Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
P.O. Box 49084  Jerusalem
Christmas 2001


TO OUR FRIENDS AT THIS CHRISTMAS TIME

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined (Isaiah 9:2).

The Sabeel family in Jerusalem and the Holy Land wishes to extend its warmest Christmas greetings to all our friends everywhere.  We hope and pray that the joy, love, and peace associated with the coming of Christ will be our strength and light in the days and months ahead as we continue to struggle for a just peace in Palestine/Israel.

 As you well realize, our land and its people have been going through the most horrendous times.   Israel has been stepping up its violence and state terrorism in order to maintain its occupation, while some Palestinians, in their despair, have been resorting to violence and suicide bombings.  Our cry that the source of the violence is the Israeli occupation has gone unheeded.  Violence has only been met with violence and terror with terror.  The vicious cycle has never been worse.  We are caught in such a predicament where neither side has the courage to take the high moral ground in curbing the violence.

It is important to emphasize that Sabeel has consistently condemned all forms of violence.  From our perspective of faith, all killing is wrong.  The killing of innocent people can never be justified, but extra judicial killing is also wrong.  Suspects must be brought to justice and given a fair trial.  The killing of Palestinians and Israelis is a crime whether perpetrated by the Israeli extremist government through its army and settlers or by Palestinians who are resisting the occupation of their country.  We condemn both acts as evil; and simultaneously reiterate our strong conviction that the Israeli illegal occupation is the root cause of the problem.  So long as it lasts, violence and terror are likely to continue.

We believe that the evil and oppressive occupation must be resisted consistently with nonviolent direct action.  We at Sabeel stand for nonviolence because it stems from our understanding of the Gospel.   We, therefore, call on people of good will throughout the world, who believe that justice is the true basis for peace, to employ all the nonviolent means possible to bring the Israeli occupation to an end.

 Several weeks ago, many of us were encouraged with the statements of President George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and especially that of the US Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.  In spite of the setbacks caused by the recent tragic suicide attacks and the devastation caused by Israeli shelling, there is great urgency to demand the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.  Without the complete withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied territories and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, no lasting peace is possible.  Nothing short of that can put an end to the cycle of violence and terror.

Throughout this year, with the increase of Israel’s repressive measures and Palestinian resistance, we have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  In fact the words of the funeral service are very apt, “In the midst of life we are in death…”.  Human beings created in the image of the one merciful and loving God deserve a much better life.  Their humanity, of which they have been stripped by grave injustice, must be restored and their dignity, trampled and denied by oppression, must be reaffirmed.

One of the great marks of Christmas is its note of hope.  For in the midst of the utter darkness of a world of sin and evil, God shines on humanity with the gift of hope in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ – hope for a life that can be lived with God and neighbor fully and abundantly, in peace and in love.  The final words of the song of Zechariah have a special meaning for us during this Christmas season, “…to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).  This is our prayer as well as our plea.

 At certain times in the struggle for peace, our people were able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Many of us today see a tunnel that has no end, shrouded with gloom and utter darkness – the darkness of injustice and humiliation.  In the midst of such despair, our prayer to the incarnate Lord is to give us that ray of light that will restore hope and confidence for a brighter future for all the people of our land so that our feet will be guided in the way of peace.

At this Christmas, we share with you our prayer and we plead that you will do everything you can to help put an end to the occupation of our country.  Our people are longing for a life of security and peace in their own state and wish the same for their Israeli neighbors.

May the joy, love, and peace of Christ reside with us all throughout the coming New Year.
 

Naim Ateek

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

Jerusalem