Monday, 9 June 2014

Christian Neighbourliness: The Palestine Question

     Taking action in faith        

Christian Neighbourliness: The Palestine Question
A paper presented by Rev. Kolade Fadahunsi, Coordinator Kairos Nigeria at the 2014 retreat for graduating ministerial students of Immanuel College of Theology and Christian Education, Samonda, Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria, on Saturday 7th June 2014

 “The Israeli holiday celebrations in May of the creation of the state as well as the remembrance days for the war dead and the millions of victims of the Holocaust led to increased tensions in the Palestinian city of Hebron. There a group of approximately 500 fundamentalist settlers hold the town's Palestinian population under a state of siege. With an attack by Israeli settlers on Palestinian school girls,which took place in late April. The girls at the Cordoba school in the Tel Rumeida section had been dismissed and were walking down the stairs leading to the street below. At that point, six teenage girls from the settlements in the area came running towards them. The settlers started throwing stones at the girls who had reached the bottom of the stairs and one physically attacked the girls. The Israeli soldier present grabbed the girl and pulled her down and then tried to push the Palestinian school girls up the stairs and away from the settlers. While this was going on, stones were thrown by the settlers from the street. The situation was chaotic and the girls were screaming in panic. They finally managed to pass the soldiers who were busy fighting of the settlers and ran away from the stairs where they had been easy targets”.
The conversation of our Lord Jesus Christ with the lawyer in ….(Luke 10:25-29) presents the backdrop to the parable of the Good Samaritan; and in addition also reminds us about the discussion in Mark 12:28-34. However the only point which the two have in common is the bringing together of the two great commandments earlier given in the Old Testament:
1.      ‘’….thou shall love the Lord thy God…..(Deut. 6:5) and
2.      ‘’….thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself’’ (Lev.19:18).
Each of these commandments in turn had been stressed as of first importance by one or the other of the Jewish Rabbis, and the first of them- ‘’Love the Lord your God’’- was one of the text contained in the phylacteries which pious Jews wore on their forehands and wrists in obedience to the Law of God (Deut. 6:7,8).
But the Gospels are the earliest known documents in which the two commandments are brought together. Once the crucial connection is made, their relationship is obvious and this is that as soon as man discovers and accepts God as his father, he accepts the corollary of his neighbours being his brethren; because in the light of God’s love to himself a man sees other men, as it were, through God’s eyes: and to see them in this way is to love them. So in a way the two laws go together, almost in what one might call a “mutually inexclusive” manner so to say.

This love to one’s neighbor is unconditional- it is not ‘love your neighbor if he loves you’; or’ love your neighbor if he shares your faith’ or any such provisio. In fact, the only condition that we may apply to these laws is the condition given by Christ in Matthew Chapter 5 where He draws our attention to the fact that:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt
Love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy,
(Matthew 5:43); “But I say unto you, Love your
Enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to
Them that hate you, and pray for them which
Despitefully use you, and persecute you’’ Matthew 5:44.
The association of the two commandments (“love God” and “love your neighbor”) may well have first been made by Jesus himself ( this is how Mark presents it); but in Luke it is the lawyer who makes this association when Jesus is drawing him out to answer his own question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But the lawyer may have done this because he already knew that this was the way in which Jesus construed the Law, and because he wanted to put the supplementary question: “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ answer, in drawing a line between neighbor and non –neighbors, is the parable of the Good Samaritan. What did the Samaritan do when he saw the wounded traveler? Mainly the following:
1.      “….he had compassion on him” (love)
2.      “ ….and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine” (care)
3.      “…. And set him on his own beast, and brought him to the inn” (generosity)
4.      “…. And took care of him” (compassion), and as if that was not enough:
5.      “…. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave  them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” ( planned for the stranger’s future needs).
In our lives, can we match the Good Samaritan? Do we turn away and take another route when we see someone in need ahead? Do we shut our ears to the needs of the Palestinian Christians, such as the brutalized girls mentioned in the intro to this lecture? Do we preach and support injustice, oppression and occupation? Or rather remain ignorant and support continuing intimidation of Palestinian by encouraging Pilgrimage that lack focus, transformation and protection of Human Rights.?
In our relationship with our neighbors, do we remember the ninth commandment: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor”? Do we by our silence, when the truth is needed, like now when it is necessary to work and seek freedom for our sisters and brothers in Palestine?
 Do we despise those political views and religious persuasion we do not share? Do we pray and act on behalf of such people?.
Now is time to ponder on the various areas in which we can truly be Good Samaritans, good neighbors, good brethren. Let us meditate on these, and pray the Lord to give us the enablement to act whenever there is need, Please, note that the second of the lawyer’s questions-“Who is my neighbor?”- receives no direct answer from Jesus likely because it is the wrong question. The proper question should have been “To whom can I be a neighbor?” and the answer would be “To anyone whose need constitute a claim on my love”.  
As you are graduating and looking forward to your postings, to Churches, Institutions and different ministerial formations, I implore you to embrace a new thinking and apply your learned theology in the direction of liberation for the oppressed, become the light unto the darkness that had engulfed the world, teach and work for sound theology that support development and kill corruption, above all remember your neighbor- the Palestinian Christians who is calling you to “come and see” and live out the KAIROS theology that calls for a global Justice. As we continue to work together, let us promote and act the words of Kairos Palestine “Do not offer a theological cover-up for injustice we suffer, for sin of the occupation impose upon us”. One question: are you ready to help get freedom back to Palestinians? This is the Palestine question!.
Thank you for your attention.
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