Documents and statements of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK)

  • Conversion of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque

    Statement of the Executive of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK) of the EKD

    The Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK) criticises President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s order to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque as a backward-looking step that does great harm to Christian-Islamic relations worldwide. 

    Originally built in the 4th century, Hagia Sophia still retains its 6th century appearance. Until 1453 it was regarded as the most important church in the whole Orthodox world. With its conversion into a mosque in 1453 by Mehmet Fatih, the Ottoman conqueror of Istanbul, it took on significance for the Islamic world as well. In 1934, Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, thereby standing up for the modern political view of separation of religion and state. Since then, Hagia Sophia, which is part of UNESCO cultural heritage, has symbolised the peaceful coexistence of religions. Reflecting the geographical situation of Istanbul, it has formed a bridge between East and West.

    The present, politically motivated decision to turn the museum into a mosque is an expression of intolerance towards Christianity and its adherents. EMOK endorses the criticism of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), which calls the decision a “violation of religious freedom and coexistence”. It regrets that, with its conversion into a mosque, Hagia Sophia now symbolises controversy and confrontation instead of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.  EMOK reaffirms the hope of Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, that this decision will be reversed.

    It shares the pain of its Christian sisters and brothers in the Orthodox world, who feel deeply offended by this step. At the same time, EMOK is concerned about the repercussions of this act of instrumentalising religion by politics, which has already cast a cloud on Christian-Islamic relations. The few Orthodox Christians remaining in Turkey, in particular, regard Erdogan’s actions with great concern. 

    EMOK appeals to the democratically minded Turkish civil society and those active in interfaith dialogue to contribute to moderation in interreligious relations and to promote the protection of religious and ethnic minorities.


    Executive of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK);
    July 17th, 2020


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    https://www.ekd.de/en/documents-and-statements-of-the-emok-1227.htm
     

    Cover Conversion of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque

    Conversion of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque

  • Statement of EMOK on the Annexation Plans of the Israeli Government

    1. The Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK) of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) set out its policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict in 2009 in a paper entitled “Israel-Palestine” that was reissued unchanged in 2017. It is still committed to the principles of that policy paper:

    • The recognition of the bonds between the Church and Judaism that was gained in theological reflection in the Jewish-Christian context also includes present-day Israel.
    • The awareness of ecumenical fellowship leads to solidarity with the Christian churches in Israel and Palestine.
    • Following Christ, the church raises its voice for peace and justice. It defends respect for human rights and international law.
       

    2. On the basis of this double commitment EMOK has taken a position on the political situation in the Holy Land on several occasions. Out of concern for peace and the well-being of the people living in Israel and Palestine we express criticism of the current plans of the Israeli government, also included in the coalition treaty, to annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Such an annexation would violate international law.

    By contrast with what the United States government calls its Peace Plan, which argues for annexing large parts of the Palestinian West Bank, we are still guided by the following criterion of our policy paper:

    “Only law and justice can be the foundation of a peace that enables both peoples to live in freedom and security. A peaceful solution can only work successfully if it is based on respect for applicable human rights and international law standards.”

    With the present statement we reaffirm the internationally recognized perspective of a two-state solution. The majority of European Union (EU) member states, too, recently reiterated their call for the two-state solution, including the German federal government. It is up to the Israeli and Palestinian sides to negotiate what form it would take. The implementation of this goal already seems at risk today and the annexation of large parts of the West Bank by the State of Israel would possibly render it ultimately impossible. EMOK fears that an annexation would provide arguments for extreme positions in Israel and Palestine and lead to violence flaring up again in Israel and Palestine. EMOK asks what legal status Palestinians living in the territory planned for annexation would have in the event of the annexation going ahead.

    3. For this reason, we call upon

    • the Israeli government to suspend the annexation plans it has agreed,
    • the Palestinian leadership to end internal disagreements and to speak with one voice when opposing the annexation plans of the Israeli government,
    • Israeli and Palestinian civil society to speak out against the annexation and advocate for negotiations,
    • those with political responsibility in Israel and Palestine to resume negotiations to resolve the conflict,
    • the German federal government, along with the EU and its member states, to consistently advocate against the unilateral annexation of parts of the Palestinian West Bank by the Israeli government and to maintain their support for the peace process,
    • the German federal government, in the context of its upcoming Council presidency, to promote a central mediator role of the European Union and to continue to work for a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict on the basis of international humanitarian law.
       

    4. With this statement we are aligned with our ecumenical partners such as the World Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches and, not least, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches recognized in the Holy Land. This call comes with the hope that, through it, people in our context will hear the voices of the people in the Holy Land and that it will send them a message of support and hope for a just peace in Israel and Palestine. The Evangelical Church in Germany will continue to support programmes and initiatives working for encounter, reconciliation and a just peace in Israel and Palestine.

    May 28th, 2020

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    Statement of EMOK on the Annexation Plans of the Israeli Government

  • EMOK - On the Situation in Syria

    Policy Position of the
    Executive of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK) of the EKD

    The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and protect you from evil.
    2 Thessalonians 3.3

    The Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK) met in Berlin at the end of September 2018.   

    Several of the church-related institutions represented within EMOK have long maintained partnerships with churches and parishes in Syria.

    Haroutune Selimian, Armenian Protestant pastor in Aleppo, reported to the plenary session of EMOK on the heartening involvement that the Christian community in the region undertakes, strengthened through their faith, and supported by their fellow believers in Europe.

    The communities in Syria belong amongst the oldest Christian churches ever, and therefore to the living spiritual and cultural roots of Christianity.

    We encourage our member churches to support the work of our sisters and brothers in Syria through prayer, humanitarian help, and the furtherance of reconstruction projects.

    Humanitarian help is directed towards those in need, regardless of denominational or religious affiliation, and thereby has the potential to build bridges between communities.

    Where such help is adequately and sustainably implemented, an additional contribution is achieved, in that people can plan for a future in their homeland, and not flee.

    However, we also see that this future can only be guaranteed within a framework where the coexistence and cooperation of a multiplicity of different religious and ethnic groups are enabled politically, and legal security guaranteed.

    In the face of disparate power relationships and conflicting interests of numerous groups in the country and political actors from outside, the so-called minorities often tend to support authoritarian rulers, who safeguard their existence.

    We encourage our sisters and brothers in Syria to promote long-term interdenominational and interfaith sensitisation about political conditions under which democratic principles and standards as well as religious freedom as human rights are guaranteed. We are aware that the scope for this is narrow under the current situation.

    We view political and in a worst case scenario military action from Syrian and external actors only as legitimate when these serve to establish security for all religious and ethnic groups in the land, and to guarantee this in the long term.

    We welcome the fact that in the face of the dangerous situation in the Idlib region a political compromise which protects human lives has been found, through the model of a buffer zone, even when the sustainability of this solution is tenuous.

    We call upon all states and forces working on the political and civil society future of Syria, to be committed to standards which respect the state’s monopoly on the use of force, to accept civil society engagement including from a religious perspective, and to develop a system which guarantees the equality of status and political participation of all ethnic and religious communities.

    With trust in God, who strengthens and who can shield us from evil, we view this situation as a call to all Christians in Germany, in Syria and worldwide, as well as to all political and humanitarian forces involved, to use all their opportunities to protect the lives of people in Syria now; to promote means for a safe return of refugees and to jointly develop political and social structures for a plural society.    

    Executive of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK);
    November 6, 2018

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    https://www.ekd.de/en/documents-and-statements-of-the-emok-1227.htm

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    On the Situation in Syria

    Policy Position of the
    Executive of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK) of the EKD

  • EMOK by the side of Christians in the Middle East

    Oriental Christians have moved closer to us. The dramatic events following the so-called Arab Spring in many states of the Middle East turned the world’s attention to this region. It was with dismay that, since the year 2014, the German public began to learn about the fate of minorities such as Christians and Yazidis who are especially threatened by persecution.

    With the refugees from the Middle East, many oriental Christians are currently coming to Germany, too. Some member churches of the EKD have already been maintaining good ecumenical relations with Christians in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Israel and the Palestinian regions for many years. However, it is not until now that a broader conscience for oriental Christianity is developing in its home countries as well as for the oriental Christian congregations that have already existed in Germany for many years.

    The Evangelical Middle East Commission (Evangelische Mittelost-Kommission - EMOK) is thankful for the ecumenic solidarity with its oriental sisters and brothers. It explicitly stands up for the cooperation with Middle Eastern partners as well as for the continuation and growth of the churches in the Middle East. With the explanation “EMOK by the side of Christians in the Middle East”, it correspondingly encourages Regional Churches and congregations to strengthen the ecumenical conscience for Christianity in the Middle East and its abundant traditions, to intensify the living dialogue with oriental Christians in Germany and to lend concrete support.

    I. The Middle East – Origin of Christianity

    The Middle East is Christianity’s land of origin. It is in Galilee and Jerusalem that the story of Jesus began. The Holy Family’s stay in Egypt plays an important role in the religious life of the Copts, the Christians of Egypt. They understand it as their historical heritage. In Damascus, the visitor can find the Straight Street where, according to the biblical report, Saul (Paul) regained his eyesight. Syrian Christians proudly point out that Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still to be heard in their churches until this day. In Niniveh, the modern
    Mossul, Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the tomb of the prophet Jonah. The territory of present-day Iraq is repeatedly mentioned in biblical narratives of the Old and the New Testament. It is in present-day Syria and Iraq that Christianity came to first bloom in late antiquity. It is here and in Egypt that monkhood and a rich liturgical tradition developed.

    For almost two thousand years, oriental Christians conserved their faith and passed it on from one generation to the next. The region remained predominantly Christian up to the expansion of Islam and the erection of an Islamic reign in the Middle East from the 7th century on into the 10th century. Up to this day, the important and still contested monasteries Mor Gabriel and Mar Mattai as well as a large number of churches of great importance for the religious life and self-conception of oriental Christians speak of this fact.

    One feature of the big cities in the Middle East was their division into own districts for Jews, Christians and Muslims as well as for other religious and ethnic groups and communities. The cohabitation of diverse religious and ethnic respectively national groups was part of everyday experience in the region for centuries.

    However, persecutions and oppressions were also part of the historical experience of Christians. At times, they emanated from the Muslim but also from Christian rulers from the west, e. g. during the crusades. Therefore, the acceptance of suffering and ordeal played a big role within the self-conception of Middle Eastern Christians.

    For almost two centuries, the high emigration rate of Christians has also been endangering the Christian presence in the Middle East. The percentage proportion of Christians is constantly decreasing in the region, also due to demographic reasons. However, never in its history has Middle Eastern Christianity been as seriously threatened in is existence as today.

    II. Christians in the Middle East – threatened in their existence

    The situation of Christians in Syria and Iraq is especially dramatic. As a result of the Iraq war (2003) and the Syrian civil war (2011 until today), the Islamist terror group “Islamic State” developed, systematically and cruelly persecuting Christians. They are threatened, kidnapped, driven away or forced to convert, their churches are set on fire and their belongings stolen. Therefore, many perceive emigration from their home country as the only way out. The number of Christians living in Iraq is continuously decreasing. Exact statistic facts are not available on this topic, there are, however, estimations stating that the number of Iraqi Christians has dropped from 1.2 million to between 200,000 and 300,000 within the last ten years. The situation in Syria, which has been destroyed to a great extent by civil war, is also a catastrophe. Here, Christians are exposed to the same persecutions by the “Islamic State” and their places and villages are destroyed.

    Even in Lebanon, once designed by France as a pluralistic Christian state, Christians have become a minority meanwhile. The political system of the Christian-Islamic balance no longer represents demographic reality. However, it mustn’t be adapted for fear of the outbreak of a disastrous civil war as in the years 1975-1990.

    The religious, cultural and ethnic diversity that characterized the Middle East for centuries is threatening to disappear irrevocably today. This development has currently aggravated drastically due to the increasing religious and ethnic fundamentalisms in the region. The minorities as well as the liberal, democratic and secular social forces are the victims. The sophistication, variety and coexistence of an entire culture is being damaged.

    Christian churches and congregations also exist in Israel and Palestine, in Jordan and in Egypt. In different ways and to different degrees, the Christians there are also affected by tensions and political conflicts. However, they are not threatened in their existence in the same way. Nevertheless, the tensions in their own countries and the situation in the neighboring Arabic countries deeply alarm the Christian minorities in the named states and cause many of them to emigrate.

    It is only now, at a time when the Middle Eastern Christianity is threatened by destruction, that this is perceived by a wider church and social public. It is with consternation that we recognize: The ecumenical awareness of Western Christians for worldwide Christianity and especially for their oriental brothers and sisters has been too weak.

    III. Appeal for an ecumenical learning process

    It is, however, not too late to learn more about the oriental churches, their diverse church families and confessions, their history and liturgy, their self-conception and their significance for church history as well as their significance for their cultures and societies. Christians have often played and still play an active role in their societies. In practically all Middle Eastern states, the churches considerably contribute to education by founding schools, universities and educational institutions. They are present in their societies with diaconal and medical aid.

    The conception of Middle Eastern Christians of their own social role as well as their attitude towards cohabitation with Muslims is sometimes difficult to understand for European Christians. The different social and political context requires different views, which should be exchanged and heard.

    Not least, for the past two years, we have also increasingly been encountering Christians from the Middle East on our end among those who have fled from their homes. It is only due to them that some Evangelic Christians have become aware of the Middle Eastern churches and congregations in existence in Germany for many years. They are looking for contact, want to learn and find out more. In the encounter with Christians from the Middle East, they are meeting people characterized by a rich history, who also carry this strong awareness
    into their new surroundings.

    Neither the situation in the Middle East nor that of the Christian refugees here, however, can be understood if we do not deal with their history and their current present intensively. Part of this is also their situation as hassled and persecuted Christians. They should not be kept secret out of consideration for the interreligious relations in this country. Middle Eastern Christians and churches would again feel abandoned and ignored by their Western sisters and brothers. However, the situation of the Middle Eastern Christians should not be instrumentalized for political interests either. The EMOK wishes to encourage meeting Christians from the Middle East with open eyes and ears and taking their experience seriously.

    This includes, for example, the frightening experience that conflicts in the Middle East partly even stretch out into the refugee homes. In these places which are supposed to offer shelter and protection there are to be no violations of Christians and other minorities. Interreligious learning also has to confront such experiences and is being challenged by the Middle Eastern refugees in an entirely new manner.

    Numerous congregations and pastors are receiving requests for baptisms, especially from Iranian and Afghan refugees, now and again also from refugees from other Middle Eastern countries of origin and are caring for the enquirers intensively and with great attention. The EMOK wishes to encourage seeking the cooperation with oriental churches and congregations on site in the case of requests for baptism. This is also a sign of mutual appreciation and ecumenical solidarity and can contribute to a new ecumenical togetherness.

    With this in mind, the Evangelical Middle East Commission (Evangelische Mittelost Kommission - EMOK) is appealing to its members for a double ecumenical learning process. On the one hand, it is directed towards the situation of Christians and churches in the Middle East and, on the other hand, it is directed towards the diverse diaspora in Germany. On both counts, the matter is for the Evangelical Church in Germany to stand by the sides of their Middle Eastern sisters and brothers in a decided and noticeable way.

    Adopted by the General Assembly of the EMOK on 06.10.2016
    The Council of the EKD took note of this paper consensually on 24.02.2017 and approved its publication by the EMOK.

    EMOK by the side of Christians in the Middle East

  • Israel - Palestine - A definition of stance on Israel and Palestine by the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK)

    Preface

    “It is a little miracle that this paper has been achieved”, that is what is says in the preface of the first edition of this handout. Seven years later, this sentence can be affirmed and complemented once more. In October 2016, all the members of the General Assembly of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (Evangelische Mittelost-Kommission - EMOK) declared that they were still unwavering on the baselines of this positioning. For this reason, and also because this paper is out of stock by now, it is now being published again in a second unchanged edition.

    As a starting point, this paper describes the diverse, often historically-shaped relations that have developed between Evangelic Christians in Germany and people in Israel and Palestine. Precisely due to this, these relations should also be deepened and strengthened as the social climate on both sides has aggravated and hardened. The paper mentions various possibilities as to how and on which levels this can and should take place.

    The EMOK explicitly confirms and adheres to the basic statements of its positioning from the year 2009 and affirms its goal of a peaceful existence of both peoples on the basis of a just peace. The design of a peace solution is to be put into concrete terms between both sides by means of negotiations. The EMOK currently affirms the internationally recognized perspective of a two-state solution although its members do not close their eyes to the fact that the foundation of a Palestinian state after fifty years of occupation, continued housing development and confiscation of land seems to be less and less realistic. It is with concern that the EMOK members observe that violence on both sides is continued, dialogues are rejected and those who wish to maintain contact to the respectively other side are coming under increasing pressure. Also, both sides are increasingly obstructing the work of initiatives advocating for human rights, reconciliation and overcoming violence. It is precisely for this reason that it is now more important than ever to strengthen civic forces.

    For the purpose of self-commitment and an appeal, the EMOK members affirm afresh that criticism is to be pronounced in a fair manner, violations of human rights on both sides are to be named and the perspective of the respectively other side is to be observed and respected, as difficult as this might be at times.

    With this in mind, this declaration, which is appearing in its second edition, wishes to give orientation to congregations, groups and institutions of the Evangelical Church, to challenge discussion but especially to encourage everyone to stay connected with the people in Israel and Palestine and to continue to stand up for a peaceful future.

    I am very glad that the Council of the EKD has approvingly taken note of the publication of this position paper in its second edition as a continuously valid working basis of the EMOK.

    Berlin, in April 2017

    Dr. Dr. h.c. Markus Dröge Regional Bishop
    Chairman of the Evangelical Middle East Commission

    Preface to the 1st edition 1.1.

    It is something of a miracle that this paper has come to be. It is a jointly produced policy paper with which essentially all members of EMOK have agreed.

    The EMOK is the Evangelical Middle East Commission of the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany). It comprises all Protestant groups and institutions that are concerned with the Christian-Jewish or Islamic- Christian dialogue, and who are actively involved in the Middle East either on the Jewish-Israeli or the Arabic- Palestinian side (see the list of members on the last page of this paper).

    The fact that such a Commission even exists in Germany has been admired by observers in the Middle East.

    As EKD Council appointed member and subsequent EMOK Assembly voted Head of the Commission, I am truly thankful and grateful that we have been able to complete this paper. Our meetings and discussions were characterized by openness and the willingness to listen to each other as brothers and sisters in faith. However, with such a variety of contributors it has never been self-evident that we would be able to agree upon a common policy paper as we have it right now. Please keep this in mind when reading the following pages.

    This paper does not cover the situation of Christians in the Middle East. It will be our next project to concentrate on this issue.

    Hence, what we have is a policy paper that offers a comprehensive Protestant perspective of the political situation in the Middle East. It will hopefully give orientation and inspire controversial discussions; maybe it will even bring about open contradiction. I am very grateful that the EKD Council agreed to take this paper into consideration and consented to publish it. I would like to thank all members if the EMOK Executive Committee who spent considerable time with this paper; special thanks to Pastor Hanna Lehming, NMZ, and Pastor Andreas Maurer, EMS, as well as to the EMOK secretaries OKR Jens Nieper, EKD, and Owe Boersma, EMW.

    May this paper encourage us all to put our efforts into supporting the peace process in the Middle East, so that one day Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim people can live there in peace, safety and justice. May God bless this process.

    Munich, during the Decade of Peace, 2009
    Bishop Johannes Friedrich, Ph.D.

    Introduction

    Together, Israel and Palestine form a region which is very important to Christians in Germany and which has been a constant source of interest for decades.

    On one hand, this interest is inspired by the special solidarity that Christians in Germany feel towards the Jewish people in the State of Israel, Judaism, and the holy land as the location of biblical history. At the same time, many Christians feel concern for the situation of the Palestinian people who through turn of fate have now been involved in a dramatic conflict with Jewish settlers and with the State of Israel for more than a century. Many church institutions, groups and individuals have for a long time engaged in ecumenical work with Palestinian Christians. Palestinians also participate in the Christian-Muslim dialogue process.

    The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has maintained relations with people and institutions at many different levels both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Through these contacts, many church congregations have been able to widen their horizons and enrich their lives. There is also a constant desire to travel to the holy land and to get to know Israel and the Palestinian territories. On a personal level, many friendships have been established between people.

    However, the church with its institutions and individual Christians alike again and again find themselves in a difficult position as a result of the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian people:

    1. Firstly, they find themselves in a conflict of loyalty: As German Christians, they have a special connection to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people; As Christians in general they feel a closeness to the land of Israel and to Judaism. The State of Israel is affirmed without doubt. At the same time, however, through the history of Christian missions and in the spirit of Ecumenical Christianity they also feel close to the Palestinian Christians. As representatives of Ecumenical Christians worldwide they see that the Palestinian people suffer injustice and feel an obligation to advocate justice.
       
    2. After the disastrous experience of German-Jewish history during the Nazi regime, Protestant Christians watched how the State of Israel was founded and sympathetically followed the Jewish people's fight to live and to survive in their young state. Therefore, they are deeply concerned both with the perceived and with the real circumstances of the existence of the Jewish people. They advocate the right of the Jewish people to be able to live under their own ruling and in safety.

    Current developments and events, however, constantly put pressure on the EKD to take a position or at least express a reaction. The following are given as examples:

    • The ongoing politics of the Israeli occupation
       
    • Violence through terror and attacks
       
    • The activities of so-called “Christian Zionists”
       
    • The emigration of Christians from the region
       
    • The numerous military conflicts between Israel and its Arabic neighbor countries
       
    • The continual denial of Israel's right to exist expressed by country leaders, political groups, and individuals

    The EMOK, therefore, publishes its views in order to help clarify some of the key points in the EKD's relationship, on one side, with Israel and on the other, with Palestine.


    In this context, it is important to consider the asymmetry between the Christian relationship with Israel and the relationship with Palestine:

    • Through their history and faith, Christians in Germany have a special connection with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The theological implications and the German-Jewish as well as Christian-Jewish history make this relationship one of its own kind, incomparable with any relationship to other peoples or nations.
       
    • Therefore, such views about the relationship of Protestant Christians in Germany with the State of Israel are already expressed in a number of church documents. Above all, we would like to mention the studies “Christians and the Jewish”, parts I-III, by the EKD.
       
    • The relationship of Christians in Germany to the Palestinian people touches ethical-theological questions within the area of Christian ecumenism.
       

    1. Israel

    1.1 What meanings do Protestant Christians, especially those in Germany, associate with the term “Israel”?

    The term elicits different associations: the Jewish people, the land of Israel, the State of Israel. Although all these terms belong together we also need to distinguish between them.

    1.1.1 The Origin of the Christian Faith

    The name of “Israel” resonates in ears and heart of every Christian because of biblical tradition. When reading the Old and the New Testaments, historic places in Israel and the places where Jesus is told to have walked and lived gain new significance. This spiritual significance of the land and the city of Jerusalem has rightfully grown in Christian piety and theology. It opens to us a new perspective of hope but, at the same time, allows us to maintain a certain distance to current events. Nevertheless, the real, physical Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the places of biblical history are also of great significance to Christians.

    1.1.2 A self-determined Judaism as the pre-requisite for meaningful talks

    We as Christians are also connected to the Israel of today as the homeland of the Jews. Christian faith goes back to Judaism. This reference has had negative connotations for 2000 years. Jews were often no more than a tolerated minority who were decried, forced to convert, persecuted and murdered. In the State of Israel, Jews have the opportunity to live self determined and in political independence – an essential pre-requisite for genuine dialogue. This understanding could be a chance both for Christians and their theology, and could inspire the development of real possibilities for talks.

    1.1.3 The Foundation of the State of Israel – the hermeneutic Challenge of Christian theology

    The growing spiritual meaning of the land of Israel in Christianity as in Judaism (Erez Israel) was an obvious development because Israel had not existed as a State in its own right for more than 2000 Years, and the Jewish people – except for a few small groups – lived in Diaspora. Christianity not least founded its triumph as a religion at the end of the ancient state of Israel (in the years 70 and 135 A.D.) The foundation of the modern State of Israel has since then posed a significant hermeneutic challenge to Christian theology.

    Many Christian theologians are hence motivated to grasp a new the relationship to Judaism under its freedom and independence - a long-standing challenge to see our Jewish counterparts as self-determined subjects while at the same time, an opportunity for Christian theology.

    1.1.4 Israel – Modern State and refuge for Jews in the entire world

    “Israel” is more than the land of the bible. Israel is a democratic and, by its own understanding, a secular state in the Middle East that came about through the Zionist longing of the Jews. This was a national movement for freedom that arose from nationalism and anti-Semitism in Europe. As Germans, our history is interwoven with the history of the Jewish State. If Christians are to be faithful to the fifth commandment – and not ignore it as they have done in history – it is a requirement of faith to support Israel in its struggle for the right of existence amongst all peoples.

    Christian solidarity with Israel not only shows itself in extreme cases but also in the general solidarity towards all aspects of Jewish life in the State of Israel.

    To Christians, the self-determination right of the Jewish people in their own state is as non-negotiable as the self-determination right of peoples of other nations.

    1.1.5 Beyond the Christian-Jewish dialogue

    Although the relationship of the church to Israel has partly been initiated by the Christian-Jewish dialogue, it’s not limited to the dialogue of religions. It also includes the rapport Christians in Germany have to the secular reality of life in Israel. Israel is more to us than just the home country of the Judaic religion and not only is it important because it is at the center of the conflict in the Middle East; the State of Israel has been the chosen institution for the Jewish people to exercise their right to self-determination and to a national identity. Because this is important to all Jewish people around the world, it is also important to Christians.

    1.2. Conclusion

    The relationship of the Evangelical Church in Germany to the State of Israel, as previously described, should be one that is based on friendship and partnership.

    1.3 How can this relationship take shape?

    This relationship can take shape through the following:

    • Regular contact and the fostering of relationships between the EKD and the Israeli Chief rabbinate
       
    • Regular contact and meetings of church leaders and representatives of the State of Israel
       
    • Encouraging exchanges between Protestant Christians from Germany and people and organisations in Israel
       
    • Encouraging youth movements
       
    • Promoting programs such as “Study in Israel” and “Action Reconciliation Service for Peace” („Aktion Sühnezeichen/Friedensdienste“)
       
    • Encouraging the growth of knowledge about Judaism and the State of Israel within the EKD
       
    • Collaboration of Christian development projects with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Israel - especially with those working towards equal rights for all people living in Israel - in order to strengthen civil society.
       
    • Regular contact and relationships with Christian and Jewish partners in Israel
       

    2. Palestine

    2.1 What do we actually mean by “Palestine”?

    The term “Palestine” is ambiguous: From a historical perspective, it can be referred to as a geographic or political entity (such as the British mandated territory). It is often also used synonymously in describing the Palestinian territories occupied since the war of 1967. In the following text, we are using the term primarily in the context of the future State of Palestine as part of a two-state solution that is being negotiated with Israel.

    2.1.1 Historically grown institutional partnerships

    Through their 150-year history of missionary, welfare and social work in Palestine, Protestant churches and church-related organizations are very well connected to the people there. As a result of this involvement many institutions were founded; not least, the Evangelical Church of Jordan and the Holy Land and numerous institutions such as the school Talitha Kumi or the work with people with special needs on Sternberg. The church in Germany and its institutions maintain close contact with the (Anglican) Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

    2.1.2 Ecumenical solidarity

    Local churches can make an important contribution towards a peaceful future in the Middle East. They are, therefore, important partners in the cooperation of church-based development. Additionally, the Church Development Service (EED) and “Bred for the World” work together with several Palestinian non- governmental organizations. As a result of these relationships, of ecumenical solidarity among Christians of all denominations and of structural solidarity among members of the World Council of Churches, Protestant Christians in Germany are concerned with the situation of the Christians and thus the Palestinian community as a whole. Through its ecumenical relationships, the Protestant Church has learned from local churches in the Near and Middle East that the geographic, cultural and institutional connection to the early church and the life of Jesus is very important to these churches. We realize and accept that.

    2.1.3 Concerns about the emigration of Christians from Palestine

    Christians in Germany have for years watched the emigration of large numbers of Palestinian Christians with great concern. The presence of Christians in Palestine shows a continuity from the days of the early church until now. Through this tendency towards emigration the Christian Church as a whole and its institutions which serve the whole of the Palestinian people are jeopardized. The EMOK believes that Palestinian Christians do not emigrate out of their own free will but because of the difficult situation they face as a result of the political conflict.

    Reasons for emigration include the insecure political situation which consequently leads to a massive deterioration of the economy and therefore to a lack future perspectives. Because of their education level and strong cultural tie to the Western world, Christians often have more possibilities for emigration than other Palestinians.

    This development can only be stopped if people experience a real change towards a fair peace agreement in conjunction with the economic support of Christian churches, their institutions and projects. It would be tragic and fatal for Palestinian society and culture if Christians no longer lived there. The consequences of such a development are not foreseeable. Christianity would lose its living roots in its region of origin if local churches die.

    2.1.4 Joint engagement for a viable State of Palestine

    The Palestinian people have the right to their own state with fixed borders and national sovereignty.

    Protestant churches and organizations acknowledge this right and support the vision of a peaceful two-state solution. The State of Israel came into existence in 1948, based on international law applied in the U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine, and was recognized by the international community. The Arab side, however, rejected the partition plan. In the war of 1948 with its Arab neighbor countries, Israel conquered parts of the area that were initially assigned to the Palestinian people in the plan. This development caused a big refugee problem that still exists today. Gaza was occupied by Egypt, the West Bank by Jordan. During the Six-Day- War in June 1967 Gaza and the West Bank came under Israeli control. This marked the start of a military occupation that, for over 40 years, still continues.

    In order for the Palestinian society to unfold its full potential, there needs to be a credible Palestinian leadership who decidedly opposes violence and the violation of human rights, and creates law-abiding institutions. The EMOK regrets to observe how the effect of the ongoing Israeli occupation as well as corruption, terror and internal power struggles wear away the Palestinian people's trust in their own political institutions. Therefore, Protestant Christians, churches and organizations in Germany support their partners in dealing with violence and the preservation of human rights. At the same time, they encourage them in their efforts to oppose fundamentalist developments in the Palestinian society.

    2.1.5 Contextual challenges for theological learning

    Protestant churches in Germany discuss with their Palestinian partners their theologically founded special relationship with the Jewish people and their historical responsibility for the State of Israel. They also make an effort to share their theological learning processes about the Jewish-Christian dialogue (see chapter I). At the same time, the EMOK is aware of the fact that theology is always contextual, and that Christians in Palestine live in a different historical, but also political and social context from Christians in Germany. In discussing these topics with Palestinian theologians, German Christians may learn to differentiate between theological truth and contextual influences.

    2.2 Conclusion

    The previously described relationship between Protestant churches in Germany and churches and organizations in the Palestinian territories indicates the growth of ecumenical and partnership oriented relations. The EMOK advocates for equal rights for their Palestinian as well as Israeli partners. It supports people and organizations in both societies which strive to achieve a peaceful solution.

    2.3 How can this relationship take shape?

    This relationship can be built through the following:

    • Regular contact and meetings of leaders and collaboration in WCC initiatives such as the “Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum” (PIEF)
       
    • Facilitating exchange between Protestant Christians in Germany and people, churches and organizations in the Palestinian territories, for example, through pilgrimages or official visits
       
    • Promoting and facilitating of the “Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel” (EAPPI) and mentoring the Palestinian people and also Israeli and Palestinian peace workers
       
    • Church-related development work, and through supporting civil individuals and groups who advocate human rights, peaceful conflict resolution, and a pluralistic society
       
    • The advocacy for human rights and the fostering of compliance with international law in all relationships between Germany and both parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    The EMOK wants to encourage Palestinian Christians to stay in the Holy Land. It promises spiritual, moral and material support, and commits itself to maintain frequent contact with churches in Israel and the Palestinian territories. When asked, it will back Palestinian churches in legitimate causes during discussions with government institutions. Such causes could, for example, include the status of Christians in a Palestinian State, the status of women in the Palestinian society, the question of religious freedom and the safety of Christian facilities.

    3. Israel, Palestine and Germany

    3.1 The relationship between Israel and Palestine

    Our statements on Israel and Palestine show that in both cases we deal with complex relationships of strong emotional and religious intensity, especially for us in Germany. However, Israel and Palestine do not exist independently of each other but rather, are characterized by their interdependence. It may be helpful to regard them separately when defining our position towards each of them individually. But to consider them separate from each other is only of geographical interest and ultimately, it is more appropriate to regard them in relation to each other.

    3.2 No peace without law and justice

    Only law and justice can be the foundation for a peace agreement which enables both peoples to live in freedom and safety. A peaceful resolution can only work out when it is based on human rights and actual international law.

    With Israel and Palestine, two political and secular entities interact with each other, while only one of them – Israel – has the complete structure of a State. Such structures exist only partially on the Palestinian side. Because of the occupation and also internal conflicts the Palestinian institutions have a limited capacity to act. Palestine is in a quasi pre-state situation. In principle, Israel says it supports the foundation of a Palestinian State. As soon as this State comes into being, it will be necessary for both sides to recognize each other as equal states with equal rights under international law. Both parties should strengthen their connection and similarities beforehand.

    Consequently, all dealings of both sides with the other should be based on generally accepted international rules (human rights, international law). Religious claims that are in opposition to these rules cannot be accepted in international relations. The history of Palestinians as well as Israeli or Jewish people will be taken into account. Any violent solution, whether of a military or terrorist nature, should be avoided. We also want to clearly emphasize, that extreme measures such as expulsion, the deprivation of rights or the currently discussed idea of ethnic cleansing are under no circumstances accepted as viable solutions. In particular, violent attacks on civilians of both sides must end in order to establish trust and make reconciliation possible. Finally, there needs to be a just solution to the refugee problem.

    A diplomatic solution to the conflict, whether it should be the two-state model, a bi-national state, or a not- yet-considered alternative, is essentially a decision to be taken by the two parties in conflict. However, it seems necessary to mentor and support the process from the outside. Such mentorship and support seems to be welcome from both sides. What is apparent is that a long-term solution to the conflict must allow for a life of freedom, of security and of peace under fair conditions. Currently, a two-state solution is considered by the EKD to be the most effective possibility to reach this goal.

    The co-existence of Israel and Palestine as well as of Israeli and Palestinian people requires a continual intellectual confrontation with the challenges of both sides. Foreign supporters of one side, especially those from Germany, need to meet with supporters of the other side and get involved with their legitimate demands. It becomes clearer and clearer to us, that it is absolutely necessary for both sides to clarify how they define Israel and Palestine. Additionally, the declaration of objectives from both sides would provide for a constructive dialogue. This clarification is also expected from those who claim to be involved on both sides, which will help to build credibility and dependability.

    3.3 Possibilities and boundaries of criticism

    Both Israel and Palestine as states, and especially the people who live there, have the right to exist in the Middle East. This right of existence must not be questioned – neither by the conflict parties themselves nor by a third party. General comments of an anti-Semitic, a racist, or an anti-Islamic nature should be rejected and condemned.

    Under this premise, it is both possible and, indeed, necessary to voice criticism about political guidelines, measures and social grievances, both in regard to the State of Israel and to Palestinian society. Fair, constructive criticism based on the thorough examination of facts and motivated by the deep desire to improve the living conditions on both sides is necessary in a good partnership and friendship. Hence, criticism not only must be possible it should also be voiced if partners are to take their friendship seriously.

    A side note about Christian Zionism

    So-called “Christian Zionism” is a growing worldwide movement. Besides the Israeli occupation and terrorism, Palestinians fear that this movement may dramatically endanger the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Jewish people watch this movement with skepticism, too.

    “Christian Zionism” is based on the biblical tradition and concentrates on messages about the end times. Followers of this movement interpret biblical words eschatologically. However, the term “Christian Zionism” is misleading. The only connection to the secular Jewish emancipatory movement is that “Christian Zionism” also refers to the foundation and existence of the State of Israel. But “Christian Zionists” anticipate the destruction of the Jewish State and large parts of the Jewish people during the end times, and hope that the rest of them convert to Christian faith.

    Not everyone who strongly and unreservedly supports Israel or ascribes a religious significance to it is a “Christian Zionist”. “Christian Zionism” is characterized above all by its eschatological apocalyptic and hence anti-Jewish orientation.

    “Christian Zionism” has no single teaching; instead, there are several groups in the movement who follow different beliefs and have different expectations. However, what they mostly have in common is their vision of the world: They believe that God divided the world into a series of seven chronologically successive "dispensations" that lead to the eternal reign of God. The current dispensation culminates in the restoration of Israel. Therefore, “Christian Zionists” support the return of all Jews to the land of Israel. In their belief system, the foundation of the State of Israel and the return of the Jews to (East) Jerusalem and “Judea and Samaria” (the occupied territories, according to international law) in 1967 were clear apocalyptic signs of the beginning of the end times and the second coming of Christ. In the majority, “Christian Zionists” welcome Israeli-Jewish settlements, a transfer policy (the resettlement of the Arab population) and a Greater Israel Policy (a nation expanding from the Nile to the Euphrates). They, therefore, back national-religious and revisionist parties and organizations in Israel – as long as they don’t attempt politics of reconciliation and don’t want to return land to the Arabs. “Christian Zionists” expect tribulations that will lead to a fight between good and evil and the final victory of Christ. The infidel will be destroyed, and the chosen people will live in the eternal kingdom of God.

    The EMOK rejects this teaching for the following theological reasons:

    • For “Christian Zionists”, the State of Israel and Judaism are merely instruments in order to bring about eschatological events. Judaism has no value of its own. Jewish people are denied their right to live in Diaspora. This is contrary to the principles of the Christian-Jewish dialogue, which is acknowledged by the EKD and its member churches.
       
    • Christian Zionism" has a narrow perspective on biblical statements. It neglects important aspects of reconciliation, the love of enemies and forgiveness. In contrast, it describes end-of-time processes which can only partly, if at all, be found in the bible. This approach to dealing with the Holy Scripture is not in line with Protestant Christianity. Jesus refrained from all definite and clear predictions of the timing of apocalyptic events.
       
    • In their exclusive promise of the land of Israel to the people of Israel and in their belief that non-Jews have no right to live there or can merely co-exist as sojourners without land or rights, “Christian Zionists” violate basic human rights.
       
    • with the exclusive allocation of the land to the people of Israel, "Christian Zionism" also denies the churches in the region their right of existence. Thus, this theory has nothing to do with ecumenism or the mutual support of brothers and sisters in faith.
       
    • The teachings of "Christian Zionism" and the current reckless activities which they inspire serve to aggravate the conflict.
       

    4. Concluding Remarks

    Protestant Christians, institutions and churches in Germany are responsible for addressing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people in cases where the protective standards of international humanitarian law or human rights are systematically violated.

    The following issues in particular should be raised with Israeli-Jewish partners:

    • The ongoing construction and expansion of settlements on occupied land
       
    • Violent action exercised by settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories towards the Palestinian population
       
    • The consequences of Israeli walls and barriers to the Palestinian people in the occupied territories
       
    • The ongoing massive restriction of movement within the occupied Palestinian territories
       
    • The prevention of free economic development in the Palestinian territories, as nearly all goods have to be imported and exported via Israel and according to Israeli conditions

    The following issues in particular should be raised with Palestinian as well as Israeli-Palestinian partners:

    • Bringing an end to terror and suicide attacks
       
    • To end the shelling of Israeli civilians with rockets
       
    • The establishment of a Palestinian society with a free, democratic order
       
    • Equal freedom of religion for all religions

    It is a historical fact, that crimes were committed against the Palestinian people during the process of founding the State of Israel. This issue urgently needs to be discussed between the two parties. It should not affect, however, the Jewish people’s right to their own state. On equal terms, neither should terrorist crimes bring the right of the Palestinian people to their own state into question.

    Our common faith in one God who Jesus called his father makes us brothers and sisters of the (Israeli) Jews. Our Christian faith makes us to brothers and sisters of the (Arab) Christians. Israeli and Palestinians, like all human beings, are creations in the image of God. Our relationships to Jews, Arab Christians and all people in general shall not be valued against each other or played off against each other. They are different yet of equal value.

    Even through it is possible to support only one side, either Israeli or Palestinian, the EMOK advocates dialogue between all parties. We would like to encourage all Christians who are involved in the Middle East to accept and to respect the other side. However, progressive engagement in the Middle East brings change on both sides – through the mediation of conflict and by inspiring reconciliation.

    Peace can only be achieved when the other party also experiences peace, normal life and progress.

    The Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK)

    The EMOK is a permanent committee of the EKD. It consists of regional churches and church related institutions which are involved in the Middle East. Every three years, leadership of the EMOK switches between the Middle East Department of the EKD and the Organization of Evangelical Churches and Missions in Germany (EMW) (2010-12 under EMW-leadership).

    Contact:

    Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland               
    Referat „Afrika & Mittlerer Osten“                                
    Normannenweg 17-21                                                
    20537 Hamburg                                                         
    Germany                                                                  
    Phone: +49 (0)40 254 56 173                                      
    Fax: +49 (0)40 254 56 473                                          
    Mail: almut.nothnagle@emw-d.de                                
    Website: www.emw-d.de                                             

    Kirchenamt der EKD
    Referat „Naher und Mittlerer Osten“
    Herrenhäuser Str. 12
    D-30419 Hannover
    Germany
    Phone: +49 (0)511 27 96 237
    Fax: +49 (0)511 27 96 99 237
    Mail: martin.puehn@ekd.de
    Website: www.ekd.de
     

    Members of the EMOK

    AG Juden und Christen beim Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchentag (DEKT)
    Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste e.V.
    Amt für Mission, Ökumene und kirchliche Weltverantwortung (MÖWe)
    Arbeitskreis Studium im Mittleren Osten (SIMO)
    Berliner Missionswerk
    Christlicher Hilfsbund im Orient e.V.
    EKD und Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Stiftung (KAVSt) und Ev. Jerusalem Stiftung (EJSt)
    Evangelische Brüder-Unität
    Evangelische Karmelmission E.V.
    Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland
    Evangelische Kirche in Hessen und Nassau
    Evangelische Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck
    Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen Evangelische Landeskirche in Baden
    Evangelische Landeskirche in Württemberg
    Evangelische Mission in Solidarität
    Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland (EMW)
    Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung (EWDE)
    Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern
    Evangelisch-lutherische Landeskirche Hannovers
    Evangelisch-lutherischer Zentralverein für Begegnung von Christen und Juden e. V.
    Evangeliumsdienst für Israel
    Evangeliumsgemeinschaft Mittlerer Osten (EMO)
    Fliedner-Kulturstiftung Kaiserswerth
    Institut Kirche und Judentum (IKJ)
    Jerusalemverein im Berliner Missionswerk
    Jesus Bruderschaft Gnadenthal
    Johanniterorden
    Konferenz Landeskirchlicher Arbeitskreise Christen und Juden (KLAK)
    Orientierung:M e.V.
    Rat der EKD
    Studium in Israel e.V.
    Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands (VELKD)
    Zentrum Mission & Ökumene Nordkirche

    Published by the EKD Church Office
    Herrenhäuser Straße 12 · 30419 Hannover
    Phone: +49 (0)800 50 40 60 2
    www.ekd.de

    First print: 2009
    Reproduction with new preface: 2017

    E-mail: versand@ekd.de
    Download: https://www.ekd.de/en/documents-and-statements-of-the-emok-1227.htm
    www.ekd.de

    Israel - Palestine

    A definition of stance on Israel and Palestine by the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK)

  • “A moment of truth. A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering.”

    Statement of the Church Conference of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Executive Committee of the Evangelical Middle East Commission (EMOK)

    Part 1: Which positive and new elements do we perceive in this document?

    In December 2009, Palestinian Christians and Church leaders in Jerusalem published a document entitled “A moment of truth. A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering”.

    This document is a cry for help coming from people who have to live under Israeli occupation and suffer from it. As such it should be heard in the ecumenical community of churches, and its concerns have to be taken seriously. The document is an expression of the Christian faith that this situation can change and must change.

    The appeal is addressed to Palestinian Christians and aims at strengthening their hope. It explains to Palestinian Muslims the Christian message of love (5.4.1). It serves as a signal towards the State of Israel, and it calls for the solidarity of fellow Christians in the worldwide ecumenical community.

    We observe that the State of Israel is assumed and acknowledged as a political counterpart in the document, which implies a positive answer to the question of the State of Israel’s right of existence. In our view both the right of existence of the State of Israel and the Palestinians’ right to an independent state are decisive criteria to assess any statement or opinion voiced on the conflict between Israel, the Palestinians, and their neighbouring countries.

    The appeal positions itself in opposition to the instrumentalisation of religion in a political conflict with the following words: “Therefore, religion cannot favour or support any unjust political regime, but must rather promote justice, truth and human dignity. It must exert every effort to purify regimes where human beings suffer injustice and human dignity is violated” (3.4.3.). We endorse this fully and completely and recognise here a challenge to which our own Christian theology has to be submitted again and again; we also perceive in these words a clear rejection of radical religious and political voices among the so-called Christian Zionists, among radical religious groups in Jewish Israeli society, and in Islam. Dialogue between religions is correctly designated as an important instrument of reconciliation.

    The Protestant Middle East Commission (EMOK) is very grateful for this appeal, and we feel it deserves our full attention. We particularly appreciate the fact that it clearly expresses readiness for reconciliation, a will for non-violence, and the renunciation of all forms of revenge and retaliation (4.2.6) based on the concept of Christian love, for example in 4.2.5: “We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life”. The members of the Protestant Middle East Commission (EMOK) stress that they are willing to perceive a common perspective in this decided will to strive for peace and wish to continue clarifying discussions. They point out that there have already been many different kinds of responses to the invitation to “come and see” extended in the document and visits are paid on numerous occasions – in the form of different partnerships between churches, parishes, Christian institutions and projects as well as in practical solidarity within the framework of the EAPPI-programme.

    Part 2: Comments and Reservations.

    1. on 3.3. Dialogue between religions is an important contribution towards reconciliation in the conflict: Palestinian Christian-Muslim dialogue is without any doubt of great significance. However, all three religions are important for the dialogue, which should be more comprehensive than just an effort “to breach the walls imposed by the occupation” (3.3.2). It is imperative to overcome “the distorted perception” (3.3.2.) and “the resentments of the past” (3.3.4.) between human beings. Disunity between Christians should also be viewed self-critically.
       
    2. We understand the appeal as an expression of the Palestinian people’ suffering and we recognise the hardship caused by the Israeli occupation. But is the occupation the sole cause for the misery of the Palestinian people? Will the end of the occupation automatically put an end to the suffering? We would like to see more precise differentiation and definition of causes and consequences from the worldwide Christian Community.
       
    3. This applies, for example, to 4.3. “The roots of ‘terrorism’ are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation.” Unfortunately, we have to point out the existence of Muslim Palestinian Groups which have been fighting and are still fighting Israel as a State as a matter of principle, quite irrespective of the occupation. Of course, we can criticise the actions of the Israeli government or condemn the occupation, but we cannot simply dismiss the fight against terrorism as a mere “pretence” (4.3.).
       
    4. It would be of great help if the authors of the appeal could make it clear that by “occupation” they mean occupation of those regions conquered by Israel in June 1967, and not Israeli national territory within the armistice line of 1949 which is accepted as Israel’s border by the international community. The differentiation which we feel is necessary here also implies the recognition that constitutional structures urgently need to be built up within Palestinian society in order to achieve justice and peace.
       
    5. We feel it is important to draw attention to the fact that the statement “(we) hold in high regard all those who have given their life for our nation” (4.2.5.) can in our view under no circumstances include those people who have brought their own lives to an end by killing other people by violent means.
       
    6. The appeal advises its readers “to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation.” A general call to boycott Israel reminds the churches in Germany of the Nazi-appeal of 1933 “Do not buy from Jews!”; for this reason, we cannot accept such a boycott. However, we ask: What other acts of solidarity can be conceived of for the benefit of the Palestinian people? How can we improve the Palestinians’ means of living and avoid purchasing goods from the illegal Israeli settlements?
       
    7. The appeal sees itself as a “call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people.” (6.1.). The EMOK agrees with this statement in its general sense, yet would like to explore the specific positions the authors had in mind.
       
    8. If we understand the appeal correctly as implying that a theological conversion (metanoia) is necessary as regards the way in which the lasting promises given to the people of Israel by God are interpreted in the Churches of Europe and North America, this means that a theological dialogue with our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine is needed. We agree on the position that no theology may be misused in order to justify the suffering of people.
       
    9. The distribution of the appeal as a “Kairos Document” by the World Council of Churches and the analogies to South Africa drawn in the document itself, in the authors’ accompanying text and in numerous speeches by the WCC General Secretary at the time suggest an analogy with the South African “Kairos Document” of 1985 and generate associations with the struggle against the Apartheid regime. In the view of the EMOK this analogy is problematic. We would advise against describing the situation in a way which can be seen as ideologizing. However, we certainly understand the appeal as a “Kairos” in the sense that “Now is the time to act!”

     

    EMOK Executive Committee, April 22nd, 2010
    Adopted by the EKD-Kirchenkonferenz (Church Conference) August 31st, 2011.

     

    Download:
    https://www.ekd.de/en/documents-and-statements-of-the-emok-1227.htm

    “A moment of truth. A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering.”

  • Johannes Friedrich: “Stop building settlements for the sake of peace”

    To mark the end of the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, the chair of the Protestant Middle East Commission (EMOK), Dr. Johannes Friedrich, stressed the need to express justified criticism of the policies of the State of Israel. At the same time, he warned against blaming Jews living in Germany for the wrong policy of the Israeli government. The former Lutheran bishop of Bavaria is a member of the EKD Council with particular responsibility for Middle East issues.

    Speaking in Bavaria, Friedrich called it scandalous that Christians had not sought community with Jews over the centuries. “Even today anti-Israeli criticism often goes with an anti-Semitic attitude that turns victims – and Jews were victims for centuries – generally into perpetrator,” Friedrich recalled. “However, a critical judgment of Israeli government policy is necessary time and again, unfortunately.” In this context, he praised the statements made by Federal President Joachim Gauck during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories: “The President left no doubt about the loyalty we Germans have to Israel’s right to exist and the security of Israeli citizens. But he also raised clear questions about the erection of the wall and settlement policy. And he made it clear that the fate of Palestinians living and suffering under Israeli occupation cannot leave us unaffected.” Friedrich added that we, as Christians, could support such criticism of Israeli settlement policy, and expect that Israel would stop building more settlements “for the sake of peace”.

    Friedrich referred to the message issued by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to mark the annual action week. “It is time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace; it is time for freedom from occupation (…) it is time for the healing of wounded souls.” He underlined its reminder: “The dream of one nation cannot be realized at the expense of another.”

    The EMOK represents 35 churches, missions, aid agencies and Christian organizations that maintain relations with the Middle East. It fosters cooperation and exchange among its members and with the Christians, churches and partners in the Middle East. In particular, it promotes cooperation on issues of Christian-Jewish and Christian-Islamic dialogue and follows political and social events in the region. EMOK advises the EKD Council and EKD member churches.

    6/4/2012