Here’s what I said during my brief presentation at the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod yesterday. I had put together a wee video/audio slideshow rather hastily so am going to tidy it up and upload it to YouTube. I’ll post separately about that when I’ve done it. (Edited to add: It’s now in a separate post and below.) A huge thank you goes to the Ps&Gs tech team who were really lovely at calming my anxieties about it all working. I’m delighted that a separate entry has gone on the SEC website about this motion.
Provincial Overseas Committee report: Friday June 12, 11.20am Motion 16: That this Synod encourage members of the Scottish Episcopal Church to join the Scottish ecumenical initiative, promoted by Christian Aid, in praying for Israel/Palestine on the 24th day of every month. A year ago, Elspeth Davey and Val Nellist contacted me to invite me to travel on behalf of the Overseas Committee to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of an ecumenical visit organised by the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council. I was there for two weeks in November and December 2014, visiting partner organisations of the Church of Scotland throughout Israel and the West Bank, hearing stories from Christians, Jews and Muslims, Israeli and Palestinian, about how the occupation affects their lives. And at the end of the visit, I attended the Kairos Conference, which was held to honour the 5th Anniversary of the release of the Kairos Palestine document, a document created by Christian leaders in Israel and Palestine, calling for support and prayer from Christian communities throughout the world. Rather than simply tell you stories about my visit, I’d like to play a short video which tells a bit about some of the people we met. The constant refrain from the visit was ‘We want peace. But it’s complicated’. The political, theological, social and cultural situation in Israel and Palestine is too complicated to fit into the short time I have for this presentation. However, there is a lunchtime fringe session this afternoon on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, and the history of the conflict in the region will be outlined there if you would like to learn more. I’d encourage you to attend that if you are able. Elspeth Strachan from the SEC is currently serving as an EA in Bethlehem, and is very much in our prayers at the moment. Every person we spoke with in the two weeks I was there offered a different perspective on the occupation. One-State solution, Two-State solution, no solution. Arab, Palestinian, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Israeli. Categories and binaries quickly broke down as we heard people both sides of the wall describing the complexity of their own identities and history, and the frustration they felt in simply being defined as ‘other’. Freedom and security and terror and protest were all words which took on different meanings in different contexts. But still, everyone we spoke with said they wanted peace. And they all wanted us, those visiting, to go back and tell their stories, show their pictures, spread their hopes for peace. Recognising that the occupation is stifling the life out of families and communities throughout both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, each month, on the 24th, Christian Aid encourages Christians in the UK to join with Christians throughout the world in an ecumenical prayer vigil for the people of the Holy Land. There are resources available online if you wish to hold public prayer sessions, and there are short prayers you can use on your own. This is one such prayer, a prayer that holds before God the complexity of the situation and the difficulties we all face as we pray about it. Throughout Scotland, Christian Aid also holds events to raise awareness of the effect the occupation has on all people of that land. They are more than happy to send representatives to your church or local community. Again, resources and reports are available on their website. I’d like to urge all of you, whether it’s the least you feel able to do or the most you feel able to do, to join with Christian Aid and Christian communities throughout the world in praying for our brothers and sisters in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories living in these incredibly anxious and uncertain times.