The escalating violence within the states of Israel and Palestine fills us with deep grief and concern. We deplore the loss of life, especially the deaths of children, and the trauma that this situation is causing. We also recognize that while both sides are engaging in military action, the Palestinian people have borne a far heavier burden of death and injury, on top of ongoing poverty and devastation. This continuing cycle of bloodshed and the violation of basic human rights not only fails to resolve millennia-old conflicts but, in fact, plants seeds for potential future acts of retaliation and ongoing hostilities.
As a Christian seminary rooted in the Protestant (UCC) tradition, we recognize and mourn the role that our faith has played in this conflict through many centuries. Christians have been guilty of creating and supporting anti-Semitic and Islamophobic theologies and practices that have caused great suffering among our Muslim and Jewish siblings in faith. We acknowledge the role that Christian colonialism has played in carving up countries and dividing peoples, which has created tremendous barriers to self-determination around the world. This is not only a historical reality, but also a present one, as Christian millennialists push a narrow and misguided interpretation of the Bible that leads them to accept, and in some cases even support, conflict in the Middle East as a sign of Christ’s coming. Yet Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52, NRSV) We decry any efforts to uphold violence in the name of Christ, who declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9, NRSV)
United is also an interfaith community, living and speaking from a rich tapestry of traditions. As a Christian seminary with a growing interfaith community, affiliated with The Islamic Seminary of America, with Jewish students and staff, and with those of non-Abrahamic faiths, how do we stay in dialogue, condemn the loss of life, and work for true justice and peace without doing harm in the midst of this complex situation?
At United, we are immersed in this complexity. To respond to this moment, we uphold these values:
- We support our Muslim students and colleagues, and the people of Palestine;
- We support our Jewish students and staff, and the people of Israel;
- We cherish our diverse beliefs and continue to rejoice in and wrestle with the realities of living in a multifaith world;
- We commit ourselves to working towards a world of justice, peace, beauty, and flourishing for all people.
From this place, we pray and call for an immediate ceasefire, and for our government to work with international partners to assist the people and governments of Palestine and Israel in finding a peaceful solution that respects the human rights and wellbeing of the people of both nations.
For more resources on the (modern) history of Israel Palestine, we recommend, as a starting point, the list of readings compiled by associate editor of Alma, Emily Burack: