Alliance of Baptists President Carol Blythe, presiding at the spring convocation. (ABP photo by Bob Allen)
Alliance of Baptists President Carol Blythe, presiding at the spring convocation. (ABP photo by Bob Allen)

Churches respond to Palestinian plight

Two Washington-area churches are working with the Alliance of Baptists to build support for the plight of Palestinian Christians.

By Leah Grundset Davis

Two churches in the Washington, D.C., area are working closely with the Alliance of Baptists to develop a Christian response to the plight of Palestinians -- a task they said has taken on greater urgency as a fragile ceasefire between Gaza and Israel continues to hold.

The main effort by Calvary Baptist Church in Washington and Ravensworth Baptist Church in suburban Annandale, Va., surrounds the Kairos document, released in 2009 by Christians living and working in Palestine.

Based on a similar document written in South Africa at the time of apartheid, the Kairos document calls on the rest of the world to support them and work for justice in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

“As Palestinian Christians we hope that this document will provide the turning point to focus the efforts of all peace-loving peoples in the world, especially our Christian sisters and brothers,” the Kairos website says. “We believe that liberation from occupation is in the interest of all peoples in the region because the problem is not just a political one, but one in which human beings are destroyed.”

Alliance of Baptists President Carol Blythe said the group took notice of the initiative in its spring convocation in Austin, Texas.

“At our annual meeting, the Alliance of Baptists discussed a statement, which was responding to the Kairos Palestine document,” Blythe said. “At that meeting, a variety of viewpoints about the statement, a variety of viewpoints about the situation in Palestine and Israel, and a variety of viewpoints about how the Alliance should respond to the document were shared on the floor.”

Blythe said the Alliance, which adopts only consensus policy statements and avoids up-and-down votes on controversial issues, did not decide specifically how to respond at the meeting.

“It was clear to me, though, that the membership wanted to continue the dialogue to discern how the Alliance could respond to the call of Christians living in Palestine as expressed in the document,” she said.

Subsequently, the Alliance and partner churches Calvary and Ravensworth began creating a network of interested Christians in the Washington and Baltimore area. On Feb. 3, the Alliance’s Community for Justice in Palestine and Israel will meet with the network at Calvary to discuss a response to the Kairos document.

G.J. Tarazi, a Palestinian Christian who is a member at Ravensworth and serves on the Alliance’s governing board, said he backs the effort because of the organization’s commitment to justice as part of its covenant.

“In addition to my personal connection to this issue, I believe we, as the Alliance of Baptists, are uniquely positioned to have a strong prophetic voice in solidarity with Palestinians,” he said. “We are very vocal in our stance about justice. Our Community for Justice in Palestine and Israel is established on these building blocks. This community has declared that we seek to follow the model of first-century Jesus by ‘speaking truth to power’ in 21st-century Palestine and Israel. The pursuit of justice will be based on building meaningful relationships between and among all people.”

Blythe added: “My hope is this gathered group in the Baltimore/D.C. metro area will help us find a path for responding to the Kairos Palestine 2009 document. The Alliance of Baptists are committed in their covenant and mission statement to pursue justice with and for those who are oppressed. To take that commitment seriously means talking together about calls for justice such as the one set forth in Kairos Palestine 2009 and discerning how we will respond.”