This past year, during the pandemic, Rev. Naim Ateek, put together a collection of his writings including lectures, sermons, largely unpublished but mostly delivered at various universities, colleges, and churches over the years.
A number of them have been organized by topics and published in booklet forms. This is a work in progress. So far, six booklets have been published. They are now available through Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.
I was invited to review one of the booklets, “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back! Finding the Church’s Prophetic Voice for Palestine”.
I am delighted to commend Revd Dr Naim Ateek’s “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!”. It contains the distilled wisdom of over 50 years prophetic ministry. This is an immensely significant and urgent call (as well as loving rebuke) for the Western church to find its prophetic voice and speak truth to power over Palestine.
For far, far too long our church leaders has been silent about injustice in Palestine and in so doing have compromised their witness. They seem to care more about not offending Zionist friends than defending their sisters and brothers in Palestine. I know they are fearful of being accused of antisemitism. If so, it is their own fault for adopting, so uncritically, the IHRA definition of antisemitism. I call it a pseudo-definition because numerous lawyers have pointed out that it is not actually a definition. A definition by definition cannot be indefinite which the IHRA purposely and intentionally is.
It is designed to silence criticism of Israel by equating antizionism with antisemitism.
It is telling that I know of only one Anglican Bishop who has publicly endorsed the Kairos “Cry for Hope: A Call for Decisive Action” published 18 months ago. Only one out of more than 100 in England.
In “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!” Naim explains how Christians, especially her leaders, have “quenched the Spirit and choked the prophetic”, caring more about personal interests than fidelity to God’s truth. Silence in the face of oppression and injustice leads to self-censorship and complicity.
Naim embodies what a prophetic ministry looks like. Lonely? Yes. Controversial? Most certainly. Impactful? Definitely. I remember in November 2005, participating in a Sabeel conference in Canada on MRI. The day before, B’nai Brith organised a press conference to dissuade Canadian clergy from participating. We went along and sat in the back row to find out what they were saying about us. I remember the spokesman asking “Who is Naim Ateek?” “where do they get their money from?” I felt like standing up and answering “We don’t have any!” One astute journalist asked a question. “Why did you have to fly three clergy from New York to convince Canadian clergy not to attend?”
They were not very subtle. Canadians don’t like Americans telling them what to do. Why go to such trouble and expenses? They were in panic mode because Sabeel was challenging their apartheid narrative. They clearly took Sabeel seriously, because, then as now, Sabeel is a prophetic voice standing peacefully and non-violently against oppression and injustice in Palestine.
At the heart of “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!” Naim provides short bible expositions, offering a clear, Christ-centred, theology of justice and peace. He shatters the illusion that somehow Jesus was apolitical.
The inclusion of the testimonies of contemporary Palestinian Christian leaders who, as faithful “martyrs”, have shown courage in challenging the injustice and oppression of Israeli apartheid, is also deeply inspiring. Naim also cites the prophetic words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Apartheid in the Holy Land”
“My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?
Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured…
Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or – I hope – to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.”
I found “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!” particularly valuable in outlining the practical steps we need to take to recover our prophetic voice and so fulfil our God-given mandate. I will be using this valuable resource in future lectures and presentations. And I hope you will also.
Let me give the last word to Naim. This is how he concludes, “Cry Out, Do Not Hold Back!”.
“Achieving a just peace for the Palestinians can be done if we are willing to stand and face together the inter- nationally recognized illegal occupation. The challenge before our church leadership globally is to recognize the evil nature of this morbid occupation, and to confront it head on using the power of prayer and nonviolence. Let us remember the plea of Palestinian Christians expressed in the Kairos Palestine Document and addressed to the churches of the world, “Are you able to help us get our freedom back…?” This cry is a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.”
Read more here
We pray, Lord, to bless Pastor Dr. Naim Ateek, who has worked over the years to raise awareness about the reality of Palestinians, issues of liberation, and strive for fair peace and participate in international gatherings and haunted events. God bless this version and the different versions that narrate the reality of what is going on in the country.
If you like a short summary of the booklets please click here: Booklet Summaries – Sabeel, Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
You may get the booklets on line through the following link: https://www.fosna.org/fosnabookstore
To order hard copies of the booklets, please write directly to Sabeel@sabeel.org