African Bishops Express Solidarity with Palestine for Easter

A group of bishops in South Africa have issued an Easter Message to Palestinian church leaders expressing their solidarity with the group and acknowledging their "proud history of keeping the faith in the Holy Land."

"We salute you for [your faith] despite the most difficult situation into which you have been placed," the bishops wrote. "From our perspective, we can see how you are being pressurized and forced out of your own land, and we urge you to continue to resist that with love, and to continue to show what our Lord Jesus Christ taught us."

Quoting the words of former South African President Nelson Mandela, the group noted that "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians," and expressed conviction that "justice will come to the Holy Land, as it came to us here in the southernmost part of Africa".

"Jesus must be weeping at the injustice that he sees in Jerusalem and we are convinced that God is already intervening and will continue to intervene to establish his justice in the Holy Land," the bishops said.

The bishop's messages were echoed in a March statement released by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), whose governing body said that they remain "deeply disturbed in holy outrage by the continued occupation and support for the 60 plus years of occupation of Palestine by successive Israeli regimes."

The council also acknowledged that its "silence and inaction" have contributed to the suffering of the Palestinians, and expressed a commitment to "ensuring that the call and challenge from our Palestinian brothers and sisters will not go unheard."

The Kairos Palestine document, which was released in December 2009, declares Israeli occupation of Palestine to be "a sin against God and humanity" and that peace-building efforts in the region have "reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people."

"The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it," the document reads. "The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and with questioning: What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing? The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church."

Authored and signed by over a dozen faith leaders from Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic, Coptic and Orthodox traditions, the document has been widely received by the international church community, with its supporters including Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa Desmond Tutu, the Council of Churches of Malaysia, and former World Council of Churches General Secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia.

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