The Indigenous Christian community in the Middle East has stood as an unbroken and enduring witness in the land of Christ’s life and ministry for 2,000 years. However, the Church in the Holy Land - the cradle of our faith - is now in danger of dying out as Christians continue to flee conflict, oppression, and other hardships.
The OSJ encourages Christians in their efforts to stand in active solidarity with Christian communities in the Middle East as they face the challenge of maintaining a faithful Christian presence in increasingly volatile environments and of witnessing to the gospel of grace, justice, and peace.
Our Middle East peace work is especially focused on standing with Palestinian Christians because of the restrictions on their religious freedom that they experience.
The Christian Reformed Church began to delve into the complicated issues of justice and peacebuilding the Middle East more than ten years ago, based on the recommendations of the 2006 Synodical Report on War and Peace.
The Report on War and Peace stemmed out of the context of war in the Middle East - specifically from the debate over the morality and legality of the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. Following a meeting in London, Ontario of one hundred concerned Christian Reformed members from the United States and Canada, the CRC Board of Trustees agree to publish a pastoral letter to CRC congregations on the war in Iraq. The BOT also recommended that Synod appoint a study committee on the broader issues of war and peace (Response to 2006 War and Peace Report).
Synod 2006 adopted more than a dozen recommendations on the role of the Christian Reformed Church - at the denominational, congregational, and individual levels - in affirming the gospel’s call to Christians to be agents of shalom in a broken world. While maintaining a Reformed commitment to Just-War theory, the thrust of the recommendations was to urge CRC members, churches, and agencies to actively participate in building peace at all levels of society. Synod’s suggested means by which to engage in peace-building included advocacy and participation in the political process, supporting nonviolent means of conflict resolution and the protection of human rights, and opposing the increase of militarization.
After receiving the Synodical mandate to support peace-building efforts, the Office of Social Justice organized a study trip to visit the Middle East and assess whether the CRC should increase its involvement in peace and justice work in that region, and specifically in Israel/Palestine. The study team was asked to provide a detailed report, which gave particular attention to potential partnerships with Palestinian and/or Israeli Christian groups and gave specific recommendations for ways the denomination could support efforts to bring peace, reconciliation, and justice in this part of the world.
The Middle East Study Trip report concluded that the major contribution the CRC can make as agencies, institutions, and individuals is to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians - particularly our sisters and brothers in Christ - among our members and friends. Its recommendations were accepted by the BOT on behalf of Synod, and were subsequently implemented:
OSJ provides a Middle East peace and justice site to disseminate key resources and suggested steps for further action and advocacy.
The CRC and RCA have an official partnership that includes support for RCA mission work in Israel/Palestine.
CRC affiliated schools and institutions continue to host Arab and Palestinian Christian speakers at major conferences. For example, Archbishop Elias Chacour spoke at both Calvin’s 2010 January Series and Worship Symposium.
This small congregation in the West Bank is the church that Mary Feddema, a member of Church of the Servant, grew up in as her parents were missionaries there. The OSJ supports the church by including them in OSJ Prayers regularly.
This Palestinian, evangelical college has worked with a number of international partners, including the CRC, to strengthen the Palestinian Christian community through education. Hope Equals groups used to stay in the dorms there when in Bethlehem.
This non-profit organization was started by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb to support the work of the Diyar Consortium, the Christmas Lutheran Church, and Dar Al-Kalima University, all in Bethlehem. Dr. Raheb recently spoke at the World Communion of Reformed Churches gathering in Germany.
This Mennonite organization is the most active international, Christian organization working on the ground to empower Palestinians for non-violent resistance. Hope Equals partnered with them on the last trip that they brought to Israel/Palestine in 2014.
This organization was started by Elias Chacour to support the education of diverse children and youth, side-by-side, to cultivate peace. The students and teachers include Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Jews