Letter to Our Middle Eastern Brothers and Sisters in Christ

The Middle East Study Committee Report begins with eight letters addressed to different communities. The PCUSA site has them posted, but for some reason, is currently down. I'll post all eight of them one by one. Please check back to www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace for a fuller update. I expect the site should be back up and running soon. You are the living stones of the Church. You are the salt of the earth, giving flavor to the whole region, despite your numbers or proportions. We have visited with you. You have challenged us. You have welcomed us. And you have taught us immeasurably.

We cannot fully identify with the struggles of being a minority religious community. As American Christians, we are only recently coming to terms with the possibility that we, too, might have to face this reality. And so we have much more to learn from you and your model of faithfulness. And we cannot imagine the land of Christ devoid of the body of Christ. May our ongoing partnership be one that encourages your steadfast witness, not only on behalf of your own flocks, but on behalf of the worldwide body of Christ.

You cherish your national culture. This is a challenging word to us who can act as though the gospel originated in the West. And yet, as part of a society that has confused our culture with our faith at times, we feel that we have something to offer you. Be careful; be faithful. We often fall into the temptation to be more in line with culture. However, we also know that the gospel calls us to faithful obedience, even when facing risk to our own selves on behalf of Christ’s truth. But when the wider society advocates violence, or when it seeks to marginalize one group or another, our encouragement to you is to discern the Spirit’s call in the face of such circumstances. We pray that you will be led and strengthened in faithfulness.

To our Palestinian brothers and sisters in faith, we particularly want to commend the words above. We also want to commend you to unity. As Presbyterians, we have come to Israel and Palestine as partners; not seeking to establish our own congregations, but to support you in your continued witness. We pray for your unity. We encourage you not to compete over an increasingly shrinking number of Christians or over a decreasingly smaller influence in regional politics. We beseech you to remain focused on preaching Christ and him crucified, and risen. It is your own experience of his suffering that can teach us all. We will do what we can do amplify the word you preach from the heart of suffering, the Kairos Palestine document, and your resurrection hope.

We also know, our dear Palestinian friends, that your suffering is primarily under the weight of occupation. But we also know that this is not the only cause of suffering. At best, your numbers leave you marginalized by the wider Palestinian society and many ignorant of your practices and faith. At worst, there are elements that seek to eliminate the Christian presence from the region altogether. To you, we commend the example of our Lord, who, even faced with the loss of his own life, preferred to be an agent of healing, restoring the centurion’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. Do not be afraid to speak out against injustice. But do not let temptation to injustice overtake you.

May your witness continue to encourage us; and may we continue to show our debt to you as our spiritual forebears.