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Stand in solidarity with the Christians of Palestine:
A Message from Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
Download this message
The beautiful season when we celebrate the
birth of the Prince of Peace has just concluded,
and this year it had a special meaning for me
unlike any year in the past. Just before the Advent
season began, I made a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land with an ecumenical group of women bishops.
What I experienced on this trip affected me deeply,
in ways I was not fully prepared for.
We visited Bethlehem, where I saw Christ's birthplace surrounded by an imposing
concrete wall, with access granted to its residents through a dehumanizing checkpoint.
We visited Hebron, a Palestinian town with a couple of hundred Israeli settlers planted in its midst, being guarded by well over 1000 Israeli soldiers. There are streets in Hebron that the residents are not allowed to use, not even to reach their own homes. I watched as a child climbed a ladder to a second story window to get into her home, and I was appalled to see a mother, carrying her baby in her arms, having to do the same.
We learned how the occupation has created segregated communities, where freedom of movement and access to the basic necessities of life - such as water and medical care - are determined by ethnic identity. I found myself moved to tears on a daily basis by what I heard and saw.
Yet, despite all the despair that we witnessed, we also met courageous men and women of all three Abrahamic faiths who continue to work for peace. They have kept hope in their hearts that real peace, security and justice will be achieved for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Among those who will never give up their faith in God's justice and God's peace are the 'living stones' -
the Christians of Palestine.
The Palestinian Christians have given the world a statement of faith and a call to action,
named Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth. This heartfelt and profound document includes an urgent plea to Christians around the world, asking what we are willing to do to resist the injustice of the (now) 45-year-old occupation of Palestine. They name divestment as a courageous step forward we can take: ethical, non-violent action that will help them in their long struggle for freedom and equal rights.
I came home from this pilgrimage firmly believing that United Methodists must stand in solidarity with our Christian brethren in Palestine. Some in our church are doing that today, in a global grassroots movement named United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR). The laity and clergy of UMKR educate United Methodists about the reality of the Israeli occupation that we saw on our trip, and advocate that our church should not have financial investments that support that occupation.
You may be surprised to learn that the church does invest in the occupation, although our General Conference has adopted resolutions for more than a decade saying clearly that our church is opposed to the occupation of Palestinian land and wants to see it ended.
UMKR is supporting a resolution coming to General Conference 2012 from The General Board of Church and Society and several annual conferences. It calls on all United Methodist agencies to align their investments with our church's resolutions regarding Israel and Palestine and, specifically, to end our investments in companies that help to sustain and expand the occupation.
I commend the efforts of United Methodist Kairos Response; I am writing to you to ask for your support of their work.
Here are some things that you can do now:
» Please SHARE this message with your congregation, with other organizations, and forward it widely to family, friends and colleagues, asking them to take action too.
» Read and endorse the resolution that is coming to General Conference. (If you receive any services from the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, you can sign the petition also.)
» Consider donating whatever you are able to this grassroots movement. They are working with limited resources to reach United Methodists around the world.
» Become a volunteer. There is much to be done between now and General Conference. If you would like to be more involved, UMKR would welcome your help. You can contact them at: email@example.com.
I have a special request for General Conference Delegates who read this message:
I know you will be concerned with many matters during General Conference that will shape the future of our church. But please do not neglect this God-given opportunity for our church to show that we truly mean what we have said in past resolutions, and that we will not knowingly support the injustice of the occupation with our investment funds. Take a little time to visit the UMKR website and talk with your fellow delegates about the importance of supporting the resolution "Aligning UM Investments" at General Conference 2012.
Our calling as Christ's disciples includes challenging injustice and refusing to support systems of injustice wherever they are found. I hope you will prayerfully consider this justice initiative and join me in supporting it, both now and at General Conference. I look forward to seeing many of you in Tampa, Florida this spring.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace,
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
California-Pacific Annual Conference
United Methodist Church
The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM),
United Methodist Church
Statement of Support for "Aligning UM Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine"
Adopted by the GBGM Board of Directors, October 2011
For decades, GBGM has served as the primary contact with our ecumenical and grassroots partners in Israel/Palestine working for a just and lasting peace on behalf of the whole church. Global Ministries has 4 mission personnel and a mission intern currently serving there. Global Ministries supports various partners with Advance funds and have special donor designated funds specifically for support of partners working with women, youth and children in the Middle East. Since 2002, GBGM mission personnel, conference secretaries, and directors, with support from staff, have organized six peace & justice delegations, and participated in corporate accountability and advocacy work for nonviolent actions like divestment.
At the launch of the Kairos Palestine document , “A Moment of truth: a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian Suffering,” in Bethlehem, December 11, 2009, GBGM had 3 mission personnel and 1 staff present. In the document, Palestinian Christians call on sisters and brothers throughout the ecumenical community to take nonviolent, loving actions to end Israel's military occupation and to end corporate complicity in sustaining the occupation and the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands. United Methodist representatives have been confronted with the reality that we hold investments in a number of companies that support the infrastructure of the occupation, contradicting officially stated moral positions of our church.
In October 2010, United Methodists gathered from more than 10 annual conferences across the US to form the United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) group in solidarity with the authors of the Kairos Palestine document. Out of these efforts came a resolution, “Aligning UMC Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine” (see attached). In reviewing UMC investments, a number of companies were identified as supporting the military occupation and construction of illegal settlements. The resolution identifies Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard as three specific companies that have been non-responsive for several years to calls by religious shareholders to end such involvement. Accordingly, the resolution calls for divestment of UMC holdings in these companies until the companies end their support for occupation and settlements.
GBGM directors, staff, and constituents have played a significant role in research, preparation, and drafting of the resolution. The resolution was adopted by the General Board of Church and Society at their February 2011 board meeting for submission to General Conference. It was also shared with GBGM Nominations & Legislation committee and also the Investment committee directors at their Feb. 2011 meetings as an example of corporate accountability work done by GBGM staff. In June 2011, seven Annual Conferences voted to support the resolution.
As the agency with primary responsibility for relations with ecumenical partners in Palestine/Israel, many look to GBGM as a leading religious voice in the US and global contexts. GBGM joins with GBCS in one voice to endorse the “Aligning” resolution as we respond to the cries of our sisters and brothers in Israel/Palestine-- and as we seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Endorsement from the US Dominican
Palestine Coordinating Committee
A committee of the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC).
The DLC is comprised of leaders of 29 provinces and congregations of Dominican friars and nuns
in the United States.)
The U.S. Dominican Palestine Coordinating Committee seeks a just and lasting peace for Palestine and Israel based on human rights and international law. We support the efforts of any community seeking non-violent ways to address injustice, and we applaud and endorse the efforts of the United Methodist denomination to divest its stock holdings from companies that help sustain the occupation of Palestine.
The U. S. Dominican Palestine Coordinating Committee
Pat Chaffee, OP
Chuck Dahm, OP
Stella Goodpasture, OP
Ceil Lavan, OP
Margaret Mayce, OP
Bernie Wombacher, OP
Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu endorses
April 26, 2012
Dear Friends of the United Methodist Church
The situation in Israel and Palestine pains me greatly since
it is the place where God formed a very particular relationship
with a particular group of people; Hebrews who were
oppressed as slaves in another land. As time moved on, this
people disobeyed God and time and time again the prophets
had to call them back to their deepest values.
The Jewish Holocaust, engineered and implemented primarily by Europeans, gave some ideologues within the Jewish and Christian community an excuse to implement plans that were
in the making for at least 50 years, under the rubric of exceptional Jewish security. In this way began the immense oppression of the Palestinian people, who were not at all involved in the Holocaust. Not only is this group of people being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa, their very identity and history are being denied and obfuscated. What is worse, is that Europe and the USA are refusing to take responsibility for their actions with regard to both the Holocaust and the over-empowering of the Israelis, their disregard for the international conventions and regulatory framework of the nuclear industry and their continued oppression of the Palestinian people.
But God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, neither slumbers nor sleeps. Prophetic voices have been calling this empowered people who were once oppressed and killed, to their deepest values of justice and compassion, but they have refused to listen even to the most reasonable voices. The human community cannot be silent in the face of the gross injustice being meted out to the people of Palestine. If international courts and governments refuse to deal with this matter, we in the churches and in the rest of civil society really have no choice but to act in small ways and big ways.
God is busy doing a new thing. And God is using all of us to be partners with him. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to be liberated, but at this stage the greater onus is on the Israelis since they are the ones who are in power, economically, politically and militarily. We have to think about ways that will allow them to reflect deeply on what it is that they are doing and bring them back from the brink, not out of spite or revenge, but because we love them deeply.
I therefore wholeheartedly support your action to disinvest from companies who benefit from the Occupation of Palestine. This is a moral position that I have no choice but to support, especially since I know of the effect that Boycotts, Disinvestment and Sanctions had on the apartheid regime in South Africa.
May God bless your conference as you deliberate on this matter, and I pray that your decision will reflect the best values of the human family as we stand in solidarity with the oppressed.
God bless you.
Archbishop-Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Cape Town, South Africa.
for our work to continue.
Endorsements for United Methodist Church Divestment
from the Israeli Occupation
Added October 2018
Letter from UMC Bishop Bruce Ough to USCPR Conference,
Together We Rise, in St. Paul, MN
September 2018 – Read the Letter
Added April-May 2016:
• Video and written statement from the UMC Native American International Caucus, standing in solidarity with their fellow indigenous people, the Palestinians. watch and read it
• Video: "From the Heart, United Methodist Missionaries Speak Out"
and written statement from the missionaries to accompany the video watch and read it
• Video: Ethel Johnson, UMC leader, speaks about Africa University and divestmentwatch it
Endorsements from Jewish leaders and organizations, and Israeli citizens
• See all the following support statements in one file to read or download
• Jewish Voice for Peace Commends UM Pensions Board - January 2016 see it here
• Tikkun Applauds UMC Divestment from Israeli Banks - January 2016 see it here
• Message of Solidarity from PCAP and JVP, April 2016 see it here
• Jewish Voice for Peace, 2011 see it here ee it here
• The Rabbinical Council of JVP see it here
• 140 Israeli Citizens' Letter of Support, on video and in print see it here
• Jeff Halper, Director of ICAHD, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions see it here
• ICAHD-USA, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA affiliate see it here
• Dozens of Israeli groups and Jewish organizations in the US and around
the world support divestment and boycott to end the Israeli occupation. see them here
Dec. 2016 – Please note that some of these statements letter refer to UMKR by our former name. Our current name is: United Methodists for Kairos Response.
Above: United Methodists experience a checkpoint in the West Bank, where Palestinians spend hours every day to reach school, jobs, family members and hospitals.
• General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church
(on this page, see below)
• Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, United Methodist Church (on this page, see below)
• Rifat Kassis, Kairos Palestine General Coordinator, writing on behalf of Kairos Palestine, the Palestinian Christian movement that produced the Kairos Palestine Document that now includes GlobalKairos for Justice with Kairos organizations numerous countries.
See the 2012 and 2014 Kairos Palestine letters here
See the letter from Palestinians to United Methodist General Conference 2012 Delegates
• Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
- Letter of Endorsement - April 2012 (on this page, see below)
- Op-Ed in Tampa Bay Times - May 2012 see it here
• Tina Whitehead, UM Missionary in Israel/Palestine (on this page, see below)
• Alex Awad, Palestinian Missionary, UMC General Board of Global Ministries see it here
• Kairos Southern Africa see it here
• US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of over 400 organizations
in the United States see it here
• US Dominican Palestine Coordinating Committee (on this page, see below)
Above: Delegates at the UMC General Conference 2008
United Methodist Missionary to Israel/Palestine
Western Pennsylvania Conference Delegate
to General Conference 2012
Dear General Conference Delegate,
My name is Tina Whitehead and I am writing to you from Jerusalem.
I am also, like you, a delegate to the 2012 General Conference.
For the past 5 years I have been volunteering in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, primarily doing education and advocacy on behalf of the Palestinian people. My journey began in 1997 when I first came here as a “pilgrim,” to “walk where Jesus walked.” Over a period of 4 years, I read, I listened and I heard the stories of a people I had previously known nothing about: the Palestinian people. Their request of me and of others was to “go home and tell our story.”
That request has become my calling.
My passion is to speak to tour groups here about what I've seen and heard. I find that most of the people I meet are just like I was: totally unaware of what is happening here. When I ask each group, “What do you think of when you hear the word 'Palestinian?'” the answer is always the same: “terrorist.” They do not know that the Christians who remain here are Palestinian, nor do they know of the suffering that both Muslim and Christian Palestinians have endured since losing their homes and their land in 1948.
This suffering and loss did not end in 1948; it goes on today due to oppressive Israeli government policies that daily dehumanize the Palestinians, depriving them not just of their land, but of all the human rights and freedoms that we take for granted.
I have found that about 90% of those that I speak with are astounded by what they see (my “talking” is done through pictures of life here). The first question they ask is “Why don't we know this?” and the second is “What can we do?”
Supporting the resolution called “Aligning United Methodist Church Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine” is something that we, as individuals and as a Church, can do that can make a positive difference in the pursuit of peace and justice in this region of the world. The United Methodist Church has already taken a stand against the oppression that is taking place here. It also has resolutions that speak against the financial support of any organization or body that profits from the suffering of others. All we are asking is that we put in action what we have already said in words.
I pray that you support this resolution and continue to pray and act for the peace of Jerusalem.
If you'd like to be in touch with me with any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Above: Ecumenical Delegation of Women Bishops, Israel-Palestine visit, November 2011. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson: front row, second from the left.