Group Pilgrimage Statement on Israel and Palestine

Leaders of Historically African American and South African Churches meet in the Spring.
Leaders of Historically African American and South African Churches meet in the Spring.

We came to Israel and Palestine, as disciples of the Risen Christ. We came on a religious pilgrimage as a joint delegation of leaders from historic black denominations of the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the United States of America, and heads of South African church denominations of the South African Council of Churches (SACC)

Images from pilgrimage. Courtesy Photo.

The National Council of Churches is an ecumenical partner supported by the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund apportionment, which enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations.

We came as representatives of African American communities; as descendants of those who survived slavery, Jim Crow and who work now to dismantle the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration and militarization of police in our communities; and we came as representatives of the South African people who lived through the indignity of over 300 years of dehumanizing dispossession, colonialism, segregation and apartheid.

We came to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the hope of meeting Israeli and Palestinian citizens. We came seeking to better understand the realities on the ground, particularly related to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip)

We came as people with a shared history of racial segregation, victims of injustice, people who have been dehumanized and marginalized.  We came as people who stand against racism, against anti-Semitism, against Islamophobia. 

Images from pilgrimage. Courtesy Photo.

We came as people standing on the side of justice and equality for all.

We visited Yad Vashem the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. We heard the Jewish perspective. We shared a Bible study with a Jewish Rabbi. We visited Palestinian communities and homes. We visited a refugee camp and we met with families who are fighting to keep their homes from being taken for Jewish settlements and developments.

We heard the stories about the Palestinians within occupied territory of the Gaza Strip, we heard of the acute shortage of fuel and electricity, seriously affecting daily life and the provision of especially health services in Gaza; and the heavily polluted and undrinkable water, aggravating child mortality rates and so many other stories.

The laws of segregation that allow one thing for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians; we saw evidence of forced removals; homes abandoned, olive trees uprooted or confiscated and taken over, shops and businesses bolted with doors welded to close out any commercial activities.

We met with church leaders and heard the cry of the Christian churches for our ecumenical presence with them – "Do not forget us!" "Pray with and for us!"

We departed with heavy hearts, and with a forlorn sense that unless something is done by the people of faith for the peace of Jerusalem, the conflict will be the painful heritage of many future generations.

We raise our collective hand to be the extension of that arm, through which God's salvation and righteousness shall be realized even in this troubled land, and "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor!"

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund apportionment at 100 percent.