Current Middle East conflict and humanitarian crisis fuels Justice Dialogue discussion

Valley Forge, PA (02/15/24)—The December 6, 2023, edition of the Justice Dialogues webinar series hosted by American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) provided a platform to discuss the complex situation in Israel/Palestine. Kerry Boyd Anderson, a seasoned political and business risk consultant, production editor for Texas Security Review and columnist for Arab News, delivered a presentation aimed at providing historical context and insights necessary to understand the ongoing Middle East conflict that was triggered by Hamas’ October 6 attack on Israel.

Following the presentation, attendees engaged directly through a Q&A session moderated by the Reverend Lisa Harris Lee, director of ABHMS’ Healing and Transforming Communities unit, and the Reverend  Kerwin Webb, ABHMS’ national coordinator for Justice and Mission Engagement.

ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jefferey Haggray opened the session by reiterating the purpose and desired outcome of the Justice Dialogues: “Our goal is to create space for faith leaders and community activists who are really interested in how, as Christians and people of faith, we understand the present issues of our day and  our role, if any, as an agent of change, a pastoral presence that reconciles persons with divergent points of view, and a  prophetic voice to speak uncomfortable truths in difficult situations, such as the war in Gaza.”

Boyd Anderson, who has 18 years of experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East politics, stated that two key principles inform her work related to the Middle East: Israeli and Palestinian lives matter equally (a view not always articulated in public discourse), and civilians should never be targeted in war. Yet, these principles stand in stark contrast to the current geopolitical reality.

Israelis and Palestinians have dramatically divergent perceptions of history that color contemporary viewpoints. Each has been subject to the horrors of displacements that continue to support conflicting claims of a moral right to inhabit the Holy Land at the expense of the other. Boyd Anderson further notes that Israel’s gradual territorial expansion and hegemony in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the abhorrent living conditions of Palestinians in the region—characterized by a lack of sovereignty, overcrowding, discrimination, hunger, unemployment with few prospects, and a sense of abandonment by the world—serve only to heighten the animus.

The humanitarian crisis into which Palestine has descended since the October terrorist attack and Israel’s subsequent reprisals prompts Boyd Anderson to observe that as Christians, we can help by praying, supporting charities that provide humanitarian assistance, and showing compassion to all affected by the violence.

The Q&A session engendered thoughtful questions as fuel for further discussion, among them: “What is the promise of war to bring about lasting change in the region?” “What would the situation look like now if Hamas had not won the 2007 elections?” and “Do Palestinians have the right to self-determination?”

Haggray concluded the Justice Dialogue session in prayer: “All life matters. Palestinian lives matter equally with Israeli lives. … We pray that this war ends. Our hearts grieve today. Prophet Jeremiah said: ‘Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ We are a fountain of tears for the loss of human lives and the loss of freedom of people on all sides of the conflict, disruption, homelessness, lack of food. We pray for the end of missiles, bombardment, and rockets. We pray for a ceasefire. We ask your divine power to intervene against death, disease, hunger and starvation. Oh, God of grace and mercy! Have mercy on those who suffer today.”

The event recording can be accessed on the ABHMS YouTube channel here.