Letter to Rev. Jerry Falwell
February 1, 1998
The Reverend Dr. Jerry Falwell
Dear Rev. Falwell,
We, Palestinian evangelical pastors serving among the Palestinian evangelical Christian communities in the Holy Land, write to express our concerns regarding statements that you made in January 1998.
On page four of the International Herald Tribune, January 22, 1998, under the title: Christian Right Backs Israel, the Herald wrote; "Mr. Falwell has said that he and several leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention told Mr. Netanyahu that they would mobilize evangelical churches to oppose steps to give up any more territory to the Palestinians, The New York Times Reported."
We, your brothers and sisters in Christ, prayerfully and in the spirit of love, appeal to you to reexamine your positions regarding Israeli policies in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
We, who live and serve among Palestinians, grasp the harmful effects of denying over 3 million Palestinians living in the Holy Land and another three million Palestinian refugees who are in exile, the right to live in their homeland, the right to freedom and the right to statehood. This denial has been the very cause of much blood shed and suffering in the last five decades.
Please understand that our concern for justice for the Palestinians must not be interpreted as a rejection for Jews to live in security and peace in Israel. As concerned evangelicals, we are called on to approach these complicated issues with Christian compassion for both Israelis and Palestinians and to endorse only a settlement that addresses the legitimate rights and aspirations of both parties. We also condemn all acts of terrorism and aggression regardless whether Palestinians or Israelis are responsible for such acts.
Let us assure you, Reverend, that your statements are hindering the cause of Christ here in the Holy Land, throughout the Arab World (the home of about 250 million people), and throughout the Islamic world (over one billion people). Our task of sharing the love of Christ in this region is becoming increasingly difficult as our brothers and sisters in the West openly express sentiments and endorse policies that produce greater injustice and aggression against Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
Your call on evangelical leaders to write to President Clinton to express opposition to the current peace process, is disheartening to all who seek peace and justice. In the absence of a viable peace process, there will be renewed rounds of violence and the possibility of an all out war. By lobbying against any further Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank, you are endorsing the theft of Palestinian lands and adopting the dangerous position of Israeli extremists. To continue to carry out such excessive positions will sooner or later bring major disasters to all Israelis and Palestinians.
As evangelical pastors, teachers and theologians we understand that your positions on these issues may be motivated by your understanding of Biblical prophecies. We also realize, however, that while Christians differ as to the interpretation of Biblical prophecies, we all agree with the following Biblical mandates:
We are called to love all God's creation: "For God so loved the world ..." John 3;16. We believe that this love of God also embraces the Palestinian people, both Muslims and Christians. No man or woman can truly claim to love the Palestinian people, while at the same time, he or she uses every opportunity available to promote injustice against them. God's love cannot be expressed to Palestinians by supporting policies that result in their eviction from their ancestral homelands or by keeping Palestinian refugees stranded in refugee camps.
We are called to be peacemakers: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" Matthew 5:9. Your statements, Rev. Falwell, indicate that you have a greater passion to see Biblical prophecy come to fulfillment than to see peace and righteousness reign in this land.
We are called to seek justice. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
Addressing religious leader Jesus declared:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former." Matthew 23:23
Finally, Reverend, we pastors and leaders of most evangelical churches in Jerusalem and the West Bank serving among the Palestinians, wish to extend to you an invitation to visit us in the Holy Land. Come and be our honoured guest. We desire for you to travel with us down a modern-day Jericho Road.
We want you to discover for yourself the true victims of this conflict. We wish for you to draw near enough to hear the cry of the oppressed and see with your eyes the wounds of those who are crushed. We pray that you will not decide to walk by on the other side.
Reverend Musa Abu Ali, Bible Baptist Church,
Reverend Alex Awad, East Jerusalem Baptist Church, Jerusalem
Reverend George Awad, Bible Presbyterian Church, Bethlehem
Reverend Bassam Bannoura, Shepherd Field Baptist Church, Beit Sahour
Reverend Atallah Esawi, Church of God, Aboud
Reverend Naju Issa, Bible Baptist, Jericho
Reverend Munir Kakish Pentecostal Church, Ramallah
Reverend Ibrahim Mseeh, Local Baptist, Ramallah
Reverend Botrus Mualem, Church of God, Beit Jala
Reverend Magdi Anwar, Missionary Alliance Church, Jerusalem
Reverend Nizar Tuma, Nazarene Church, Jerusalem
Reverend Nihad Salman, Church of God, Bethlehem