South African church leaders disturbed by what they saw in Israel and Palestine

South African church leaders disturbed by what they saw in Israel and Palestine

A delegation of South African church leaders has returned from a one-week solidarity visit to the cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem in Palestine-Israel.

“Being South African, it felt like walking into another apartheid ambush,” they declared in a powerful statement issued afterwards.

“We witnessed violations of international law on so many levels – the multiple Israeli house demolitions, the discriminatory Israeli legal system, the daily intimidation of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Forces, the Israeli Apartheid Wall and its associated regime of restrictions on movement and access for Palestinians, the imprisonment of a large percentage of Palestinians (including children), the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian water and land, the closure of previously bustling Palestinian streets and businesses, separate pavements for Israelis and Palestinians …”

“We did not expect the extent to which Israel violates international law to oppress the Palestinian people. Our exposure to the Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Israeli-Occupied West Bank was overwhelming, one which traumatised us …”

The South African Christian delegation included the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa, Bishop Zipho Siwa; the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa and President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches Southern Africa, the Rev. Jerry Pillay; the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, the Rev. Moss Nthla; and the Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, Dominee Braam Haanekom.

The delegation ended their statement supporting, among other things, “responsible” tourism to the Holy Land as well as the Palestinian people’s 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

They said, “We realise though that the biblical call issued by Jesus is not only to ‘come and see’ but to ‘go and tell’ what you have seen and heard. However, it does not end just with the latter. Further, Jesus calls us to ‘go and do’ (act)…”

“The Palestinians [Christians as well] are asking the world for economic, cultural and other forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) – a strategy that helped us to end apartheid in South Africa. We believe that maximum pressure must be put on Israel to abide by international law.”

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