A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation

A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation

by Canon Naim Ateek

Orbis Books, 224 pages, ISBN978-150757846 - RRP £16.99

 

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Stephen Sizer profile picture“Twenty years in the writing, Canon Naim Ateek’s long awaited sequel to Justice only Justice,may prove to be the most important work ever written by a Palestinian theologian.” Says our reviewer, Revd. Dr. Stephen Sizer who is Vicar of Virginia Water in Guildford Diocese.

 

 

A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation book coverFor those who know and respect Canon Ateek and the reconciliation work of the Sabeel Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, the title says it all: A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation. He is unwavering in his conviction that “Our Godgiven mandate is to see that an enduring peace is achieved in the Middle East” The book explains the reasons for the struggle for justice; the tortuously slow progress made in the last twenty years; why successive peace agreements have failed; and why reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis is as elusive today as it was in 1948 or 1967. While brutally realistic, it is nevertheless a hopeful book, calling for justice for Palestinians, peace for Israelis and reconciliation for both.
The book has three parts. The first part is entitled, “Recapping History” and traces the birth of Sabeel, Canon Ateek’s own personal story, the generous offer of the Palestinians to share the land in a “two state solution” and the consistent refusal of Israel to abide by international law which has led to both political extremism and the breeding of violence.
With great care, Canon Ateek explains why successive peace negotiations failed because they did not address the root cause of the conflict - Israel’s illegal occupation, annexation and colonisation of the West Bank. One of the most helpful sections refutes Zionist propaganda about the “generous offer” and shows how Palestinians have consistently been willing to compromise land for peace but to no avail.
The second part addresses Palestinian Liberation Theology in the service of nonviolence and peace. Here Canon Ateek examines the place of “Land” in Scripture and the centrality of the biblical demand for justice. He exposes the deficiencies and inherent racism of Zionist theology.. In successive chapters, Canon Ateek compares the strategies and paradigms of contemporary, historical and biblical figures such as Saddam Hussein, Jonah, Samson, Daniel and Judah Maccabeus.
The third and final part is appropriately entitled “The Peace we Dream of”. With sensitivity and compassion, Canon Ateek states Israel’s predicament - how to remain a Jewish State committed to ethnic nationalism without being compared to apartheid South Africa. He identifies the deficiencies of the “Two State Solution” and the need for Israelis and Palestinians to move from justice to forgiveness and reconciliation. Consistently throughout the book, Canon Ateek, seeks faith-based solutions from biblical models and scriptural injunctions “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”. Canon Ateek shows compellingly that one cannot divorce religion from politics. He insists both are deeply intertwined. “Religion can be a source of tremendous spiritual strength, but when misused and translated into action by people of power, can also become a deadly weapon.” In this vitally important book, Canon Ateek identifies the major principles or building blocks upon which a just and lasting peace can and must be built. He goes to the heart of the conflict and addresses the major obstacles to peace, not least the unconditional support successive US administrations have given Israel. He warns prophetically, “Only when justice is done and Palestinians can celebrate their own independence will a comprehensive peace be felt throughout the land. As long as one side celebrates while the other mourns, no authentic celebration or peace is possible.” As Jesus says, “Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.”

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