Here is the text of the resolution from the 2015 National Assembly:
a) receive the requests from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, the Kairos Palestine movement and the World Council of Churches to act in response to the plight of the people of Palestine;
b) note the resolutions of the Assembly Standing Committee regarding Israel-Palestine in Standing Committee minute 11.33;
c) establish an awareness-raising campaign throughout the Church on the plight of Palestinian Christians and the Palestinian people, including promotion of the boycott of goods from the illegal settlements in the West Bank as part of the campaign;
d) request the Assembly Standing Committee:
(i) in partnership with other parts of the Church, including the Relations with Other Faiths Working Group, and with other groups mentioned in Standing Committee minute 11.33.10 and with the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network, to arrange for the development of educational materials to resource the awareness raising campaign and to enable members and congregations to determine their response;
(ii) to receive any other requests for action from the World Council of Churches or Palestinian Christians over the next three years and determine the response of the Church;
(iii) to support another Australian church leaders visit to Palestine and Israel in the next three years, arranged either ecumenically and/or for Uniting Church leaders;
(iv) to report to the 15th Assembly on actions taken and outcomes achieved; and
e) convey these resolutions to the National Council of Churches in Australia with an invitation to respond.
Palestine has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. The prospects for a negotiated peace and a “two-state solution” are bleak. The Occupied Palestinian Territories, consisting of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, are controlled by Israel. Gaza is under a military blockade. Illegal Israeli settlements and other Israeli land confiscations have taken over nearly half of the West Bank. Palestinians have little hope for a better future.
Palestinian Christians now comprise less than 2% of the population of Palestine. In 1948 Christians comprised an estimated 20% of the population. Palestinian church leaders fear that the Christian presence in the Holy Land is under severe threat and their churches are becoming little more than museums.
In 2009 the thirteen Jerusalem Heads of Churches endorsed the call of the Kairos Palestine statement for the worldwide church to take peaceful action against the oppression and injustice suffered by Palestinians. The World Council of Churches has long supported non-violent action in support of Palestine – for example in 2007 the WCC resolved to:
“Invite member churches and faithful to give moral and practical support to non-violent acts of resistance to the confiscation of land, the destruction of Palestinian properties and the eviction of people from their homes and lands, as the central committee recommended in 2001.”
In 2014 an international church conference supported by the WCC was held in Bethlehem to mark the 5th anniversary of the Kairos Palestine document. It requested the worldwide church to undertake five actions in support of Palestine:
- Listening carefully to Palestinian Christian voices
- Continued theological exploration and critique
- Active participation in creative resistance
- Continued promotion of economic pressures
- An inclusive vision of just peace throughout the Middle East.
There are at least two theological principles which compel Christians to act in response to these requests:
We are part of the one body of Christ; “if one member suffers, we all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
We are disciples of Jesus, whose life and ministry fulfills the prophetic tradition of bringing good news to the poor and seeking freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:18-21, Isaiah 61:1)
Churches are increasingly responding to the requests for action. The Methodist Church (UK) has called for an end to the trade from illegal Israeli settlements. The United Church of Canada has called on church members to boycott settlement goods in a well-resourced campaign titled “Unsettling Goods”. The Presbyterian Church USA has divested from three US corporations which benefit from the occupation of Palestine. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society has issued a call to boycott settlement goods. The Uniting Church Assembly Standing Committee resolutions from July 2011 are reproduced below.
Through the National Council of Churches in Australia, two formal visits of Australian Church Leaders have taken place to Palestine and Israel, in 2007 and 2012. 55 Uniting Church ministers participating in the national minister's conference in Jerusalem in September 2014 heard firsthand from Palestinian church leaders and saw firsthand some of the difficulties facing Palestinians under occupation.