Untitled

 

 

 

 

Printed Materials
Documents

IN JERUSALEM

JUSTICE AND PEACE

EMBRACE EACH OTHER

 

Righteousness and peace have embraced each other ...

(Psalm 84:11)

Blessed are the peacemakers ...

(Matthew 5:9)

Introduction

            The basic document “Theology and the Local Church in the Holy Land”, adopted by the First Conference organized by Al-Liqa’ Center on Theology and the Local Church” (July 2-4, 1988), affirms that the local church “does not live outside the scope of time and space because she is an incarnate church after the pattern of the Incarnate Christ”.

            On the basis of the general concept of theology, the document details the characteristics which give our church of Jerusalem her special features. One of these characteristics is that she lives “within  a people” (the Palestinian people) who have special characteristics and diverse historic experiences, old and new, with all the sufferings and hopes which they encompass.

                The great hope which is aspired by the people’s conscience and which has been intertwined with the sufferings, pains of homelessness and bloodshed lies in their strong wish for a just peace which can achieve their independence and noble aspirations.

This peace is considered  a divine gift and a natural right for them and for all the peoples of the world. In light of this hope, they suffer a lot and pay a high price, with all the peoples of the area. Time has come for the world to commit itself and stand firmly and courageously to support our people in their struggle of putting an end to their suffering and achieving their rights. Consequently, peace based on justice will be maintained to the glory of God and to the welfare of the peoples of the area and humanity at large.

            In compliance with their struggle for achieving  their aspirations and independence, our Palestinian people have extended the hand of peace by putting forward, through their legitimate institutions, an initiative based on rational analysis of the present attitudes. These democratic deliberations have given it flexibility and dynamism to absorb and interact with the various changes and given facts.

            This document is not  a political one but mere meditations and theological visions born amidst the daily sufferings of the Intifada which has been enriched with the light and guidance of our faith. We are putting it forward for reflections and dialogue so that it could become a step, no matter how modest, towards peace and justice in our beloved country.

The orientation towards peace

            Since the post-World War II period, the world has lived in the shadow of the Cold War which had a negative reflection on the fates of peoples and nations, especially the smaller and the weaker ones.

Lately, signs of international relaxation began to appear on the horizon, carrying the news of a better atmosphere for settling the international and regional disputes. Such an orientation carries within itself the danger of hasty solutions which, sometimes might not take into account the requirements of justice and peace. Therefore, the aforementioned atmosphere remains an incentive for building a better  world for the human race.

            The Palestinian people have responded positively to this international orientation. From amidst the Intifada, they have extended the olive branch through initiatives carrying a political content characterized by historic courage.

They called  everybody to promote constructive dialogue in such a way which opens the door for a new historical period. Thus, the people of the region would proceed from realizing peace and justice to the building of a real civilization which can be revived by sublime ideals derived from the human, spiritual and genuine heritage of the East, which has contributed greatly to humanity.

            The Church of the Holy Land which rejects injustice in all its forms, supports the present Palestinian initiative and finds in it a divine touch and a heavenly call to work together with all other brethren for justice and peace.

We do believe that peace and justice are among the values of the heavenly kingdom which were incarnated through Christ who lived them, died for them and with His resurrection strengthened the hope of their realization. (Luke: 2:14)

            Peace, above all, is the peace of God which has come upon the people through Jesus Christ: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27). This peace, as we know, is among the fruit of the spirit in the life of the believer. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ...” (Galatians 5:22).

The peace which we accept from God is the same peace that we commit ourselves to serve and have our modest share with all our brethren in its realization for the sake of man created in the image of God, after His likeness; in this beloved part of the world. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

            The genuine wish for peace requires real, sincere and dynamic commitment which looks ahead to the future instead of remaining a prisoner of a past that prevents the facing of reality and considering  others as real equals with whom we can go ahead towards peace and security. The future challenges and urges all of us to adopt constructive and new ideas imposed by the actual reality which no one can ignore: “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

Jerusalem is an appeal to justice and peace

            The hope for justice and peace is being embodied in the city of Jerusalem which is considered by the heavenly religions as the place chosen by God for holding a dialogue with man so as to raise him to the level of dialogue with his fellow man. For Christians, this dialogue has reached its peak in the character of Christ the Lord: “The Word which became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

And on the hill of Golgotha, Jesus died and with His resurrection from the dead He built a strong bridge between God and man and between man and his fellow man: “For He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility..” (Ephesians 2:14).

            Justice and peace derive their fundamental motives and elements from the material and spiritual reality of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city of God where a great number of God’s sons find shelter under her wings. Accordingly, peace cannot be achieved for a certain group or people to enjoy the peace of Jerusalem when others are deprived of this grace.

This sense of exclusiveness and individualism which deprives a certain group of God’s creation from the grace of Jerusalem is but an encroachment on the nature of Jerusalem, her call, mission and historical, religious and political reality.

            This requires a wide political vision which could translate this reality into a political fact that absorbs the given facts of Jerusalem and her centrality for her sons and the world at large.

On this basis, Jerusalem would become a place for encounter rather than confrontation and estrangement, appealing to all to accept each other with all their human, political, social, religious and cultural backgrounds. Only then can we reiterate with the Hadith, (The narrative relating deeds and utterances of Prophet Mohammed): “He who wishes to look at one of the favorite spots of Paradise, will have to look at Jerusalem.”

            Accordingly, Jerusalem is the city of the future which keeps for us the best things she has, provided that all should get out of the narrow limits of their own selves so as to give Jerusalem the opportunity to play the role of both her earthly and heavenly mission.

            The hour of Jerusalem which we are waiting for and aspiring to, is the hour of God, the hour of man, and the hour of all of us. On that basis, Christians throughout generations have seen in it a picture of that heavenly city to which we walk in great hope and in which God and all people will be together -- everyone is for all.

            The message of Jerusalem is addressed to the inhabitants of the Holy Land and to the world at large. It cries out to us and challenges us: Peace cannot be achieved without justice; nor justice without rights, that is to say, each one should have equal status. Only in this way, can the peoples of the area overcome historical, religious and social complexities.

The rejection of this message would only lead to suppression, injustice, and killing which we don’t accept for our area or for any people of the world. We hope that the peace of Christ, and not the peace of the world, will be realized in Jerusalem (John 14:27). This is to fulfill what prophet Isaiah has spoken: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the lion shall grow up together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

From the peace of Jerusalem to the peace of the world

            The orientation of all humanity towards peace and justice and the quest for them lies in Jerusalem because the Holy City, after the pattern of the Church, is a sign set up among nations to remind them of its main call represented in the constant quest for more harmony in the world of man.

The fate of Jerusalem goes far beyond the longing of its inhabitants and lovers because it can be considered a pattern to the fate of the whole world. The world cannot remain passive and neutral in any wars or disputes that might take place in it because it knows that its fate is decided in it and its hopes of justice and peace move within its holy courtyards.

            The quest of the inhabitants of Jerusalem for justice and peace is a quest in the name of all humanity and for its sake. It is particularly addressed to those who have been conquered, tyrannized, suppressed and humiliated. Peace lovers in our Holy Land do not only represent themselves but also the thirst of all people who are threatened by all kinds of injustice and fear.

Our call for the peace and justice of Jerusalem is but a loud cry for the peace and justice of the world. This is based not on the illusions of military balance and selfish interests but on the divine and humane values which distinguish human civilization and of which God had made of Jerusalem a dwelling  place: and residence. “Peace be within your towers. For my brethren and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be with you” (Psalms 121:7-8).

The way to peace is the way of repentance

            Jesus wept over the Holy City at the sight of injustice in Jerusalem saying: “If only you had known, on this great day, the way that leads to peace” (Luke 19:41-41). He warned her because she did not respond with the special appeal that he made for her saying: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate...” (Matthew 23: 37-78).

            This means that peace cannot be based on political skills and propagandistic pedantries but on a heart which accepts peace, loves and aspires to it, obeys its requirements, and wishes to have it for himself as well as for others.

            Accordingly, the challenge with which the City of God faces is that kind of challenge which calls us to return to the values of peace and the requirements and appeals of justice which take their full divine and humane meanings in the Holy City, “Create in me a clean heart O, God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalms 50-12).

            The fear and intimidation, the attempt to size up the others in accordance with our narrow and selfish interests, the premeditated views which hinder the hearing of the hearts of individuals and peoples, or the ignoring and rejection of their aspirations and fundamental rights in the name of absolute and unilateral attitudes of which God is free despite the fact that they are said in His name ... all these are but obstacles that stand in the way of peace.

No peace can be achieved  without repentance and no repentance without listening in ourselves to the voice of God which purifies and changes us. The Holy City is the city of return to the committed dialogue based on truthfulness and mutual respect and acceptance of others.

Conclusion

            In compliance with their sufferings and aspirations for the establishment of their state, the Palestinian people wish to hold with all lovers of Jerusalem and its sons in body and soul the flame of justice and peace. They address this appeal to the whole world so as not to let the flame be extinguished. Justice and peace can be possible if we wish. In this hope we live and for its sake we strive.

            We, the believers in Christ, as well as our brethren and all those who have good will, wish to remain as always callers and workers for this great hope of justice and peace, whatever the cost. In God we trust. Grace and peace of God, our father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

- The Preparatory Committee of the Conference on
“Theology and the Local Church in the Holy Land”.
Al-Liqa Center

(July 13-15, 1989).