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Panel: “The Role of U.S.

Churches: A Vision for the Future”
Remarks by the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
The Atlanta Summit, April 19-20, 2016
Each participant would speak for seven minutes and contribute to the question and
answer period. We hope each participant would summarize their church’s involvement
in the Holy Land today, hopes and ideas for deeper engagement, and some of the
challenges involved.
Global Ministries, the Global Mission Partnership of the United Church of Christ and the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is deeply engaged in and involved with areas in
and around the Holy Land.
I have recently returned from my first visit to the Middle East, including
Palestine/Israel, during which time I visited mission partners throughout the area. I heard
Mitri Raheb speak about the work he and his community are doing in Bethlehem; I met
with authors of the Kairos document; Bishop Munib Younan spoke passionately about
Christian presence and the current political reality; I met with a woman whose 15 year
old son was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier while playing soccer on his UN
sponsored grade school playground; I visited with the YWCA, met with their Executive
Director Mira Rizeq and heard her speak about the ways in which they empower women;
I spent time at the kindergarten run by the YWCA of Palestine attended by mostly, if not
entirely, by Muslim children; I met with Omar Barghouti, the leader of the BDS
movement in Palestine and was proud that my denomination last year resolved to divest
from any holdings in companies that profit from the illegal occupation of the Palestinian
territories, and to continue to press our government on Israel’s compliance with our own
laws pertaining to human rights and foreign aid.
This immersion experience opened my eyes to the ways in which hope was kept
alive in and through a time of occupation. Everything I thought I knew before that trip
was clinical and academic. Now, my heart has been moved deeply by the experiences I
shared with a delegation of 21 leaders from the UCC, the Disciples, the UC of Canada,
and the UCC of SA. I will never be the same. The United Church of Christ will remain a
friend and ally of the people—and you, our church partners--of Palestine, who are living
under unimaginably horrific conditions.
Our support of the BDS movement will continue, but that is far from our only
approach to seeking peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis. While we recognize
the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure and recognized borders, we will
nonetheless continue to challenge that government to end its illegal occupation of
Palestinian territories, and continue to assert Palestinian rights to self-determination in a
state of their own. We will continue to ask our government to press Israel on its blatant
disregard for human rights. We will continue to call for compliance of the US ArmsExport Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. weapons to ‘internal security’ or
‘legitimate self-defense.’ We will continue to call for a change in US foreign aid so that

the militarization throughout the Middle East is constrained. We will continue to
promote the Kairos Palestine document and amplify the voice of Palestinian brothers and
I am aware that one of the greatest challenges we face is when local church clergy
are asked to support our ongoing commitments to justice for Palestinians and Israelis.
Many of our clergy have close friends who serve as rabbis in their local temples and
synagogues. Sometimes they are charged with anti-Semitism for being a part of a
denomination that supports justice for Palestinians through non-violent means, including
aspects of the BDS movement. Very few of our clergy can identify a similar relationship
they share with a Palestinian neighbor—lay or clergy. I know how this works, for I was
once a local church pastor who experienced first-hand those very circumstances.
We reject the charge of anti-Semitism for our commitment to justice for
Palestinians—through support for Palestinian statehood and our engagement in the nonviolent BDS movement. The United Church of Christ condemns all forms of racism,
including anti-Semitism. We are also grateful for an increasing number of Jewish allies
who share our commitment to Palestinian justice.
It will be incumbent upon me and my fellow leaders within the United Church of
Christ to help move our leaders at the community level to new understandings of what
justice for the people of Palestine looks like. I pledge myself, and the leadership of the
UCC, to just this very task.