Kairos is us- the vision of Palestinian Christians

Palestine Update 195
A special edition from Palestine Updates

Kairos is us- the vision of Palestinian Christians
Excerpts from a speech by Rifat Kassis at the opening of 9th Kairos anniversary Conference*

Rifat Kassis addressing the Kairos
Palestine meeting on December 6, 2018

This is Kairos
I am here not to report on Kairos and its work because Kairos is not an institution or an organization or even a coalition. Kairos is us! It is the vision of the Christians in Palestine for their reality and their future in this land. It is a Christian Voice unifying people and not competing with anyone as it is “all, from all and to all”. It is the discourse of the Churches, the CROs and every single individual who cares about his/her Christianity and homeland. Kairos is a social movement and part of the Palestinian liberation movement and struggle for its dignity and for self determination. It is a Christian creative resistance movement.

Kairos’ accumulated assets
Kairos Palestine had achieved a lot over the past nine years despite the challenges and the difficulties. Yet, it confronts road blocks and adversities that must be surmounted before we have reached our destination.  Our vision for a just Palestine is our driving strength. That vision and the strength that accompanies in our founding document: “The Kairos document – A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.”

From even before we launched the document, the group of those of us who sat to write it up grappled with images, and ways, to carry forward our hopes and to demonstrate our faith. We can claim a growth in our movement to carry it even further – a process that is gaining momentum even as I speak. We are reaching villages and communities through town hall meetings and community encounters. And we also derive energy from the multiple expansion of global solidarity. Our conviction is that when local resistance and global solidarity merge, ours is a winning formula.

What are our challenges
To speak of local challenges I offer some headlines. I am aware that those of you who are here – local and international are keen observers of our situation, and are aware of, and oppose the atrocities against us in every way you can.

1. Israeli colonial occupation and Apartheid
This is apparent in Israel’s discriminatory policies and practices towards Palestinians which amount to apartheid. Israel’s system of checkpoints and barriers across the occupied West Bank obstructs freedom of movement and there is the arbitrary nature of the restrictions. Israel’s illegal separation wall is one of Israel’s most apartheid-like tools. It is an instrument engineered to Judaize Jerusalem by reducing the number of Palestinians in the city. Israel also carries out illegal, colonial practices and we may particularly comment on illegal Israeli settlements as an original form of colonialism. Israel has also appropriated agricultural land and water resources in the West Bank for its own use – all of which amount to a form of colonialism that contravene the Charter of the United Nations as recalled in the General Assembly’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of 1960.

2. War crimes
Israel has also become notorious for attacking civilian areas with military apparatus with military advantage and virtual impunity. This is accompanied by flattening residential buildings in the Gaza Strip on flimsy suspicions. Then there are the racist attacks carried out by some Israeli settlers against Palestinians. And finally there are extrajudicial killings, or targeted assassinations, as form of back-door death penalty.

3. Gaza
Gaza Strip’s around 1.8 million people live inhabitants behind Israeli-controlled borders  strangulated in intolerable ways in a virtual open-air prison deprived access to food, medicine, proper education, and every basis human need.

 4. Criminalization of the resistance
To Israel, every Palestinian who rejects and resists the occupation, even in totally non-violent ways, risks being treated as a criminal and faces severe and unreasonable punishment not only for himself/herself, but also for relatives and neighbours.

 5. The political split
It is, by any definition, a calamity, with the Palestinians physically divided by Israeli barriers, politically polarized between rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank that pursue radically opposed policies, and economically dependent on the world’s charity.

6. The frustration many of us feel especially youth for the economic and political situations
The occupation and Israeli practices has left youth at risk with constraints on economic growth owing to increased restrictions on the movement of people and goods, high unemployment, and unfulfilled hopes.

 7. Local churches challenges and the low voice of the Heads of Churches
There is an urgent need for local churches to be the source and location where the aspirations for justice are voiced our fearlessly and with prophetic intent.

8. The immigration of Palestinians
Palestinians Christians are leaving in droves from Palestine. Although we are almost the same number as we were decades ago, this is a major challenge for us.

On the international level
Kairos Palestine is now a global solidarity movement still in formation, but seeking to grow. At the conclusion of this conference, members of what he have called “Global Kairos for Justice” will work together to develop a Global strategy of solidarity – a tangible and comprehensive plan of action for Kairos partners around the world to work with.

Internationally, Kairos Palestine is anxious to address the questions of:

  • The rise and rule of the Evangelical Zionists in USA and the international political changes to the right
  • The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the US move its embassy to it
  • Working on liquidating the right of return by liquidating the UNRWA
  • The legitimization of the settlements and settling.
  • The weakness of the “official” international community and the UN structures on confronting Israel.
  • Weakness of main stream churches, its ecumenical bodies to raise their voice and speak up..

Kairos will not surrender hope- Summud is our way
Beyond what appear as cruel hardships, we Palestinians hold on to hope and look ahead to a time when justice will prevail. Despite all the challenges and difficulties we have many signs of hope:

1.Palestinians everywhere are uniting! More connections between the Palestinian people which are scattered in different areas.

2.The popular resistance and more youth movement and participation in the struggle than in any time before. This you see in Iblin, Nabi Mousa, and the Great March for the Right of Return in Gaza and in many other palces.

3.The Palestinian resilience and their rejection to the century deal

4.The gradual shift from the apathy of the official States to the concerned Civil Society. For ages this conflict was addressed by states and/or multi state actors with no solution, today the civil society is taking an increased roles replacing the role of the states. The BDS movement, Kairos movement and the many other global, regional and national initiatives had grown and posing real challenges to Israel and its allies by working for justice to Palestine and the Palestinians.

5.The gradual international public opinion shift from dealing with Israel as a “democracy” to Apartheid.

Where is Kairos Palestine today?
I do not wish to pre-empt what we will discuss the next few days. Through my sharing of thoughts, I hope to prompt us to address ourselves as Palestinians and as a global community. They are not my personal hopes and goals. It is what we as a collective Palestinian people look forward to as camaraderie between us and also from the international community.

Nationally:

* Work with Churches and organizations and initiatives/ work with and within the NCCOP…the open letter is a turning point

* Strengthen the Christian presence thorough continuing the gatherings and meeting with Christian leaders and community in Palestine…to know more about their difficulties and how to respond. Preserving the Christians presence is not a sectoral issue but a national one as to keep the fabric of the society and the pluralism.

*Work with other components of the society ..Gaza is an example as they now have a Muslim movement to support Kairos movement. Nablus and the work there is another example working with Muslims and Samaritans.

*Work with the secular movement, mainly PNGO and PHROC…transform facts watch as a national strategy

*Work more with youth. Strengthen the new established Kairos youth movement

*Writing and launching the book “Introduction to Palestinian theology” and launch it in more areas…the launch in Al Najah university was a milestone as it is the biggest university and mainly Muslims student study there.

*The work with Al Najah university on conducting the international conference on “Christians in the Arab World…Palestine as a model” which will be conducted in March 2018

*Continue speaking up and issue position statements on different national and international issues

*Work with the Palestinians inside the green line

Internationally:

*Continue the theological dialogue with churches, CROs and international theologians from different parts of the world

*Keep issuing the Easter and Xmas alerts to highlight the situation of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and their citizens

*Expand the Global Kairos for Justice

*Move more to Global South

*Strengthen the BDS and work with more churches

*Strengthen the “Come and See” campaigns

*Work in partnership with “Christ at the Checkpoint” to challenge the evangelical Christians.

The Future:

*Keep our national work and preserve the national Christian voice and support all initiatives.
*Work with churches but open to the society and participate in the common causes
*change the advocacy strategy, reject the “ Christian shallow diplomacy” as it came in the Open Letter
*Strengthen the BDS and Boycott the pro Apartheid churches and theologians.

* Rifat Odeh Kassis is a Palestinian Christian who was born in Beit Sahour, in the West Bank. An active human rights and political and community activist. He is an author and speaker. He has been arrested and imprisoned several times by Israel. He is a co aouther of Kairos Palestine and its Coordinator since its inception.

Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish.