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South African Church Leaders Conclude Solidarity Visit to Occupied Palestine

Published December 29, 2023
7 months ago

In a display of compassion and international solidarity, a delegation of South African church leaders recently embarked on an emotionally charged pilgrimage to the occupied Palestinian territories over the Christmas period. This group, acting as representatives of hope and support, ventured to the historical and deeply contested lands of Jerusalem and Bethlehem to offer solidarity to Palestinian Christians and the broader community affected by the occupation.

The journey, which saw the South African group join with approximately 20 other international representatives, began in Jerusalem and extended to several poignant sites across the territory—each narrating its own tale of struggle, resistance, and the ever-present hope for justice and peace.

Organized by Kairos Southern Africa, alongside their Palestinian counterparts, these leaders immersed themselves in the harsh realities of life under occupation. Reverend René August, an Anglican Church priest, passionately recounted the disparities that revealed themselves, highlighting the stark differentiation in rights between foreign visitors and indigenous Palestinians—a reality that resonates with many South Africans' memory of apartheid.

The paradoxical privilege that they, as international visitors, received upon entering Palestinian spaces vividly illustrated the routine injustices faced by Palestinians — a moment emblematic of the broader systematic inequities pervading everyday life in the territories. The process of vilifying and criminalizing Palestinians was given a human face through the moving anecdote of a young prisoner accused and punished for an act he denied, exemplifying a policy of incarceration that has left many youths languishing in jails.

In their travels, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, the group encountered various narratives—from the steadfast resistance of Armenian Christians safeguarding their ancestral homes to the distressing stories of families split apart by conflict and hostility. Such encounters painted a complex portrait, far removed from the monolithic tales often portrayed in media and political discourse.

The pilgrimage not merely served as an act of defiance against the occupation but also as a mirror, reflecting the historical complicity of nations that have, through either action or inaction, sustained a crisis that Reverend August did not hesitate to describe as a calculated genocide beginning from the events of 1948. The pointed critique of international politics, including the role of the United States' strategic interests, exposes the layers of geopolitical dynamics fuelling the situation.

As these church leaders returned to South Africa, they brought back stories not merely of despair but of lasting resilience and the enduring pursuit of justice—narratives that echo in the shared corridors of history between South Africans and Palestinians. Their voyage stands as a testament to the power of solidarity across continents and a reminder that, even in the darkest corners, empathy and support can shine a light leading towards peace.


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