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United Church Responds to Critique of Middle East Proposals

29 July 2009

Toronto: In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada has responded to concerns raised by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) regarding four proposals on the Middle East that are coming before the August meeting of the United Church’s 40th General Council. The CJC’s critique of the proposals was published in the July 29 edition of the National Post.

The four proposals deal with matters related to bringing peace to Israel and Palestine. Altogether, the church’s General Council will consider 173 proposals on various issues, 105 of which originate from across the church, from regional bodies called Conferences. The full text of the four Middle East proposals can be found in the Atlantic Commission section of Workbook 2 on The United Church of Canada’s 40th General Council website. Proposals to General Council are offered for consideration and can be adopted, amended, or defeated.

Wendy Gichuru is The United Church of Canada’s program coordinator for the Middle East. She explains that the United Church has consistently striven for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel, and that the church’s policy in the Middle East is shaped and informed by Israeli and Palestinian partners in the region.

In terms of interfaith dialogue, Gichuru explains The United Church of Canada continues on the journey of renewing faithful witness to our relationship with Judaism through thoughtful and prayerful study of the document Bearing Faithful Witness: United Church-Jewish Relations Today, and dialogue with the Jewish community, principally through the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation (CCJC), of which the Canadian Jewish Congress is a member.

The Rev. Bruce Gregersen is The United Church of Canada’s General Council Officer for Programs. He says that the United Church has acknowledged “a history of anti-Judaism and antisemitism within Christianity as a whole, including The United Church of Canada” and has affirmed

  • the significance of Judaism as at once a religion, a people, and a covenant community
  • that the State of Israel has the right to exist in peace and security
  • our common calling with Jews and others to align ourselves with God’s world-mending work

Gregersen also explains that The United Church of Canada has a long history of engagement in working for the promotion and protection of human rights in Canada and globally. International human rights law lays down obligations that states are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, states assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect, and to fulfill human rights. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis, The United Church of Canada has stated its conviction that a just peace in the Middle East will require

  • the recognition by the Israeli government of a fully sovereign State of Palestine with secure borders, and territorial contiguity encompassing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
  • the recognition by the emergent State of Palestine and other neighbouring Arab states of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within safe and secure borders
  • the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • the ending of suicide bombings as well as other forms of violent attacks directed toward civilians on the part of Palestinians
  • the withdrawal of Israeli military forces to pre-1967 borders and the ending of all forms of collective punishment and violence by the Israeli government on the Palestinian people
  • the recognition by the Israeli government and the emergent State of Palestine of equal citizenship, rights, protections, privileges, and responsibilities for all of their respective citizens regardless of religious or national origins

The United Church also calls for

  • the church to pray for the peace of Jerusalem
  • the church at all levels to remain in dialogue with Jewish and Muslim communities and make every effort to be in solidarity with justice-seeking groups within those faith communities
  • adopting a pro-investment strategy with companies that engage in ethically responsible business, and contribute to peace and a secure and economically viable Palestinian state alongside a secure and economically viable State of Israel
  • using current ethical investment processes to make financial investments, as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, only in peaceful pursuits
  • advocating with the Canadian government and corporations to take leadership in international efforts toward a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict

Discussion of the new proposals regarding the Middle East will take place when the 40th General Council meets in Kelowna, British Columbia, August 9-15, 2009.

For more information, please contact:

  • Mary-Frances Denis
    Communications Officer
    The United Church of Canada
    Tel: 416-231-7680 ext. 2016
    Toll-free: 1-800-268-3781 ext. 2016
    E-mail: Mary-Frances Denis
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