“I believe that the Bible rightly interpreted can be a word of God for liberation, salvation and redemption. It can contribute to the achievement of justice, peace and reconciliation among people.”
This was one of the messages of Sabeel co-founder and father of Palestinian Liberation Theology Rev.
Naim Ateek at the March 24th launch of Sabeel’s new book The Bible and the Palestine Israel Conflict. Over 65 people came to the Dominican Church in Jerusalem to learn about the book, which explores topics of biblical authority, the occupation of the Bible, the future of the Bible, realities on the ground in Palestine and Israel, and international law, among others.
Tragically, Ateek said, in our Christian history the Bible has been used to rationalize many wrongs including war, slavery, and apartheid. This includes, he said, the ideology of Zionism, which in large part has been implemented in the name of God and the Bible. “…today the Bible has been used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians, the demolition of their homes, and the violation of their human and political rights,” he said.
Cedar Duaybis, Sabeel co-founder and co-editor of the book, highlighted author quotes from the book, which is a compilation of presentations and papers from Sabeel’s 9th International Conference in Jerusalem in 2013. The authorsrepresent different denominations, religions, and countries.
Chapter author Father David Neuhaus, from Israel, stressed the importance of Bible readers to consider context and history. “Very often those who are manipulating, in some sense suffocating the word through their manipulation, are using the word without the world, the text without a context, and revelation without history,” he said.
Another chapter authorRev. Du Brul, of Bethlehem University, said the Bible will have a future as long as people can respond to its challenge. He described the challenge like climbing a mountain. “… the top is different for different people; they are climbing for different reasons, but they might never get to the top before they say they’ve had enough,” he said.
Rev. Nancy Cardoso, from Brazil, highlighted the difficulty of the US’s support of Israel as an ideal in one of her chapters. “Like the U.S., it is an ideal of White Europeans invading a country far from home, declaring it to be empty, and then emptying it of its original inhabitants, and proclaiming that it is all God’s will,” she said.
Ateek said that because the Bible is a huge, diverse, pre-modern and pre-scientific book, it is possible to prove many things if one selects the texts and verses. Because of this, he said, the conflict over Palestine cannot be resolved on the basis of the Bible, but on the basis of international law.
In looking forward, friend of Sabeel from Diakonia in Sweden, Bo Forsberg, said in one of the final chapters that his organization funds400 organizations around the world working for democracy, economic justice, human rights and peace. He said, “…but the one I love most is Sabeel. It’s true, because Sabeel has a wonderful way of combining life for everyone in dignity, telling the truth based on international rules and laws, and, in the middle of it all, Jesus Christ.”