St John the Baptist Parish Church

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Bassam Aramin and Robi Damelin at the Oxford Jewish Centre

The Church in Palestine produced the ‘ Kairos Document’ in 2009, asking for support for the Palestinian people, who have faced more than six decades of suffering and the dispossession of land.

At the 2013 Greenbelt Festival, a group of British Christians launched a response to this, ‘Kairos Britain – Time for Action’ asking for Churches here to think about becoming ‘Kairos Congregations.’ This is what our PCC is currently considering i.e to join with other Christians in the UK in seeking justice and peace for Israel and Palestine, with equal rights for all.

To find out more about this and to broaden our perspective, a group of us travelled to Oxford this week , to the Oxford Synagogue, to see a film and hear two members of the ‘Bereaved Families’ Forum’ one of whom was Jewish and the other Palestinian, speak about their loss of a son and a daughter respectively. The film showed how initially a small group of bereaved families got together, with two facilitators, to try to work through their pain and loss and eventually to empathise with ‘the other side.’- to understand that the pain felt was shared by all and to try to dispel some of the prejudices that they inevitably had about each other. One very telling comment was that a Palestinian, up until this meeting, had only ever seen Jews as soldiers and settlers, whereas Jews had only experienced Palestinians as suicide bombers.

Six hundred ‘partners for peace’ now belong to this Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families’ Forum and their work is worldwide. They argue that no peace settlement will ever work unless it is supported by the ordinary citizens on both sides . They constantly engage in projects to bridge the gulf between their two peoples and work tirelessly to spread their message. We were asked not to be either pro Palestinian or pro Israeli but to further their work towards pursuing peace and reconciliation.

The ‘Kairos Document’ also says that it is not anti Jewish, respecting their faith and traditions and that it is not pro Palestinian, whether Christian or Muslim. It is pro justice and pro peace. This is surely where the emphasis should lie. As members of the Forum say:

‘ Too much blood has been spilt. We do not want others to suffer as we have suffered.’