Dear Alliance of Baptists,
Last December I traveled to Bethlehem to participate in the Kairos Palestine gathering. This was truly an advent journey of hope and longing as I listened and learned from Palestinian Christians who continue to await (and manifest) God’s redemptive work in their land. Inspired by their witness, representatives of the global Christian community strategized together how we can be Incarnation – God in human form – for one another.
“Hope where there is no hope” was the theme of our time together, and indeed the situation for Palestinians grows ever more dire as they endure the cruel realities of legalized apartheid, codified in the new Nation-State Law, ongoing attacks aimed at the erasure of their communities and culture, and the devastating feeling of international abandonment.
Yet, in the face of these harsh realities, we encountered the deep and abiding power of hope that provides vision, purpose, perseverance and even joy. The kind of hope that defies death and motivates people to plant flowers in the casings of empty tear gas canisters.
“Hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. From this vision derives the strength to be steadfast, remain firm and work to change the reality in which we find ourselves.” (Kairos Palestine, 2009)
This hope, grounded in a faith that has been forged in the harshest of realities, refusing to be extinguished and embodied in acts of love and resistance, serves as a powerful reminder of what it means to be followers of Jesus. As our own country is embattled in a fight for its soul, its core values and its future, we who have great privilege have much to learn from the Palestinian people who are leading the way in what it means to resist evil through love, to be hope for one another, and to continue to allow God to be born in their very midst.
As an international community, we drew strength from one another: from South Africa to India, Korea to the Philippines, Europeans, North and South Americans, we took courage from the joint struggles we were engaged in, challenging the many manifestations of racism, militarism, U.S. Imperialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing rampant in our world. We affirmed the deep interconnectedness of our struggles and the power of partnering together in our mutual efforts to demand freedom, justice and equality for all people. We committed to being a global circle of prophets, working in our own local communities, to be the very presence of God in the world.
From the Palestinian Christians, we were asked to manifest hope by participating in boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), being liberative church, rejecting any theology that dehumanizes any of God’s children, and lifting up the profound theology of the Kairos Palestine letter of faith, hope and love (a Palestinian “Letter from Birmingham Jail”).
The Alliance of Baptists is already part of the global circle of prophets and has taken clear stands of solidarity and partnership with the people of Palestine. I was proud to represent you in my travels. Inspired by your witness, and all I experienced in Bethlehem, I was able to lead my congregation in Bible Study and prayerful consideration of becoming an HP Free congregation, which we committed to in January!
There is still so much to do. Injustice abounds. Inhumanity is rampant. And yet, as the Advent season of hope led to Christmas, the celebration of God with us, and now Epiphany, the season of manifestation and light, we are invited to be manifestations of the God of Justice and Love in our world. May the light of Love and Justice continue to grow brightly within us and through us, and may we be emissaries of God’s light for and with one another.
Allison Tanner is minister of Christian Formation at Alliance congregational partner Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif. She also writes the blog titled giving voice to the struggle (https://givingvoicetothestruggle.com).