Open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Our Church of England denominational campaign group recently wrote this open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was submitted to the Church Times and later the Church of England newspaper but neither chose to publish it, so we are now making it publicly available.
An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
As a Christian organisation working with our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers and committed to creative resistance grounded in the radical logic of Christ’s love to bring about justice and peace in the Holy Land, we are aware that this Christmas was a greater challenge for Palestinian Christians than ever before. The new Israeli government is even more openly antagonistic to all non-Jews, both in Israel and the occupied territories. Netanyahu’s statement that “The Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel,” and that “This government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel—in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria.” must give Christians everywhere additonal cause for concern.
Violence in the region is at its highest since 2008 with over 200 Palestinians killed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza including more than 50 children, the youngest of whom was just 4 years old. 27 Israeli soldiers and civilians have also been killed.
On October 18, Israeli forces in civilian clothing raided the home of 16-year-old Shadi Khoury, the grandson of Sabeel’s co-founder, Samia Khoury, in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. He was kidnapped, beaten up and taken for interrogation to the ‘Russian Compound’. His father is the general director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. At time of writing, Shadi was still awaiting a hearing on his case and as of November 2022, Israel had 160 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 in military detention.
We believe that it is a relief to everyone concerned with human rights and international law, that the move of the British Embassy to Jerusalem will no longer be under consideration and we very much welcome your statement of concern (October 7th, 2022) about such a move.
Last December 2021, we were pleased that you asked the Church to pray for the Tent of Nations, where a Palestinian Christian family are struggling to survive under Israeli occupation, settler attacks and facing many court battles to try to evict them from their land. There was yet another appeal made on 21st November, which has again been postponed again for a further year.
In a joint statement with the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem during that same month, you warned of a concerted attempt by fringe, radical groups to drive Christians away from the Holy Land. You explained how the growth of settler communities, and travel restrictions brought about by the Separation Wall, have deepened the isolation of Christian villages and curtailed economic and social possibilities. However, you were not explicit as to who the fringe, radical groups were so that it could be clearly understood that they were Jewish Settlers, supported by the government of Israel and not local Muslims.
In August 2022 there was the terrible news of an unannounced and violent night-time raid on St Andrew’s Anglican/Episcopal Church in Ramallah by Israeli occupation soldiers. Doors and security glass were smashed, and the entire complex was occupied for two hours including the church sanctuary, parish hall, church offices, rectory, and the Arab Episcopal Medical Centre. We are not aware of any public statement from you and were very concerned at the lack of one.
Prior to that, in May 2022, Israeli forces violently attacked the funeral procession of Shireen Abu Akleh, the slain Christian Palestinian reporter, as the pallbearers tried to carry coffin out of a hospital in east Jerusalem to the Catholic church.
B’Tselem, Amnesty International and War on Want reports all describe the apartheid policies of Israel. In September 2021 Christian Aid, the charity long supported by the Church published the report ‘Where is Palestine?’ clearly documenting, through its long standing partnerships, the brutalities of the occupation, with clear recommendations for Church action. It cannot be denied that non-Jews are deprived of even their basic human rights in areas occupied by Israel, whose government openly promotes the rights of Jews over all others, including Christians. The Church has been silent on this. It cannot be antisemitic to call Israel out on its human rights record, as the very act of equating such policies with Judaism is itself a slur on the Jewish religion.
You have shown yourself to be very aware of the devastating consequences for Christian communities living under the Israeli occupation. The spiraling of violence against non-Jews in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory requires the Church to speak out for justice and the rule of international law to be upheld across the land we call Holy.
At their international conference in Beit Sahour in November 2022, Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice invited us as individuals and church organisations to join with them in actions to bring an end to Israeli apartheid including:
- To respond to the statement call “Seeking Justice and Peace for All in the Middle East” made at the WCC General Assembly in August 2022 to study and respond appropriately to the recent reports from human rights organizations on Israeli apartheid.
- To engage in the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), including calling on churches, denominations, and church-related organizations to ensure that their financial investments do not support Israel’s apartheid but rather support Palestinians in their work for justice and peace.
We look forward to hearing how you plan to respond to this latest call from our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
The Sabeel-Kairos Church of England campaign group