the nations,” a people providing a moral compass in witnessing to God’s justice and mercy; it is not about the modern State of Israel, today pursuing its policies of security through expansion with ruthless power armed to the teeth by the United States. Being critical of Israel today is not being anti-Semitic or anti-Judaism any more than it was when the Jewish prophets called those in power in Jerusalem to account, demanding justice and mercy both in Israel itself and in its dealing with other nations.
More than the five million displaced Palestinians now live in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, and those in Gaza and the West Bank live under Israeli occupation. Israel continually expands its borders in disregard of international law. The situation for Palestinians, especially in Gaza has become intolerable. This has led to the violent reaction led by Hamas, its rejection of the State of Israel, and the launching of indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli citizens. Hamas has rejected ceasefires and truces because in the past, despite promises, these have not brought about change; things have only got worse. So the war on Gaza continues apparently unabated. But it is a case of a David versus Goliath, only now David has all the tanks and helicopters and Goliath largely ineffective and inaccurate rockets.
On Tuesday morning I joined thousands of academics around the world in supporting a statement made by almost a hundred Jewish academics in Israel. It reads as follows:
The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.
Israelis have every right to live in peace; but the killing of over 650 civilians, with 4,000 more injured, many of them women and children — some of them playing on the beach — and the bombing of schools and hospitals, has turned the war on Gaza into a crime against humanity. Rockets may well be hidden in homes, schools and hospitals. But that does not give Israel the moral or political right to bomb wherever and whatever they choose, and to do so at will. The war has become grotesque and outrageous. But it is also counter-productive. The more Israel acts in this way the greater the resistance not just in Palestine but around the world. The truth is, there is no military solution to the problem, nor will a cease-fire actually solve anything unless the underlying problems are addressed. Conflict will continue, many more lives will be wasted, and the reaction of militants will become more violent. We know that from our own experience in South Africa: the only way forward is to pursue justice with mercy. Former President FW de Klerk said as much to the Israelis on a visit to Israel recently. They have to come to their senses through increasing pressure and diplomacy.

Luke tells us that as Jesus came near to Jerusalem on his way to the cross, he “wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognised on this day the things that make for peace!'” (19:41) Those who challenge Israel today, including many Jews, stand in the shoes of Jesus who wept over Jerusalem because its leaders refuse to recognise the things that make for peace. As we weep for the victims of war in Palestine and Israel, we also pray for peace in Jerusalem, for those who are seeking to make it a just reality, including those Palestinian Christians who witness to the gospel of peace in such terrible times. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”

John de Gruchy
Volmoed 24 July 2014

Petition: End relations with Apartheid Israel now!

Petition: End Relations with Apartheid Israel Now

If you support this petition, please write your name in the comments section below

We, the undersigned, respectfully and yet urgently demand that

  1. the South African Parliament debates the current war on the people of Gaza by the Apartheid Israeli regime and adopts a resolution to condemn the attacks on and killing of innocent people and the destruction of property including health facilities, and to call for the termination of diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.
  2. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation implement the various relevant resolutions formally adopted by the ANC Parliamentary Caucus, the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, the ANC Youth League and the South African Communist Party to recall the South African Ambassador to Israel and to ask Arthur Lenk, Israel’s Ambassador to Pretoria, to return to where he comes from.
  3. The South African Government to give concrete expressions to the numerous calls from civil society, the trade unions,  religious and community leaders – including more than 100 Jewish leaders – to end South Africa’s military agreements/sales to and all economic relations with the State of Israel.

The gap between what civil society and the ruling party proclaim and demand on the one hand and what the government does and appears to be prepared to do, on the other is far too wide!

We expected an elected government to listen to the voice of the people!

We expect a government whose members are deployed to their positions by a specific party to heed the voice of that party – not lobbies for a foreign government – even these lobbies masquerade as the representatives of a specific religious group!

Issued by the National Coalition for Palestine-

Enough is enough!








Kairos to SA Government: Sever Diplomatic and Trade Ties with Israel

Originally posted on marthiemombergblog:

The role of the South African government is unique in the world, given our country’s history of apartheid. Yet it lags behind in its solidarity with the Palestinians. Kairos Southern Africa asks for urgent, decisive action – not statements – in a formal request to the government of the Republic of South Africa:


18 July 2014

To: The Honourable Minister of International Relations Ms Maite E Nkoana-Mashabane
CC: The Honourable Mr. H.T Magama, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation, and the Deputy Director-General for DIRCO c/o Mr Clayson Monyela

Kairos Southern Africa believes that all lives have the same value, and that all violence is destructive. The current and ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine poses a critical test for the international community’s commitment to international law and human dignity.

Any attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is both futile and immoral. Neutrality…

View original 424 more words

The Nonviolent Eucharistic Jesus: A Pastoral Approach

The Nonviolent Eucharistic Jesus: A Pastoral Approach

“Twelve frightened men, who feel that death is hovering over, crowd around the Son of

Man whose hand is lifted over a piece of bread and over a cup.

Of what value is this gesture, of what use can it be?

How futile it seems when already a mob is arming itself with clubs, when in a few

hours Jesus will be delivered to the courts, ranked among transgressors, tortured, disfigured,

laughed at by His enemies, pitiable to those who love Him, and shown to be

powerless before all.

However, this Man, condemned to death does not offer any defense; He does nothing

but bless the bread and wine and, with eyes raised, pronounces a few words.”  François Mauriac


“The Eucharist is not only a mystery to consecrate, to receive, to contemplate and adore.

It is also a mystery to imitate.” Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap.


Outside of Jesus Christ, the Eucharist has no Christian meaning. Everything about it must ultimately be referenced to Him and then through Him to Abba. The same is true of the Christian life. Jesus is the ultimate norm of Christian existence; everything must be referenced to Him. If He is not the final standard against which the Church and the Christian must measure everything in order to determine if it is the will of God or not, then who or what is?

The Ultimate Norm of the Christian Life

What would Christianity or the Church mean for the Christian if Jesus’ Way or teachings

were made subject to, or were measured for correctness by whether Plato, Hugh

Hefner, or the local emperor happen to agree with them? Since for the Christian Jesus

is the Word of God, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Self-revelation of God: “The

one who sees me sees the Father” (Jn 14:9), since for the Christian He is “the Way and

the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6), it is senseless to maintain that the Christian life can

ultimately be modeled on anyone or anything except Jesus. Even the saints must be

measured against Jesus and His teachings to determine what in their lives is worthy

of Christian honor and what is not.


Jesus’ New Commandment Contains the Entire Law of the Gospel

Jesus, Himself, unequivocally commands precisely this when He says, “I give you a

new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love

one another” (John 13:34). As the one the Church calls “the greatest saint of modern

times,” St. Thérèse of Lisieux, says in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul:

Among the countless graces I have received this year, perhaps the greatest has been

that of being able to grasp in all its fullness the meaning of love…I had striven above

all to love God, and in loving Him I discovered the secret of those other words “Not

everyone who says Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one

who does the will of my Father.” Jesus made me understand what the will was by

the words he used at the Last Supper when He gave His “new commandment” and

told His apostles “to love one another as He had loved them”…When God under the

old law told His people to love their neighbors as themselves, He had not yet come

down to earth. As God knows how much we love ourselves, He could not ask us to do

more. But when Jesus gave His apostles a “new commandment, His own commandment,”

He did not ask only that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, but that

we should love them as He loves them and as He will love them to the end of time. O

Jesus, I know you command nothing that is impossible…O Jesus ever since its gentle

flame has consumed my heart, I have run with delight along the way of your “new



The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the new commandment of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us” and that “This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses His [the Father’s] entire will.” Now if, as the biblical scholar, Rev. John L. McKenzie, echoing the understanding of modern Biblical scholarship, says, Jesus’ rejection of violence is “the clearest of teachings” in the New Testament, then that love that is in the Spirit of Christ, that love that is imitative of Christ, that love that is Christ-like, that love that is “as I have loved,” that love which “contains the entire Law of the Gospel,” that love “which expresses His entire will” is a nonviolent love of friends and enemies.


Both Biblical scholarship and a common sense reading of the Gospel tell us that this new commandment of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you,” is not a throwaway line or an arbitrary insertion of a thought into the Gospel. On the contrary, the new commandment is so placed in the Gospel as to be presented as the supreme and solemn summary of all of Jesus’ teachings and commands. The importance of all this for Eucharistic understanding and Eucharistic unity is this: Jesus’ solemn new commandment is given and proclaimed not on a mountain top nor in the Temple, but, as St. Thérèse notes, at the Last Supper, the First Eucharist.

Poised between time and eternity and about to be pressed like an olive by religiously endorsed, rationally justified and state executed homicidal violence, to which He knows He must respond with a love that is neither violent nor retaliatory, with a love that forgives and that seeks to draw good out of evil, He proclaims, “I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me and as I told the Jews, where I go you cannot come; now I say to you, I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (jn 13:33-34).

Liturgical and Operational Indifference

It is hard to conceive of a more dramatically powerful context to communicate the importance of a truth to people for an indefinite future. Imagine how the world would be today if this new commandment as taught on the first Holy Thursday and lived unto death on the first Good Friday was continuously remembered in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Eucharistic Prayers throughout the ages. For one thing, there would be no Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant division of the Church because, whatever the intellectual reasons were that promoted each division and each division of a division, the one thing that predates all of them and postdates most of them is a thoroughgoing liturgical and operational indifference to the new commandment that Jesus proclaims by word at the First Eucharist and by example at the Sacrifice of Calvary.

All the major modern divisions in the Church follow by centuries the Church’s justification of violence and homicide with all the distortion of perspective and spirit that persistence in such activities brings to individuals and communities. And, after each division all of the Churches—minus a few of the ‘Peace Churches’—continue to teach, to endorse and to employ violence and homicide as part of their Christian way. This necessitated that in these Churches, or any subdivision thereof, the Eucharistic liturgy be not too explicit in remembering the details of the Gospel-given history of the Lord’s Supper, of the Lord’s Passion and of the Lord’s Death. Less still could any Church that justifies and participates in violence and homicide afford to be continually Eucharistically emphatic in remembering Jesus’ new commandment given at the Last Supper, and the clear relationship between it and the Way He in fact historically responds to violence and enmity. What one does not underline is what one does not want to remember.

A Eucharistic Prayer that Embodies Nonviolent Love

So until this very day, in the Eucharistic Liturgies of such Churches, a solitary word,

“suffered” or “death,” has normally been quite enough memory, commemoration,

remembrance, or anamnesis for fulfilling the Lord’s Command, “Do this in memory

(anamnesis) of me.” Of course, technically the words “suffered” and “death” are

theologically correct, but are they pastorally sufficient for the sanctification of the

Christian, the Church, and the world? What would the condition of the Church and

hence the world be like today if the Eucharistic Prayers of the Churches of Christianity

had read at their most sacred point, “the institution narrative-anamnesis (remembrance),”

something like the following over the last 1700 years:

…On the night before He went forth to His eternally memorable and life-giving death,

like a Lamb led to slaughter, rejecting violence, loving His enemies, and praying for His

persecutors, He bestowed upon His disciples the gift of a New Commandment:

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also

should love one another.”

Then He took bread into His holy hands, and looking up to You, almighty God, He gave

thanks, blessed it, broke it, gave it to His disciples and said:

“Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body

which will be given up for you.”

Likewise, when the Supper was ended, He took the cup. Again He gave You thanks and

praise, gave the cup to His disciples and said:

“Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the

new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you

and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”

“Do this in memory of me.”

Obedient, therefore, to this precept of salvation, we call to mind and reverence His passion

where He lived to the fullest the precepts which He taught for our sanctification.

We remember His suffering at the hands of a fallen humanity filled with the spirit of

violence and enmity. But, we remember also that He endured this humiliation with a

love free of retaliation, revenge, and retribution. We recall His execution on the cross.

But, we recall also that He died loving enemies, praying for persecutors, forgiving, and

being superabundantly merciful to those for whom justice would have demanded justice.

Finally, we celebrate the memory of the fruits of His trustful obedience to thy will, O

God: the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at

the right hand, the second and glorious coming. Therefore we offer You your own, from

what is your own, in all and for the sake of all…


The explicit inclusion of the memory of Jesus’ new commandment, Jesus’ rejection of

violence, Jesus’ love of enemies, Jesus’ prayer for His persecutors, and Jesus’ return

of good for evil in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Churches at the point of “institution anamnesis”

is not a whimsical or arbitrary insertion of haphazard events from Jesus’

life. This is what happens from the Cenacle to Calvary. This is the memory given to

us to revere by the ultimate historical, theological and pastoral documents on the

subject: the four Gospels.


Maundy Thursday—A Mandate to Love as Christ Loves

The very name for Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, comes from the Latin

“mandatum,” which means a command, commission, charge, order, injunction. It

is a direct and exclusive reference to the new commandment given at the Lord’s Supper.

The inclusion of the new commandment in the Eucharistic Prayer is not riding

one’s own theological or liturgical hobby-horse into the Church’s public prayer life.

The new commandment is there from Day One of the Eucharist and it is there in maximal

solemnity and seriousness.

So, also, rejection of violence, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors are an

irrevocable part of the history, Scripture, and authentic memory of the Sacrifice of

Love on Calvary. Refusing the protection of the sword (mt 26:52), healing the ear of

the armed man who is to take Him to His death (lk 22:51) and crying out for God’s

forgiveness for those who are destroying Him (lk 23:34) is the memory the Gospels

give to humanity of the victimization of Christ. To side-step these authentic Apostolic

memories in order to get to a more profound or holy or “deep” spirituality is

sheer folly. One has to have the humility to accept revelation as God offers it. If one

does not want to prayerfully enter into revelation as presented by God, then one has

no access to revelation; for who but God can author revelation?

Emaciated Revelatory Remembrance Subverts Divine Love

Jesus does not die of a heart attack. He dies when His heart is attacked by human

beings inebriated with the diabolical spirit of justified, religiously endorsed homicide—

and He dies giving a definite, discernible, and consistent response to that satanic

spirit. This reality cannot be insignificant in discerning the Truth of the revelation

God is trying to communicate to humanity for the good of humanity in Jesus. The

Sacrifice of the Cross is not about mere animal pain that is meant to assuage the lust

of a sadistic, blood-thirsty, parochial god. It is about the revelation of the nature and

meaning and way and power of a Divine Love that saves from an Enemy and a menace

that the darkest phenomena of history can only but hint at. To consistently dismiss

and to structurally ignore major facts in the God-given revelatory memory is to

assure that little of what God intended to be communicated by this costly revelation

will be communicated by it. So, while use of an isolated word, “suffered” or “death,”

in the Eucharistic Prayer is theologically passable, pastorally speaking it is emaciated

revelatory anamnesis (remembrance).

However, it does not take much reflection to perceive how these detail-devoid Eucharistic

Prayers—that do not mention Jesus’ new commandment given at the Last

Supper, that do not mention His rejection of violence, that do not mention His

love of even lethal enemies, that do not mention His prayer for persecutors, and

His struggle to overcome evil with good—serve a critical function in amalgamating

Christianity into the local national or ethnic violence-ennobling myths, as a

religious legitimizer. Intentional forgetfulness, structured inattentiveness, and a

cavalier disparaging of Jesus’ teachings of nonviolent love have always been part

of this process of religious validation by evasion. Without this cultivated liturgical

blind spot Jesus could not be drafted as a Divine support person for the home team’s

homicide and enmity.

Amnesia About Truths in Suffering and Death of Christ

It is possible today, as it has been possible for 1700 years, for a normal person to

spend a lifetime listening to the Eucharistic Prayers of all of the mainline Christian

Churches and never apprehend that what is being remembered is a Person—who at

the moments being remembered in the Prayers—rejects violence, forgives everyone,

prays for persecutors, returns good for evil. In other words, in most Christian

Churches, the anamnesis has become an agency for amnesia about truths in the

suffering and death of Christ that if consistently brought to consciousness at the

sacred time of the community’s Eucharist would stand in judgement on a multitude

of community activities, past and present.

The Rev. Frederick R. McManus, Emeritus Professor at The Catholic University of

America and one of the two or three most influential Catholic liturgists of the 20th

Century, writing on this issue says:


The Nonviolent Eucharist is a valuable and viable proposal to augment eucharistic

anaphoras with some direct reference to the ministry and teaching of Jesus concerning

peace and love, with concrete mention of the nonviolence of the Gospel message. The

tradition of variety in the Eucharistic prayer, longstanding in the East and happily

introduced into the Roman liturgy in the light of Vatican II’s mandate to reform the

Order of Mass, is ample reason to study this proposal. The centrality of the mission of

peace and nonviolence in the Gospels needs to be acknowledged in the confession of the

great deeds of God in the Lord Jesus, and the Christian people need to see this essential

dimension of Eucharistic peace in the prayer which they confirm and ratify with their AMEN.


The most renowned moral theologian of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century,

Rev. Bernard Häring, states emphatically that, “It is not possible to speak of Christ’s

sacrifice while ignoring the role of nonviolence.” Yet, this is precisely what most

Christian Churches have been doing in their Eucharistic Prayers since Constantine

first employed the cross as an ensign to lead people into the enmity and homicide

called war.

FACT: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all believe they have authentic Eucharistic communion

within their own Churches and often the same belief holds for communion between

different Churches. This, however, has not prevented them from sojourning into slaying their

own and other Christians on a grand scale and then exonerating themselves by some fantastic

contortion of the Gospel.

The Key to Eucharistic Unity and Christian Unity

Now what I am about to suggest I am sure could sound more than farfetched, but

I believe it is the pivotal decision for Christic Truth on which a future of Christian

unity and Eucharistic unity wait. At this time in history, the key to Eucharistic

unity and Christian unity is for Churches— each by whatever process of authority

is internal to it—to compose new Eucharistic Prayers which vividly call to mind

the new commandment, and the actual details of the historic confrontation between

homicidal violence and Jesus’ Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies that took

place at the moment being remembered.

This is not one among many things the Churches can do for peace and unity—it is

what they must do. The present meagerness of Scriptural and historical memory,

while it does not render the Eucharistic Prayers invalid, does make them pastorally

deceptive by omission. Harnessed by nationalisms around the world, Christians do

not hear the broad terms “suffered” and “death” as they were engaged in AD 33 Pastoral

responsibility before God and pastoral integrity before the community insist

that the fitting and right textual adjustments be instituted because there is a radical

spiritual danger that the paucis verbis of the present remembrance in the Eucharistic

Prayers of all the mainline Churches is unwittingly serving those forces which the

Eucharistic Jesus comes to conquer.

It is Archimedes who states that there is a point outside the world that if he could

locate it, he could move the world from it. The “institution narrative-anamnesis”

of the Eucharistic Prayer of the Churches is that spiritual Archimedian point—if the

truth of Christ’s Sacrifice is allowed the fullness of its historical revelatory reality

there. It is not magic I speak of here.

It is the hidden power of the cross that is released when those who are in Christ

respond to the offer of grace through Christ—an offer made through a unique and

unequaled “salvation device” when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

For the leadership of each Church to authorize text clarifications in its Eucharistic

Prayer would not be magic. For said leadership to explain the changes to the community

would not be magic. For each community to consciously stand or kneel daily,

weekly, or monthly in the presence of such a Nonviolent Eucharistic Lord would

not be magic. All would necessitate human choice, but choice aimed at cooperating

more faithfully with the incalculably powerful and mysterious reality of the Divine

Design for salvation in Jesus—choice on behalf of a more authentic expression, experience

and encounter with the Saving Presence of Divine Love as revealed through,

with and in the Nonviolent Eucharistic Christ.

New Time of Christian Agapé

A more truthful Eucharistic Prayer is the starting point of “the fair beginning of a

nobler time.” For certain this is the point from which to move the world into a New

Time of Christic Agapé because, from this point on, the Christian and the Church

will derive their Life from the Bread of Life of an Agapé Meal that is reverently respectful

of the “last wish” of Jesus—that the love (agapé) which He showed His disciples

be remembered and lived in the community as the unbreachable standard of

all Christian interaction. This is the spiritual Archimedian point because there is

infinitely more Power in that Mysterious Meal in the Upper Room than meets the

eye—if the choice is but made to embrace it.

What is equally true is this: there is infinitely more to the new commandment than

meets the mind. As each Church Eucharistically remembers more lucidly the truth

of Jesus’ life of Nonviolent Love, His death in Nonviolent Love, and His resurrection

through Nonviolent Love, Jesus’ new commandment will disclose its depth of

meaning, purpose, and power to the Churches of Christianity in a manner that will

gift them with an experience of new reality. Out of this new reality will come new

insight and new spirit—and from this new reality and new insight and new spirit

will come new words, new phraseology, new language, new thoughts that will resolve

aged and serious problems of truth. Rising from this new level of Eucharistic

fidelity will come a new convergence of Christic Love and Truth that will engender

an existential unity beyond present imagination. It is not magic I speak of

here. Prayer changes people, and people change things, but the “Yes” for a more

pastorally accurate remembrance narrative in the Eucharistic Prayer must first

be given by pastors. As at Nazareth of old, God, who desires to renew the face of the earth,

holds His breath and awaits His chosen servant’s fiat.

Betrayal of Baptismal and Eucharistic Unity

In a 1969 article for the Notre Dame Alumnus, I wrote: “To paraphrase a student slogan,

‘Suppose someone gave a war and the Christians refused to kill or harm one another’…

It would be a giant step forward for humanity if the Church would preach as

a minimum standard of morality, the absolute immorality of one follower of Christ

killing another follower of Christ.”

In 1969 I lost on all fronts with this. For the conservatives it was “just ridiculous”; for

the liberals, it was too absolutist; and for the radicals, it was Christianist and anti-humanist.

But, I know more surely today than I did thirty-five years ago that this is the

truth of the matter. Homicide-justifying Christianity cannot dialogue itself out of

the snare into which it has fallen. It must first unreservedly desire to be obedient

to Jesus’ new commandment; then from this wholehearted desire will issue the

grace, insight and power to do the other tasks committed to the Christian and the

Church. Now, this desire to be faithful to the new commandment would at least seem

to mean that as a dimension of Baptism and Eucharist, the Christian would always

say “No!” if called upon to kill other Christians. He or she would do this in order

not to be reduced to a ‘Judas-Christian’—a betrayer of one’s gift of Baptismal unity in

Christ and a betrayer of one’s task of Eucharistic unity in His new commandment.

How could this not be what Jesus intended for His disciples by His new commandment

at the Last Supper? How could this not be what Jesus intended His followers

to teach, nurture, encourage, foster, energize, and command when bringing people

into Baptismal and Eucharistic unity with Him and through Him with each other

and God? The Church will be the servant it is meant to be to God and to humanity

only to the extent that it is faithful to what it has been commanded to do internally,

namely to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love

one another.” Absent an unswerving commitment to Jesus’ new commandment, the

Church will become a body tearing itself limb from limb—and anti-sacrament of

disunity, the public incarnational denial of its own truth.

Disunity Emanates from Separation of Divine Mandates

A commandment that is consigned century after century to the doorsteps of oblivion

is a non-thought in a community. Obedience to a non-thought is a patent impossibility.

Yet, it is at the very same Supper that the Lord commands for all time “Do this

in memory of me” that He pronounces for all time His new commandment. How can

these Divine Mandates be honestly separated? How can one be obeyed religiously

while the other is religiously ignored?

It is this separation between the two great Eucharistic Commands that is the source

of and the sustaining power for separation within Christianity—ecclesiastically and

Eucharistically. It is this separation in Christianity between the two great Eucharistic

Commands, whose mutually complementary purpose is to unite, that has reduced

the Church in confrontation with the horrid reality of evil to a coping dinosaur

rather than a conquering Spirit. Disunity disempowers to the detriment of all—except

the Fiend.

For mercy’s sake, the pastors of Christianity must relinquish their stance of calculated

inattentiveness to the unbreakable unity of Word and Sacrament. They must

simply stop managing the Eucharistic Prayer in a manner that spiritually short circuits

the process of repentance—and hence unification—by perpetually camouflaging

the unwanted truth of Jesus’ nonviolent love of friends and enemies and

His command to follow His example of love. There are not two Jesus Christs: the

Eucharistic Christ of faith on one hand, and the historical Jesus on the other. John

Paul II states in his Encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (1990), “One cannot separate Jesus

from the Christ or speak of a ‘Jesus of history’ who would differ from the ‘Christ of

faith’…Christ is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.” The only Jesus Christ present at

the Eucharist, the only Jesus Christ to remember and receive in the Eucharist is the

Jesus Christ who taught and lived unto death a Way of nonviolent love of friends

and enemies and who commanded His disciples to “Love one another as I have

loved you”—and to “Do this in memory of me.”

A Pastorally Truth-Filled Eucharist

Having recently concluded a Century in which more people have been killed by rationally-

justified, religiously-legitimized war, revolution, abortion, and capital punishment

than all the centuries of humanity combined; having recently concluded

a Century that has by the billions mercilessly murdered “the least” (mt 25:14-46)

by squandering on the technology of violence and homicide the most lavish gifts

of intelligence and learning ever granted a century of humanity; having recently

concluded a Century that has brought a planet of humanity to the lip of a cauldron

bubbling with the brew of nuclear plagues and war-generated diseases; having recently

concluded a Century where Christianity has been a major player in all these

evils—it is a moral imperative for Christian pastors to begin to lead their Churches

away from evasive Eucharistic Prayers and into remembering the Way God committed

to them for salvific and revelatory remembrance on Holy Thursday-Good

Friday, 33 A.D.

A pastorally truth-filled Eucharistic institution narrative, as enunciated above, initiated

in the beginning by the authority of each of the Churches for its own community,

is the key not only to the resolution of Church divisions and Eucharistic

disunity, but also the key to that New Pentecost which is the only Power that can

transfigure the relentless agonia humanity has made of history. From a New Holy

Thursday shall shine a New Pentecost because Eucharistic prayer is the most

powerful prayer to which humanity will ever have access. This means that, entered

into with an honest, humble and contrite heart, Eucharistic prayer in all its

forms—adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication—is the supreme instrumentality

available to the human being and to the human community for their

sanctification—which can only express itself in time and space as deeds of Christ-like

love of God, friends, and enemies.

To love the Eucharist is to live the Eucharist. A Nonviolent Eucharistic Prayer is a

mandatum of Truth, a mandatum of Peace, a mandatum of Love.


(Rev.) Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Center for Christian Nonviolence

167 Fairhill Drive • Wilmington, DE 19808-4312

phone: 302-235-2925 • fax: 302-235-2926



South Africa, Palestine and the Papal Visit to the Holy Land, by Charles Villa-Vicencio

The Dangerous Memory of the Gospel South Africa, Palestine and the Papal Visit to the Holy Land


By Charles Villa-Vicencio*



The church has long had a split personality, consisting of traditional believers who cling to institutionalized ritual and what they regard as doctrinal purity and activists whose faith prioritizes social action. Numerically the former is the larger group for the simple reason that most people are conformists who accept the religious and socio-political status quo of the day. The latter invariably comprises a smaller group of people who affirm that what they believe is a part of the Christian tradition that is suppressed, if not forgotten, by the dominant structures within the institutional church.

This smaller group is customarily side-lined by the church hierarchy and frequently persecuted by political authorities.  With some exceptions, however, the two sides of the church tend, with mutual irritation, to coexist. This leads to a situation where activists disturb the conscience of traditional believers, reminding them of what the Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz called the “dangerous memory of the Gospel”.

Jesus of History

Jesus was a native of the dusty, rural town of Nazareth, known for its political resistance to Roman occupation. Historians tell us that, apart from what is written in the Gospels, there are only two indisputable facts that we know about the historical Jesus:  the first is that he was a Jew who led a popular movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century CE. The second is that Rome conspired with the Sanhedrin to crucify him, based on claims that he was the “King of the Jews”—a treasonous crime punishable by death.

The lines between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith preached by the church are blurred, with New Testament references to his teaching often contradicting one another. These include teachings that suggest racial exclusion – “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24); benevolent universalism—“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19); peace and nonviolence— “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9);  and the promotion of violence— “Let him who has no sword, go sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

The earliest New Testament writings are those attributed to St. Paul, dating back to approximately 48 CE when he wrote the first letter to the Thessalonians.  Paul’s primary interest was not, however,  the historical Jesus but the proclamation of a Christian message to gentiles in the broader Roman Empire. Mark’s account of Jesus was written after 70 CE, Matthew and Luke wrote between 90 and 100 CE and John somewhere between 100 and 120 CE, with various non-canonical gospels interspersed between these dates. A lot of history and interpretation happened between the time of the ministry of Jesus and the earliest records available that record that ministry. This requires any thoughtful person to put aside preconceived theological casuistry in keeping an open mind on what Jesus may or may not have taught.

 After the death of Jesus, James, “the brother of Jesus,” apparently emerged as leader of the embryonic church.  In continuity with the teaching of Jesus, he insisted that a follower of Jesus needed to show partiality in favor of the poor. His fierce support for the poor and sharp criticism of the rich, may well explain why Ananus, the self-indulgent high priest at the time, persuaded the Sanhedrin to preside over James’ execution around 62 AD. Chaos reigned in Palestine at the time and the Roman occupiers were driven out of Palestine in 66 CE in a rebellion led by Jewish nationalists and the Sicarii (dagger men or assassins). The Romans reclaimed Jerusalem in 70 CE when they unleashed an orgy of violence against all forms of Jewish nationalism. They desecrated and burned the temple and slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews.

Barnabas and Paul had in the meantime (around 50 CE) met with “pillars of the church,” James, Peter, and John, to confirm the legitimacy of their mission to the gentiles and the freedom of gentile converts to reject the Mosaic Law.  In so doing they extended the reach of the early church into the wider Roman Empire.  The tension between James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, is seen in the Epistle of James (probably compiled by an editor drawing on the teachings of James). Rejecting Paul’s emphasis on faith alone as a means of salvation, the writer insisted on both faith and works as a vehicle of salvation. As Christian history shows, Paul would win this debate—and fifteen hundred years later Martin Luther would reject the Book of James as an “Epistle of Straw”!

Peter and others would the flee Jerusalem to escape the persecution of Herod Agrippa, only to see Peter later crucified in Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar, probably in 66 CE.  Early Christians were at the same time eager to survive the onslaught on Jewish nationalists and distanced themselves from the Jews. They gradually transformed themselves from a Jewish sect into a separate religion centred in Rome, where Paul steadily moved the church towards a gospel more acceptable to the Hellenized culture of the Greco-Roman world. Despite this development, Paul would run afoul of the establishment, with tradition telling us that he too was executed after a lengthy period of imprisonment, possibly in the same year as Peter.

Bluntly put, the pendulum of the early church shifted away from its Jewish origins (and from the historic Jesus) to the Christ of faith as articulated by Paul. Paul’s emphasis was primarily on Christology rather than the historical Jesus, insisting that his authority came through “a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12), which seems to allude to his Damascus Road experience (Acts 9:5). In claiming this authority, Paul’s references to Jesus, rather than taking his total ministry into consideration, are reduced to a spiritual reflection on the last supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), the crucifixion (I Corinthians 2:2) and the resurrection, without which he states “our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” (I Corinthians 15:14).

Given the demands of a gentile and Hellenized world to which Paul believed he was called, his ministry placed less emphasis than the gospel writers on the historical context within which Jesus lived. While Paul’s emphasis lessened the direct political impact of the message of Jesus in early Palestine, it was in continuity with the life of Jesus. In proclaiming that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,  for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), Paul’s message transcended race, gender and class.  This message is a crucial aspect of a gospel that rejects any sense of superiority by any group, based on race, culture, creed or gender, making it pertinent to apartheid South Africa and segregated Palestine. As such, Paul’s message needs to be embraced as a crucial part of what has been described as the “dangerous memory of the gospel” that undermines the complacency of the rich and powerful in any society.

Differently stated, there is an inter-related double heritage in the church, traceable to the person of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. One layer of this heritage is traceable to the teachings of Jesus contained in the gospels that capture the partiality of Jesus in support of the poor and oppressed, which led to his crucifixion and the martyrdom of his followers. The other layer concerns the universality of the gospel, emphasized in the teaching of Paul, which amplifies the teaching of Jesus as reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, his encounter with the Syrophoenician women, and elsewhere.

Both heritages are pertinent to a church within a society subjected to ideological distinctions based on race, class and gender.

The Dominant Tradition of Christianity

The dominant message of any movement is invariably the message of those who wield most power at a given time. The dominant history of Christianity is the history told by those who exercised political power from the time of the Roman Empire to the global dominance of the United States of America today, where the story of Jesus is essentially the story told by that country’s “popular” evangelists. Importantly, however, this power has never been left unchallenged. We see this happening in countries across the world where the poor and the marginalized in each successive age rise in resistance, and sometimes in revolution, against those who oppress and exploit them.

This is what happened in South Africa where a measure of sanity eventually prevailed in the apartheid state with the democratic elections that saw the emergence of a black majority government under the remarkable leadership of Nelson Mandela. There is no indication that the unfinished Palestinian intifadawill in the immediate future realize what the South African struggle achieved in 1994.  It is clear, however, that Palestinian resistance will not subside before the Palestinian people are afforded the opportunity to create a democratic future. This is a tried and tested reality of all history. The question is what the role of the Palestinian and global church will be as this process unfolds.

I identify in what follows a theological conflict that reaches to the heart of Christian identity, suggesting that unless the global church is prepared to observe the Palestinian conflict from the sidelines, it will be obliged to take sides with marginalized Palestinians against Israeli power.

The dominant tradition in church-state relations as we know it today emerged with the rulers of the Roman Empire imposing its imprint on the church through the 313 CE Edict of Milan, instituted under the authoritarian rule of Constantine the Great. It was an imprint imposed with a level of subtlety and Machiavellian virtu that none of Constantine’s predecessors had been able to achieve through naked force. In the process the church became what was effectively a new imperial cult—transformed from a persecuted and impoverished social minority into a church led by a hierarchy of wealthy and powerful bishops, princes and emperors that assigned the poor to the margins of the church. By the high Middle Ages the dominant church had become the single most despotic political force in Europe.

Since this dramatic imperial feat, Christianity, with some notable exceptions, has grown accustomed to bolstering the powerful and neglecting the poor and vulnerable. Among the exceptions can be counted the confessing church in Nazi Germany, the church of the poor in Latin America that gave birth to liberation theology, the black theology genre that emerged from the civil rights movement in the U.S., the feminist and womanist theology movements in different parts of the world, and the signers of the three Kairos documents in South Africa (1985), Palestine (2009), and the United States (2011).

A further sense of hope in this regard has emerged in the apostolic exhortation, entitled, The Joy of the Gospel in which Pope Francis upholds the Christian calling to challenge the alliance between political and business leaders in the promotion of “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” He reaffirms a message in continuity with the Twenty-First Ecumenical Council and Pope John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra that was opposed by several influential social conservatives in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has declared his opposition to what he calls the “deified market” of free-market capitalism. He is however no radical; ready to renounce the social teachings of the Catholic Church. He affirms the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion, insisting that “unborn children” are “the most defenceless and innocent among us,” while contending “it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations.” He fits neither into any preconceived “liberal” nor “conservative” conclusions on moral theology, while calling the church to be in solidarity with the “weak and defenceless who are frequently at the mercy of economic interests or indiscriminate exploitation.”

Given the influence of conservatives in the Catholic Church, the struggle for the soul of the Catholic Church is likely to be an intense one. It is at the same time clear that the election of Pope Francis as the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere will be drawn on by progressive Catholics to challenge conservative interests in the church.  

The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land this May will also mark the 50th anniversary of an historic trip to the region by Pope Paul VI, when he met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which resulted in the easing of a 900-year-long Great Schism between the churches of the East and West. This will be only the fourth papal visit to the Holy Land since biblical times. The fact that the Holy Land is the entrenched symbol of the brutal conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and that Jerusalem is a Holy City to three of the world’s great religions will add to the expectations of what the Pope can achieve. The depth of these conflicts suggests, however, that these expectations will need to be constrained.

 Given the divide that exists between the dominant church, which is invariably careful not to offend the political powers, and activist Christians who effectively constitute a “church within the church,” Pope Francis’ visit will be carefully watched. Pertinent questions will arise concerning the level of unity among Christians regarding the Palestinian situation and the Pope’s response to the plight of the poor and marginalized people of the Holy Land. The struggle to define the message of the gospel and the response of the church to the needs of the poor can take on a new dimension as the eyes of the world’s media track the Pope’s visit.

   In each age, from the Middle Ages, through the Reformation and into the modern period Christians there have been Christians who paid the price of obedience, even at the cost of persecution and death. These range from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany to Oscar Romero in El Salvador, Martin Luther King Jr., the Trappist monks killed in the Algerian civil war and the Nag Hammadi massacre of Coptic Christians. There are, in turn, countless unknown martyrs throughout the Middle East and elsewhere whose lives reflected the tradition of resistance and martyrdom.

The killings, including those of children, in Palestinian occupied territory, in turn, happen on a regular basis. Media reports on the Israeli military operations in Gaza in 2008/09 were widespread and additional reports on the killing of children over the years are extensive. These include the killing by Israel Defense Forces soldiers of Jamil Jibji and several other children and teenagers from the Askar refugee camp, who were allegedly throwing stones at military vehicles. Bushra Bargis was killed by a sniper’s bullet with her school grammar book in her hand,  and earlier a Jewish settler was sentenced to a mere six months community service and a $17,000 fine for the beating to death of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy. There are at the same time an estimated 5,000-plus Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, including Marwan Barghoutiwho was convicted and given a life sentence for murder by an Israeli court. Barghouti has become the “face” of Palestinian political prisoners, as Nelson Mandela became the “face” of the campaign to release all political prisoners in South Africa in the “free Mandela” campaign. There are at the same time Jewish young men and women in the Army of the State of Israel who are refusing to surrender their lives in defence of an unjust state.


Kairos: The Favorable Time


The church is a global church, which requires Christians to be in solidarity with those who suffer in a particular place at a particular time. Churches are largely aware of this, as is manifest in their global ministry programs that increasingly include Palestine in their ministry. Palestinians, in turn, look to other places around the world where struggles for justice are being waged, to learn from the success and failures of these quests.


 Kairos South Africa 1985

South Africa is one of those places where Christians have fought the good fight for justice— and have to a significant sense succeeded, although there are obvious limitations inherent to the South African transition that Palestinians and others would do well to ponder. The overview of the South African struggle that follows is offered in the belief that comparative thinking and critique is required for Christians to “stand on the shoulders of others”—not in order to mimic them, but with a view to building on and improving their experiences and witness.

In this spirit of inquiry it is worth asking why it is that the South African struggle caught the imagination of the world. It was and is a struggle that is anything but romantic or painless. It cost those involved in the process dearly and there are lessons to be learned from its complicated history.

Early resistance to apartheid was essentially limited to peaceful protests. It was only after the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned in 1960 in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre and all channels for political opposition were eliminated that these groups resorted to armed resistance as a declared strategy to complement other non-violent strategies. There were at the same time, and continue to be, ideological differences and policy variations within the liberation movements, which militated against unified opposition to apartheid, much in the same way that Palestinian movements are marred by both inter- and intra-group conflict.  Ideological and political differences in South Africa led to the establishment of the Black Consciousness Movement under the leadership of Steve Biko in the late 1960s as well as other divisions and factions. The broader objective of resistance to white rule nevertheless grew and the global community was mobilized in support of this development, the internal struggle intensified and the resistance to apartheid within faith communities grew:

Global Support

The work of the ANC as well as the PAC, once they established themselves in exile with offices in London, Lusaka and countries around the world, was a crucial factor in the South African struggle. These organizations worked through the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and anti-apartheid organizations across the world, which resulted in a level of global opposition that led to the declaration of apartheid as a crime against humanity by the General Assembly of the UN. This came into force in 1976 and led to a process that included an international arms boycott, trade sanctions, cultural boycotts and student protests against the apartheid regime.

The Internal Struggle

Co-operation between ideologically estranged groups at home grew as a result of student movements, trade union affiliations and the establishment of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983 and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) in 1988. This mobilized black South Africans in a campaign to render the country ungovernable.

It was a costly process: 40,000 people were detained in the 1980s. There were dramatic increases of deaths in detention and in the flight of people into exile to join the armed struggle. Significantly though, as violent clashes between the government and the liberation movements escalated, clandestine meetings were being held between government leaders and the ANC. Structured meetings followed, top government officials met with Nelson Mandela and in December 1988 Mandela was moved from Pollsmoor Prison to Victor Verster Prison, with open telephone lines to consult with ANC colleagues in exile and in South Africa. In March 1989 Mandela wrote to President PW Botha, proposing that they meet to discuss the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Faced with global and internal pressure, the government released Mandela and others from prison. Political movements were unbanned and democratic elections were held in 1994.

Faith Communities

The struggle against apartheid was always political, reaching to every sphere of existence. As such it included the participation of faith communities. The World Council of Churches (WCC) and Program to Combat Racism within the WCC played a major international role in exposing the iniquities of apartheid. They mobilized churches across the world against apartheid and exposed the atrocities committed by the South African military in the frontline states of (then) South West Africa (Namibia), Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Mozambique, and deeper into Africa.

  In South Africa religious communities were similarly mobilized to resist apartheid. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) played a significant role in this regard, even though these organizations failed to secure the unqualified support of their member churches in so doing.  Indeed, the divisions within member churches resulted in religious rivalry and the formation of splinter groups breaking away from the established churches, with the apartheid government taking advantage of this by pumping huge amounts of money into pro-apartheid groups in the churches.

Interfaith cooperation, both in opposing apartheid and in preparing the nation for democracy, was also a significant feature of the South African transition.  In 1991, a year after the release of Mandela from prison, South African Muslims convened a National Muslim Conference in Cape Town. This was a gathering of 750 Muslims representing every shade of Muslim opinion who came together to debate Muslim Personal Law and related matters of concern to Muslims in anticipation of a new South African dispensation. The conference committed itself to support a multi-faith culture under a secular constitution. A subsequent National Interfaith Conference involving Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and people of other religious beliefs, in turn, committed itself to support a political settlement, democratic elections and a secular constitution.

 It is important, however, to remember is that the religious resistance to apartheid and interfaith cooperation only came about in the wake of a long and hard-fought battle within which religious identities were used to bolster political conflicts. There were, however, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, members of other faiths, atheists, agnostics and secularists who found a deep common cause in their opposition to apartheid. They were frequently beaten by the police, imprisoned, driven into exile and in some cases killed, which deepened the solidarity among South Africans opposed to apartheid.

Facing an apartheid state that claimed to rule in obedience to God, it was Christians opposed to apartheid who felt a special responsibility to resist the state. The history of Christianity in South Africa tells of both confrontation and cooperation between church and state from the time of the arrival of the first white settlers in the country. It is from the time of colonial expansionism and the discovery of minerals in the nineteenth century that the institutional church was essentially supportive of white interests and privilege.

The turning point in Christian opposition to apartheid only came in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. The WCC convened a meeting in Cottesloe, Johannesburg, shortly after the massacre, to consult with South African churches concerning their stance on apartheid. The conference decisively voted against apartheid.  Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of statutory apartheid and prime minister at the time, rebuked the delegates to the conference from the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), the largest of the white Afrikaner Dutch Reformed Churches, by accusing them of forgetting their responsibility regarding the “high purpose of apartheid.” Many recanted, while Beyers Naudé, the moderator of the Southern Transvaal synod of the NGK, rejected Verwoerd’s reprimand and was later expelled from his church. As the divisions within the church deepened, a space opened up within which leaders from various churches, such as Beyers Naudé, Desmond Tutu and others, became household names in the fight against apartheid.

The theological breakthrough in the church struggle took a significant step forward with the publication of two important books. One was Allan Boesak’s doctoral thesis, Farewell to Innocence, in 1975. This was effectively the first black theology publication to capture public attention in South Africa. The other breakthrough came with the publication of Albert Nolan’s Jesus before Christianity in 1976.

Two earlier developments prepared the way for this breakthrough in different ways. The so-called English-speaking churches (the majority of whose members were black as result of nineteenth-century mission work) were instrumental in the writing of the Message to the People of South Africa in 1968, which rejected apartheid as a “pseudo-gospel.” The NGK, in turn, adopted a declaration in 1974 with the pretentious title of Human Relations and the South African Scene in the Light of Scripture, providing a biblical justification for apartheid. This led, largely at the instigation of Allan Boesak, to the decision of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), to adopt a resolution declaring the theological justification of apartheid to be a heresy. Boesak was also elected president of the WARC at their 1982 General Council, which afforded him a global platform to further mobilize the world-wide church against apartheid.

Among themost significant and prophetic events in the history of the theological struggle against apartheid in the turbulent 1980s by the church in resistance to apartheid were the controversial Call for the End to Unjust Rule, which emerged at a deeply divided South African Council of Churches conference in 1984 and the South Africa Kairos Document (published in 1985).[i] Both identified the rupture between the established institutional church and Christians in rebellion against apartheid. The Call for the End to Unjust Rule asked Christians to pray “that God will replace the present structures of oppression with ones that are just, and remove from power those who persist in defying his laws, installing in their place leaders who will govern with justice and mercy.”

The message of the 1985 South African Kairos Document was, in turn, clear that the witness of the prophetic church needs to be grounded in “an understanding of politics and political strategy” designed to change an unjust situation. It rejected a notion of reconciliation before the affirmation of justice and the blanket condemnation of “all that is called violence”, distinguishing between the violence associated with resistance to apartheid on the one hand and oppressive forms of institutional and police violence on the other. The Kairos Document reminded the church that tough calls need to be made in tough times.  It rejected “state theology” in which the apartheid state drew on a distorted interpretation of chapter 13 in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and other passages of scripture to claim its authority is derived from God. It also rejected “church theology,” describing it as having drawn on “a few stock ideas derived from the Christian tradition,” without taking sides with oppressed people in their fight against apartheid. In so doing it affirmed a “prophetic theology” which rejected the state as having “no moral legitimacy” and being “an enemy of the common good”, while rejecting the ethical restraint of the institutional church.

Kairos Palestine: 2009

Palestinians have fought hard for their freedom, with two burdens that are more difficult to carry than those faced by South Africans. These concern the limitations of global solidarity with Palestinians and the hesitation of the global church to support the Palestinian cause to the same extent that it supported the South Africa struggle.  This suggests the urgent need for levels of Palestinian unity, the global co-ordination of its work, domestic solidarity across ideological differences, the redefining of viable strategies for change and the need for the level of leadership that South Africans have produced not only in Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Steve Biko and Desmond Tutu, but also leaders at other levels of society. Despite the remarkable theological work undertaken by Palestinian scholars and activists, such as Elias Chacour, Archbishop of the Melkite Church, and the Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, the WCC and WARC have not embraced the Palestinian cause with the same enthusiasm with which they embraced the anti-apartheid cause. Geopolitical factors supportive of Israel bear as heavily on the church as they do on other dimensions of the Palestinian situation.

Nevertheless, in 2009, an impressive number of Palestinian Christian institutions and leaders, including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, signed the Kairos Palestine document [for the complete list, see According to its authors, Israel’s military occupation is “a sin against God and humanity,” and all peoples, political leaders, and decision-makers must “put pressure on Israel and take legal measures in order to oblige its government to put an end to its oppression and disregard for international law.” And explicitly, the document  affirms that nonviolent reaction to this injustice “is a right and duty for all Palestinians, including Christians.”

Kairos USA: 2011

 On June 18, 2011, Christianleaders from around the United States issued an official response to the Kairos Palestine document.

Called Kairos USA, it begins with a confession of sin for the failure to say “Enough” to Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian lands, as well as the equal failure to say “Enough” both to the billions of dollars the U.S. government gives Israel each year to subsidize its expanding settlements and to the veto-wielding votes it casts in the U.N. to shield Israel from international censure.

 The document ends by inviting Christians across the U.S. to join the nonviolent effort to support those in Israel, the occupied territories, and throughout the world who work to end the illegal occupation and redress other legitimate Palestinian grievances through peaceful means. The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)  is directed at Israeli policy, not the state of Israel itself or its citizens, and certainly not against the Jewish people.  [For the list of signatories and other specific actions that can be taken, go to Kairos USA’s impressive website:

The honesty embedded in this document is a sobering challenge to Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world:

 As individuals and as church members, we have supported a system of control, inequality and oppression through misreading our Holy Scriptures, flawed theology and distortions of history. We have allowed to go unchallenged theological and political ideas that have made us complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Instead of speaking and acting boldly, we have chosen to offer careful statements designed to avoid controversy and leave cherished relationships undisturbed. We have forgotten the differences between a theology that supports the policies and institutional structures of oppression and a theology that, in response to history and human affairs, stands boldly with the widow, the orphan and the dispossessed.


The cautious response of the West to human rights abuses of Palestinians evokes the need for a prophetic theology which addresses the political challenges associated with the geopolitical forces of the West as currently being played out in the Middle East. This essentially involves the question whether the church is prepared to confront the sense of Constantinian captivity to the state that is challenged by the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith— and, from the perspective of African spirituality, the primary ancestor of the Christian community.

The dominant church in the West needs to be held accountable to this gospel, which an increasing number of Christians are beginning to realize. Consider, for example, Bishop Richard Pates who, as chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,  sent a letter, dated January 28, 2014, to Secretary of State John Kerry stating that the United States should urge the government of Israel to cease and desist in efforts to unnecessarily confiscate Palestinian lands.

This is Kairos, the favorable time, when God issues a challenge to decisive action. We are called on to ask whether, by default, if not by design, the church is sustaining an alliance between the church and a state that perpetuates the suffering of the poor and oppressed, or whether it is providing a voice for those who seek redemption from economic, political and ultimately spiritual destitution (Luke 4:18). It cannot serve both ends.

The Palestinian – South African Interface Today

The similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israeli discrimination against Palestinians is widely debated and need not be dealt with here.[ii] Suffice it to say, the connections are difficult to ignore. John Dugard, in 2001, as Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Commission, provided what is probably the most comprehensive study on the situation concerning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.  Later, in his report to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in 2011, he charged that there are human rights abuses in Palestine threatening international peace which many in the West would like to see swept under the carpet.[iii]


Palestinians have fought hard for their freedom, with two burdens that are more difficult to carry than those faced by South Africans. This makes the building of global solidarity and international church cohesion in support of Palestine a priority for the ecumenical church, with the South African struggle in the 1980s providing an example of the kind of solidarity and theological commitment that is both needed and possible in maximizing opposition to unjust rule.

This said, the international church, as well as the church in Palestine and South Africa, needs explicitly to heed the failure of post apartheid South Africa to give sufficient attention to matters of major ethical and theological importance. Two critiques are pertinent in this regard: the failure of post-apartheid South Africa state to embrace the kind of economic transformation that is required to enable the victims of apartheid to liberate themselves from poverty; and its failure to give sufficient attention to the gender discrimination that was prevalent in both apartheid South Africa and, with some notable exceptions, in the liberation movements.

South Africa today, twenty years after the first democratic elections, faces a Gini coefficient above 63 which makes it one of the most unequal places on earth, with an income gap between the rich and the poor bigger than in Brazil or India. Ten percent of the country earns more than 50 percent of household income and the poorest 20 percent less than 1.5 percent of household income. This, together with corruption, government non-delivery and nationwide protests, is at the root of the country’s deepest crisis since its democratic transition in 1994.

There is at the same time documented evidence that women continue to be among the most exploited and impoverished of all South Africans. President Mandela was quick to recognise the need to address the structural and cultural obstacles to realising gender equality in South Africa. In a speech on Women’s Day in 1996 he observed:

The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.

Despite the commitment of South Africa to gender equality, progress has been slow in addressing the profound inequalities in South African society




Towards a Prophetic Theology

The influence of Israel on the West’s global and Middle East policy is vast. The fact that the global church is at best restrained in confronting Western governments who choose to support the status quo in Israel, however, raises deep theological questions which the institutional church in the West is obliged to address. This essentially involves the question whether the church is prepared to confront the sense of Constantinian captivity to the state that is challenged by the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith – and, from a perspective African spirituality, the primary ancestor of the Christian community.


The 1985 Kairos Document has over the years  raised  several questions concerning aspects of the South African armed struggle, the legitimacy of violence, the relationship between justice and reconciliation, and the link between prophetic and pastoral theology – issues that are likely to debated for a long time to come.  It is at the same time important to note that the 2012 message addressed to the ANC by the Kairos Southern Africa movement, entitled Theological and Ethical Reflections on the 2012 Centenary Celebrations of the African National Congress offers a very different theology of church-state relations to that of the 1985 Document.  Although written in a decidedly different context to that which prevailed in the struggle against apartheid, the 2012 document is nevertheless too cautious and restrained in relation to the challenges that prevail in the country today.  As such it should not be left unchallenged by those who seek to be obedient to a gospel first proclaimed in first century Palestine.


The defining challenge of Kairos theology is to enquire whether by default, if not design, the church is sustaining an alliance between the church and a state that perpetuates the suffering of the poor and oppressed or whether it is providing a voice for those who seek redemption from economic, political and ultimately spiritual destitution. It cannot serve both ends.

An Interfaith Excursus

A long neglected dimension of prophetic theology is the need for interfaith dialogue and recent developments in the Middle East stress the need for people of different religions and factions within religions to find ways of mutual coexistence. The deep divisions within Islam, the presence of Egyptian-based Copts as well as small Jewish communities in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, all contribute to the religious heterogeneity of the region. Many of the existing national borders were ‘artificially imposed’ over a number of centuries, dividing ancient tribal, cultural and religious groups. The controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 gave Britain and France control over the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian Peninsula. The first and second Balfour Declarations of 1917 and 1926 saw an escalation in the number of Zionist immigrants into Palestine and the state of Israel was established in 1948. This resulted in an increase of displaced people both within and beyond the borders of Palestine. Each of these developments has contributed to the emergence of religious-based ideologies and nationalisms that impact the region.

Mark Braverman, a devout Jewish American, who believes that working for justice in Palestine is the most import Jewish thing he can do, has contributed significantly to transcending the Jewish-Christian divide in the Palestinian conflict, as portrayed in his recent book, A Wall in Jerusalem.[iv] Together with organisations such as the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council and other Jews in America and elsewhere in the world, he draws on the Jewish theological tradition to support the Palestinian struggle for justice. He powerfully identifies the ‘Jewishness of Jesus’, and in so doing the authentic genius of Judaism. Reminding us that the early church was born in a struggle to define the authenticity of God’s will in the broken world of first century Palestine, Braverman insists that the Christian church is required to discern the will of God in Palestine, “guided by a vision of an alternative society in building God’s kingdom”. This, he argues, needs to be accomplished in response to what he defines as the tyranny of Israeli-American politics in the Middle East.

Of equal importance to Christian-Jewish relations are, of course, Christian-Muslim and Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations in Israel-Palestine and the Middle East, which clearly need to ensure that inter-faith debate reaches beyond doctrinal differences and similarities to deal with the political conflicts that are underpinned by religious ideologies.

These are dialogues that are, of course, portrayed nowhere more powerfully than in the city of Jerusalem. For Jews, Jerusalem is the city of King David and the location of the Jewish Temple, containing the Ark of the Covenant. For Christians, it is where Christ died, was buried and rose again, as well as being the birthplace of the Church.  For Muslims, it is holy because they believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Jerusalem’s Temple Mount during his Night Journey.

It is too much to expect that Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy City will result in historic reconciliation between Muslims and Christians or bridge the vicious gap between Israelis and Palestinians. His visit will however create the opportunity to highlight the plight of Palestinians as well as the plight of oppressed Christians in some Arab states. It is the obligation of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land as well as in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, to ensure that the Pope is exposed to the suffering of the victims of abuse in their respective areas. Handled with integrity and sensitivity by all religious groups (Christians, Muslims and Jews in all their different sectarian forms) as well as Israeli and Palestinian political groups (in their different ideological guises), the papal visit can contribute to a new phase in the struggle to resolve the entrenched problem facing Israelis and Palestinians. During this visit the media will track every footstep the pope takes.

I had a theology professor who liked to tell his students that there are three areas of conflict in the world to which there was no human solution: South Africa, Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine.  Looking back, I would like to say to my honourable professor, “Well Sir, two down, one to go.” The question is how the Israeli-Palestine conflict will be resolved and whether the Palestinian people will be released from a captivity that prevents them from creating a future anticipated in the message of Jesus to the Palestinian people under Roman occupation at the time. The role of the church in this regard waits to be resolved as the struggle continues between a church in captivity to the dominant powers of our time and an alternative church that seeks to be obedient to one who resisted the occupation of first century Palestine, by choosing to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed.




& An edited edition of this essay appeared in The Link Magazine, Vol.42, No.2, April /May 2014.

* Emeritus Professor of Religion and Society at the University of Cape Town, Visiting Professor in the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University in Washington DC in the Fall Semester, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.



[i] The publication of fourteen declarations by the churches in South Africa concerning apartheid and related matters are accessible in Charles Villa-Vicencio, Between Christ an Caesar: Classic and Contemporary Texts on Church and State (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.)


[ii] See, inter alia, Ben White, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, (New York: Pluto Press, 2009); Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley. Seeking Mandela: Peacemaking Between Israelis and Palestinians, (Philadelphia: Templeton University Press, 2009).


[iii]Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Cape Town Session. 7 November 2011. Available at

[iv]Braverman, Mark. A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine. New York: Jericho Books, 2013.


Who has this much guts? How much do I have?

Originally posted on marthiemombergblog:

Imagine being a Palestinian Israeli and having to join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to oppress, intimidate and attack Palestinians in the occupied territories?

Israeli strikes in Gaza destroy office of Hamas premier.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmedia_29ebc6919dd74f69ad4b1c1ff51d929e_t607

Palestinian Israelis are Arabs who are largely Sunni Muslims, with smaller numbers of Christians and members of the Druze community.They do not enjoy the same benefits as Jewish Israeli citizens, but the Druze group is the only non-Jewish group that must enlist in the Israeli Defense Force.

Maisan Hamdan, the coordinator of the Druze campaign against military service, said:

“Refusing the imposed military service is one of the components of our Palestinian identity. Our campaign is not affiliated with any political party nor religion. We call all the national powers to unite and coordinate in a joint effort to end the mandatory military service imposed on the Palestinian Arab Druze youth.

druze community

Omar Sa’ad is one such refuser, and he has just been incarcerated for a seventh…

View original 737 more words


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