, 28 June, 2020 / 8:46 PM
Representatives of the various Christian denominations in South Africa have appealed to the Vatican and the World Council of Churches (WCC) to intervene in Israel’s plan to take over the West Bank, a landlocked territory claimed by both Israel and Palestine.
“The South African Council of Churches (SACC) calls on the World Council of Churches and the Vatican to approach the United Nations Security Council as a matter of priority, to act against this imminent act of flagrant aggression on a defenseless people, and what is left of their territory,” the representatives of churches in South Africa state in their collective statement issued June 25.
SACC is an inter-denominational forum that brings together some 36 members churches and organizations in South Africa. Some of the member churches include the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), the African Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of South Africa and the Moravian Church in Southern Africa.
According to the members of SACC, the Vatican and WCC should also “send a message of encouragement and support to the Christians of the Holy Land, the ones whose faith became the evangelical source of the Christian Faith in the world.”
Located on the banks of River Jordan, the West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the 1960s but has an unresolved status as both Israel and Palestine claim rights over it.
Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank is bringing tension with the Palestinians who are threatening to pull out of previous peace agreements.
In the statement shared with ACI Africa, SACC leadership express surprise regarding “the latest developments in Israel, with the coalition government set to take decisive steps to kill off any prospect for a just peace with Palestine.”
“While the nations of the world are self-absorbed, battling COVID-19, the final chapter on the nightmare tale of Palestinian existence is being written in Israel with a new unity government with a not so new but bolder policy of the annexation of parts of the West Bank, already illegally occupied by Israel,” the church leaders in Africa say in their collective statement.
They add, “This will make the already illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank, to become “official” Israeli State territory. Such annexation would unquestionably be in gross violation of international law.”
The Christian leaders also ask the leadership of the WCC and that of the Catholic Church at the Vatican to appeal to the people of Israel and their legislature to give a chance to lasting peace and security that a well-crafted two-state solution can bring.
To the Palestinian leaders, the members of SACC ask that they resolve their internal disputes for “a unified front dedicated to achieving peace and the building of a viable State that is founded upon pluralism and democratic values.”
Members of SACC acknowledge the fact that the takeover requires “nothing less than a decisive international censure of the imminent annexation of more Palestinian lands” and therefore call on “the international community to consider comprehensive sanctions against Israel should they continue with the illegal annexation of Palestinian land.”
“The international community, and all reasonable people in the world recognize that the only path to justice and peace is for a viable Palestinian State, side by side with the State of Israel with security for all,” the church leaders in South Africa say.
They continue, “The proposed annexation of the West Bank will render Palestinians as non-citizens in an Israel State that governs them with apartheid principles - no civil rights, no democratic voice, and legal protection - a dispensation long declared a crime against humanity.”
They condemn the planned takeover saying, “The annexation would leave the Palestinian people with even less rights than the disgraceful South African Bantustan - an unquestionable violation of international law and the premises of international humanitarian law. This cannot be countenanced in 2020, and it is morally reprehensible.”
“The State of Israel should not be allowed to continue acting as an exception in terms of international law. The international community must be required to treat Israel like all other members of the international community and compel it to respect international law and the rights of all of humanity,” the members of SACC say in their June 25 collective statement.
They urge the Palestinian leaders to resolve their internal disputes for “a unified front dedicated to achieving peace and the building of a viable State that is founded upon pluralism and democratic values.”
The church leaders underscore the need to urgently work towards a “new initiative of the Abrahamic faiths referenced by the heads of Holy Land Churches for whom the Holy Land is holy, for a Holy Peace, that reflects the principles of Holiness Code of Leviticus 19:11, 13a.”
“Such an initiative of Abrahamic Faith representatives,” the Christian leaders in South Africa say, need “to include the leadership of the churches in the Holy Land.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa