In 1985, black South African theologians released the Kairos Document, a condemnation of Christian support for apartheid policies. In December 2009, Palestinian Christian leaders issued Kairos Palestine.
The full title for this 12-page statement is “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.”
Many Americans are unaware that there is a vital, even if shrinking, Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. My first sustained encounter with a Palestinian Christian was through the pages of Blood Brothers, the moving autobiography of Elias Chacour, the former Melkite Catholic archbishop who sought to love and forgive even in the midst of suffering and devastating loss.
Kairos Palestine was drafted and promoted by a broad spectrum of Palestinian church leaders from Roman Catholics and Orthodox to Lutherans, evangelicals and Pentecostals. “Kairos” is a Greek word not for chronological time but for an opportune moment for action, when God can break into history in decisive new ways.
In 2011, Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board wrote a response to Kairos Palestine and urged its members to study the document. The board pledged itself to expand opportunities for Mennonite leaders to “come and see” the realities experienced by their Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Kairos Palestine describes the suffering and humiliation of living under occupation. It extensively engages Christian theologies that justify the occupation, the default mode for many American evangelicals. “We, Palestinian Christians,” they write with moral clarity, “declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity.”
They write: “Today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people.” Yet, the document is filled with hope in God, who “alone is good, almighty and loving.” Hope does not mean chasing illusions “but is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit, who is dwelling in us.”
The heart of the statement is a commitment to love in the way of Jesus. “Love is the commandment of Christ our Lord, and it includes both friends and enemies. This must be clear when we find ourselves in circumstances where we must resist evil of every kind. Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. [This] does not mean accepting evil or aggression on their part. Rather, this love seeks to correct the evil and stop the aggression.” The document calls listeners to resist the injustices of occupation, “but it is a resistance with love as its logic.”
This word from Palestinian Christians is a challenge and inspiration to all Christians, but, I think, especially to Mennonites. This commitment to active nonviolence comes not from a place of comfort but from people suffering grave injustices and violence. It challenges us to not choose passivity but to stand with our brothers and sisters.
The 2011 letter from MC USA in response to Kairos Palestine concludes: “In the Kairos document, you again remind us that the way of the cross binds together great love for every person and courageous resistance to injustice and sin. We pray that as we journey together we will grow in our faithfulness to the one who leads the way and whom we proclaim as Lord and Savior.”
Those attending the MC USA convention in Kansas City this summer will have the opportunity to engage with Alex Awad, a Palestinian Christian leader who has long walked this way of courageous love.
Andre Gingerich Stoner is director of interchurch relations and director of holistic witness for Mennonite Church USA.