At the invitation of Sabeel Liberation Theology Center and its local and international partners, more than 900 people (Christians, Muslims and Jews) from diverse parts of the world gathered in Bethlehem from 10-15 February 1998 to stand in solidarity and proclaim the challenge of jubilee. They came to discern God’s call for them as peacemakers promoting justice for all people.
Most participants in the conference travelled throughout the Holy Land, before and after the formal proceedings, encountering local people and places in the Galilee, Gaza, Hebron and Jerusalem. The participants were outraged and horrified at the level of oppression and brutality of the Israeli occupation as they walked the contextual “via dolorosa” of the Palestinian people.
1998 commemorates the 50th year of the dispossession of the Palestinian people on one hand and the establishment of the state of Israel on the other. While Israelis are planning festive celebrations to mark victories and accomplishments, Palestinians who continue to struggle for the cause of justice, peace and liberation, find themselves in the midst of a profoundly stalemated “peace process” with a deeply frustrated hope for liberation.
Inspired by the biblical theme of jubilee, participants worshipped and prayed together as they were inspired by the challenge of God’s word “to proclaim liberty to all the land’s inhabitants” (Leviticus 25:10). “What does God require but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God” Micah 6:8). “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to preach good news to the poor…to let the oppressed go free…” (Luke 4:18-19).
The challenge is to practice perpetual jubilee and to articulate a new vision for peace, justice, security, and coexistence that satisfies the deepest needs of all God’s people, rather than a solution based on military might and on a “balance of power” which inevitably favors the strong and allows for racism, oppression, and discrimination against the weak.
This vision requires:
- Admission by the Israeli government that injustice has been inflicted on the Palestinians.
- The return of all Arab and Palestinian lands occupied in 1967.
- The release of all Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
- The return home of all refugees and those who were expelled.
- The compensation of Palestinians for all damages done during the last 50 years of their dispossession.
- The guarantee of free access for Palestinians to Jerusalem and the cessation of all measures used to empty Jerusalem of its Palestinian population.
- The guarantee of full and equal rights to Palestinians inside Israel.
- The compliance of Israel with all relevant UN resolutions.
- The challenging of all governments and in particular the United States and its allies for their continuing political, economic and moral support of the Israeli occupation.
- The lifting of sanctions and the removal of the threat of military intervention against the suffering people of Iraq.
The benefits of God’s jubilee are for all the inhabitants of this land, Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims, Jews and Christians. The promise fulfilled will be for a life of true peace with lasting security for all people of the region.
Agreed upon by a special committee of the Sabeel board members, conference committee members and Friends of Sabeel members.