Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation

Article excerpt

A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation By Naim Stifan Ateek, Orbis Books, 2008 paperback, 224 pp. List: $24; AET: $18.

Reviewed by Sister Elaine Kelley

THE REV. Naim Ateek is often called the "Desmond Tutu of Palestine" for his leading role in promoting Palestinian nonviolent resistance. Rejecting the misuse of scriptures by Jewish and Christian Zionists, he has written a new book offering theological insights to biblical texts that help Palestinian Christians living under Israeli occupation. These original Christians find relevance and meaning in a biblical God who is sympathetic to their cause for justice, and in Jesus of Nazareth, who suffered and died under Roman occupation.

The book may be even more important for Christians in the West, however, who, having little knowledge of their own scriptures' central message against the domination and violence of empires or of Jesus and his radical, subversive teaching, repeat the mistakes of history in their allegiances to power. A Palestinian Christian Call for Reconciliation presents a very human Jesus who will appeal even to non-religionists (if they are peaceful ones), while also honoring the Jesus Christ of the Christian faith. Ateek also reaches back to Old Testament figures to debunk problematic Christian and Jewish theologies and uncovers ancient biblical teachings relevant to today's Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Ateek's book belongs to the genre called liberation theology, conceived in early Latin American colonial days by missionaries who questioned the treatment of indigenous peoples by their European conquerors. Major changes in the Catholic church during Vatican II spurred a renewal in the church's mission to the poor and its reflection on how the Gospel addresses issues of justice and peace. Supported by research discovering a whole new historical/political dimension to the Bible, liberation theology flowered in the 1960s and '70s among church workers and the poor peasants and urban slum dwellers they served. By shedding new light on Jesus' teachings with new knowledge of the history and culture of the New Testament, liberation theology made faith relevant to real life, helped the faithful to better understand their own suffering, inspired them to work for change, and pointed to a greater truth with definite political implications. …

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