The PFMEP Blog

The PFMEP Blog focuses on advancing Middle East Peace.

Thoughtful comments on blog articles can provide additional insight and stimulate productive debate. We welcome comments from a diverse group of contributors.
John Wimberly

Peace or Polarization?

Is Jesus Opposed to Building Normal Relationships Between Israelis and Palestinians?

The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement is on record as opposing efforts to create “normalization” of relationships between Israelis and Palestinians. They reject all forms of dialogue, cooperation, or engagement between Israelis and Palestinians and their respective supporters. On the BDS Movement website, the BDS National Committee “calls for action against projects and initiatives which amount to recognition of or cooperation with Israel’s regime of apartheid, colonialism and occupation (i.e., normalization).  This means opposition to programs like Hand in Hand that promote coexistence and are supported by many PCUSA congregations.  Hand in Hand and programs like it bring young Israelis and Palestinians together to build trust and friendships.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

On San Bernardino and Paris

The tragic events in San Bernardino and Paris, perpetrated by self-described supporters of Islamic State, are dominating the headlines. Islamic State and similar jihadist movements represent a serious threat to the civilized world. At the same time, they do not reflect beliefs held by the vast majority of the world’s Muslims.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace categorically condemns the appalling anti-Islam rhetoric being uttered in this country, Europe and elsewhere. Lumping all Muslims together as fanatics is the same as trying to link all Christians to the white separatism of groups like the Ku Klux Klan or all Jews with the actions of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League. Today is not a time for people of faith to attack one another. It is a pivotal moment in human history when reasoned, reasonable people of faith need to come together and isolate the fanatics in our ranks---whether they be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Islamic or any other type of religious fanatics.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Now more than ever our prayers are needed for the peace of Jerusalem. The violence that in recent weeks began in Jerusalem is spreading across Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Israelis are filled with fear, and Palestinians of good will are seeing their future disintegrate before their eyes.

What is needed to end this violence? The position of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace is that progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is essential. There is only one path to peace, and it is the two state solution.  This has been the position of the PCUSA for decades and should remain the focal point of our peacemaking efforts. Political leaders on both sides, with help from the international community, must commit to this and demonstrate tangible progress to their respective peoples.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

The Pillars of Peace

Peace requires a foundation, and organized efforts to promote coexistence, understanding, and cooperation are essential for building this foundation. Israelis, Palestinians, Jews and Arabs are engaging in a dynamic and growing group of organizations dedicated to such efforts. To learn about them visit the website of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), a network of over 80 organizations committed to this critical work. Christians can and should support these efforts; they are non-political, build bridges, and advance the cause of peace.

These efforts are facing opposition from the international Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement. The term for this opposition is “anti-normalization”. As a case in point, one of the ALLMEP organizations is YaLa Young Leaders, a rapidly growing youth peace movement with almost 1 million supporters in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Last year YaLa hosted an online peace conference that attracted over 40,000 participants. YaLa has received statements of support from former president Bill Clinton and many other distinguished figures.

John Wimberly

The Plight of Middle Eastern Christians

As Christians, we are concerned about all the people who are suffering and dying in the chaos that has engulfed much of the Middle East. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a special bond with Christians who are being persecuted. From Syria to Iraq to Egypt to Libya, we hear horrifying stories of Christians being jailed and murdered, even by beheading. At its April, 2014 meeting, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) responded to a Pittsburgh Presbytery overture expressing concern about the plight of Christians “in Egypt and other parts of the world” with the following advice to the Detroit General Assembly:

“Use of the word “persecution” mischaracterizes the nature of the maltreatment of Christians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, and in many cases would be an unhelpful exaggeration.”

If this statement strikes the reader as incredible, it is. How have we reached a point where our leaders can dismiss the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians?

Due to the divestment debate, our denomination has been focused on the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis for more than a decade. Can it be that our preoccupation with the Palestine-Israel conflict has caused us to lose any and all understanding of the bigger picture in the Middle East? Have we become so absorbed in the suffering of the Palestinians and Israelis that we can see the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East as an “unhelpful exaggeration?”