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The latest prayer letter from RCA general secretary Tom De Vries.
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Making Peace


To drive from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Holland, Michigan is 30 miles. From Albany, New York to Schenectady, New York is 19 miles. From Lynden, Washington to Bellingham, Washington is 15 miles. From New York City to Newark, New Jersey is 13 miles. Depending on traffic these are relatively short drives, with a minimum of inconvenience (except for New York traffic!)
 
If you were to drive from the biblical city of Bethlehem to Ramallah in Palestine this short 13-mile drive could take up to three hours and you would pass through three Israeli Defense Force checkpoints. This is not driving from Palestine to Israel; it is simply driving from one area of Palestine to another.
 
The occupation of Israel into Palestine has reached a point of great oppression and injustice. My trips to the Holy Land have allowed me to see firsthand the subjugation and repression that one group of people unjustly exerts upon another.
 
This week I was in Washington, D.C. with church leaders from the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches to meet with representatives from the U.S. State Department to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the blockages to peace that currently exist. It is a painful situation, and I heard the reports from Palestinian Christians who were part of our gathering: the presence of hope in Palestine grows less and less.
 
The oppression looks like:
  • Harassment at checkpoints making traveling to work extremely difficult
  • Exorbitant electrical costs with large tariffs
  • Recurrent water shut-off making water usage undependable and sporadic
  • High unemployment, especially among the next generation, leading to increased tension and conflict
  • Placing children in solitary confinement without legal representation
And then, this week a bill was signed by the president of the United States that will provide 38 million dollars for defense and military purchases for Israel.
 
We are a long way from peace, and as was shared by the State Department, peace talks have broken down.
 
The RCA, and I, personally, have a perspective on the Holy Land that is pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-justice, because we are pro-Jesus. In a land where conflict abounds, and even grows more dire, we cannot stand by and idly observe. We must stand up for the injustice that exists, and especially stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Palestine. The oppression falls upon both Christians and Muslims equally.
 
The RCA has taken this position historically. In the fight against apartheid in South Africa three decades ago, RCA leaders were present in standing with our oppressed brothers and sisters there. This week, leaders from South Africa were present in speaking against the current apartheid situation that exists in Palestine. It is a new time and a new place to speak out and put our faith in action against this new injustice – and it is really not new. The occupation of Palestine has occurred for 49 years.
 
This coming week is the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel. I invite you to pray with me for peace in the Holy Land. You can click on this link to discover more about the current situation, and our partnership with the World Council of Churches in seeking peace, as well as a link to resources for worship in your church and for your own prayer time and education on this critical issue: https://pief.oikoumene.org/en/world-week-for-peace.
 
The statement that came out of my time in Washington, D.C. this week, and was affirmed by those of us present, and signed by the leaders of the WCC and NCC can be read by clicking this link: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/joint-declarations/statement-by-general-secretaries-rev-dr-olav-fykse-tveit-wcc-and-jim-winkler-ncccusa.
 
The barriers to peace are the evil, hate, and fear that currently exist in Israel and Palestine. The ability to break down these barriers comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus Christ, and Christians must exercise a critical role in bringing peace in the midst of the conflict.
 
We cry for peace and together remember and pray the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:
For Christ himself is our way of peace. He has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one family, breaking down the wall of contempt that used to separate us.  By his death he ended the angry resentment between us, caused by the Jewish laws that favored the Jews and excluded the Gentiles, for he died to annul that whole system of Jewish laws. Then he took the two groups that had been opposed to each other and made them parts of himself; thus he fused us together to become one new person, and at last there was peace. As parts of the same body, our anger against each other has disappeared, for both of us have been reconciled to God. And so the feud ended at last at the cross. And he has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were very far away from him, and to us Jews who were near. Now all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, may come to God the Father with the Holy Spirit’s help because of what Christ has done for us.
 
Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.
(Ephesians 2:14-19, TLB)
Tom
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