Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We write you in hopes of changing the tone and even content of the debate over how peace can be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians. If this General Assembly deepens the divisions created by the last three Assemblies, we will not have served God well, nor will we have advanced the cause of peace. We must find a better way.
We believe that the reconciling message of Jesus Christ is a far more powerful tool in the pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians than boycotts and divestment. How can we put it to work in getting the two peoples together at peace talks? In the New Testament, we read how Jesus and Paul sought to humanize, not demonize “the other.” The divisions between Gentile and Jew in the first century were as extreme as the divisions between Palestinians and Israelis in the twenty-first century. Might we not learn something from Jesus and Paul?
Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not divest of our relationships with them. Paul refused to accept the fact that Jews and Gentiles would be forever pitted against one another. In his gorgeous third chapter of Galatians, he reminds us that we are neither Jew nor Gentile, for we are all one in God’s eyes. Can we not find peacemaking strategies that bring people together rather than push people further into the trenches they have built to protect themselves?
Both sides in this debate are motivated by their faith. We confess that our organization has not always been explicit enough about the reasons our faith moves us to challenge boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Our opposition to these strategies is rooted in our understanding of the lives and ministries of Jesus of Nazareth, Paul, Dr. King, and other people who used faith to overcome seemingly insurmountable conflicts.
These theological commitments and others like them lead us to pray that the upcoming General Assembly can be a time of reflection on how the PCUSA might bring our theological beliefs to the peacemaking process in the Middle East and make a genuine difference.
May God be with us all in the weeks ahead.
Yours in Christ,
John Wimberly and Bill Harter
Co-Moderators, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace