Christians everywhere are called by Almighty God to "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Mic. 6:8). Far from being passive, we are enjoined to "seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless and plead the cause of the widow" (Isa. 1:17). These and many other verses in Scriptures inform us that we are not to condone, much less support, injustice and unrighteousness whenever they occur. We are to be "salt and light" to the world through our thoughts, words, prayers and deeds.
The Palestinian problem ranks as one of the most critical and complex geo-political issues in world affairs. Its recent origins lie in the atrocities committed against the Jews in Europe starting from the late 19th century and later compounded by the political intrigues of Western powers.
These foundations have made the region highly volatile and, with the now globalised nature of the problem, a flashpoint for wider tensions and conflicts. The toll in terms of lost innocent lives, both Palestinian and Israeli, is already significant, but, with the derailment of the peace process and escalation in violence, is mounting at an alarming rate.
In this conflict, the Church is neither appointed referee nor tribunal. Christians are charged to clearly and prophetically communicate the truths, principles and values contained in God’s Word and to bring about healing and reconciliation. The reality, however, is sadly different.
Various Christian denominations and groups have, over the years, made separate and collective proposals for peace but the suffering and deprivation – including desperate cries of help by Palestinian Christians – have largely gone unheard.
Instead, Christians have been more inclined to take sides and so pour fuel on an already raging fire. We need, in all humility and brokenness, to confess our complicity and willful neglect through acts of commission and omission.
We fully appreciate that Christians the world over have strong emotional bonds with Israel and are theologically divided over its role in God’s end-time plan. Many who study biblical prophecies reasonably expect the nation to be restored when our Lord Jesus returns. For them, Israel’s continuing security and well-being takes the highest priority. Other scholars believe that the Church effectively takes the place of Israel and that the physical nation is no longer central to God’s plans.
In all these, we are reminded by the Apostle Paul that we can for now only "see poorly" and "know in part" and wait until "perfection comes." Nevertheless, three things are eternal: "faith, hope and love," the greatest being "love" (1Cor. 13:10–13).
It is critical to stress that whatever teachings one subscribes to, the need to uphold the demands for justice, mercy and, most of all, love, is a constant.
Our understanding of biblical truths must be consistent with, and set in the context of, the entirety of our Lord’s teachings and not just selected parts.
In His divine sovereignty and omniscience, God can use both righteous and unrighteous situations to serve His perfect will and purposes. As His children, however, we do not have the same privileges or rights.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the substantial efforts that have been invested in the peace process now lay waste. For all their faults and shortcomings, the 1993 Oslo Interim Agreements, the 1998 Wye River and 1999 & 2000 Sharm el-Sheikh Memoranda, and the January 2001 Taba, Egypt talks, made it possible to catch a glimpse of peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians.
As stated by the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, "the results achieved (since Oslo) were unthinkable less than 10 years ago." The Taba Israeli-Palestinian Joint Statement, issued just before the Israeli elections, concluded that, "the two sides were never closer in reaching an agreement between them than today."
Since then, events appear to have put paid to the peace process and, in particular, the pivotal permanent status negotiations. What was supposed to have been characterised by gradual confidence building has quickly degenerated into a tremendous loss of faith, trust and respect in the process, even greater oppression and hostility, mutual recrimination and, obviously, a spiraling cycle of deadly violence.
The Palestinian Authority’s inability to rein in extremists (PLO) and the failure of the Sharon Administration to abide by the terms forged are now leading to a voicing of demands that negotiations and interim agreements make way for more forcibly imposed measures.
We urge all Malaysian Christians to pray for a rapid restoration of the peace process. Intercessions should be made that the global sponsors to the Middle East peace process will, in partnership with neighbouring countries and in concert with international organisations, act responsibly by reminding the parties of their commitments, facilitating an immediate cessation of violence, and inducing parties back to the negotiating table.
Obstacles – such as the demolition of Palestinian homes and orchards, the renewed construction of Jewish settlements, border closures, curfews and the excessive use of force – must stop, as must assassinations, suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism and destabilisation.
We further call on Malaysian Christians to act swiftly and compassionately to help alleviate the suffering of all those affected by the conflict, but in particular those that have been among the hardest hit by economic restrictions.
The Church should mobilise the financial, material and technical resources at its disposal. In order to blunt the criticisms that will accompany this effort, assistance should be offered for the welfare of all.