LETTER FROM A MINISTER
The Personal View
of a Witness Speaking Out
I WAS most anxious about the flight, when I agreed to be part of a team of twenty-two representatives of the United Reformed Church, about to travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Actually the flight was fine. I should have been more anxious about the fallout from my visit! We set out to visit the West Bank and to meet with Palestinian Christians and hear their stories—this was the aim of our visit.
On the plane going out I sat with an Israeli man who told me (in his words) the truth about what I would find, and how abhorrent the Arabs were. The people I met were humble, strong, determined, oppressed; and they pleaded with us to, 'tell our stories'. They spoke of persecution and being victims. They told stories of water supplies being turned on only once every ten days in Bethlehem; of being denied access to large areas of the city of Hebron. They described the fact that if the demolition order on a Bedouin camp goes ahead, the members of that camp will end up on a rubbish dump, and the whole of Jerusalem will be surrounded by illegal settlements (as defined under international law).
We also visited a Cooperative bringing Arab and Jewish women and their families together in producing olive oil (Some is exported and some is being used by Lush to make their body wash!). We heard stories of heart-break and hope. We shared these and other stories. We got criticism about not being 'fair' in our reporting, and about being biased.
My personal view is that we are speaking out for those whose voices are being silenced. As a follower of Jesus, who we know had a heart for those on the margins, I believe I need to be bold enough to speak out about what I saw, and risk condemnation. If our faith does not push us to speak out for those we find on the edges, than I believe that we are not really understanding the radical words of the Gospel. We are settling for being 'comfy Christians' who believe in a 'nice man' who just died for our sins personally, and did not have a heart for justice.
Where we see injustice we need to call it out—faith followers or not—because we are all part of the whole human race. We need each other to speak up and make a stand, now more than ever.
Revd Jenny Mills,
Minister of Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church,
and West End United Church, Wolverton