Kairos Palestine 7th Annual Conference 2016: “Faith, Sumud and Creative Resistance”

Kairos Palestine held their seventh annual conference this past week, December 8-9th, at Dar-Annadwa International Center in Bethlehem. Titling the gathering as “Faith, Sumud and Creative Resistance,” the time spent together was intended to approach the injustices of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine from the context which encompasses these themes. Born out of the Kairos Document which was drafted in 2009, Kairos Palestine is conveyed as a moment of truth in faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.

At the commencement of the conference, Mrs. Hind Khoury, Secretary General of Kairos Palestine, opened with a few words, prayer and a moment of silence. With the wide array of those in attendance ranging from national figures, clergy, priests and members from several communities with Palestinian society, Mrs. Khoury welcomed all who were present. She continued on in her opening statement to set the scene for the upcoming speakers that would present the following day:

“When we review the dire consequences of the actions of the Israeli Occupation in the destruction of the economy, control over natural resources, the confiscation of land and water, construction of the apartheid wall, arrests, repression and killings; we confirm the call of the Kairos Document in declaring that the Word of God is good news for all mankind, including the Palestinian people.”

The duration of the conference hosted speakers spanning from religious leaders like Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem to journalist Gideon Levy, Israeli columnist for Haaretz, and even General Director of Al-Haq (an independent Palestinian human rights organization), Shawan Jabarin. Roughly fifteen different speakers presented their work, ideas and calls to action to the larger group as it pertained to their area of expertise. The sessions also included the following topics: “Theological Responses on Justice,” “Modern History of Palestine and Justice,” “The Campaign Against Advocacy and Creative Nonviolent Resistance,” “The Growing Phenomenon of Exclusion and Extremism in the Name of Religion,” and “The Kairos Palestine Message in Light of Current Challenges.” Musical selections were also a beautiful addition to the conference and were prepared and performed by the group Ru’at.

Throughout the duration of the conference, sentiments of resilience in the face of oppression were shared not only in the words of the speakers, but also embodied in the posture in which they presented. Attendance at a conference like this displays the importance of the issues being discussed. Forming a united front with Jesus at the center allows for a reinforced kind of resilience and resistance that one can engage in to enter into the Palestinian struggle for justice and peace. Having come under new kinds of scrutiny from those in opposition to the message behind Kairos Palestine, Director of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac stated, “Palestinian Christians are either being silenced or pressured to compromise. This is becoming more prevalent because our work is making an impact. Christian Zionists are having to rethink their approach in dealing with us.”

Continued meetings and conferences like Kairos Palestine will only help to further this development of creative resistance in both thought and action. Standing on principles of faith, hope and love, movement toward achieving a just and lasting peace here in Israel and Palestine can be made possible. In summation, even when current realities look bleak and impossible to overcome, there has always been a faithful remnant of Christ followers that cling to the teachings of Jesus and believe that in time all things will be brought back into right relationship with God. The suffering of Palestinians will not go unanswered, and it is the hope of those putting on this conference that there would be a unity in coming together to be encouraged in the creative, nonviolent resistance to oppression in step with Christ-like behavior. Muna Mushahwar stated it well in her speech, “We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated.” May we be ever present and engaging the societal injustices around us in the manner which emanates the bold love of Jesus Christ.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction faithful in prayer.”

Romans 12:12