Presbyterian Church (USA) Statement Abhorring Violence Against Jews (May 29, 2002)

A Statement Abhorring Violence Against Jews

Since 1987, when the 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted A Theological Understanding of the Relationship between Christians and Jews for study and reflection, the church has been called to ponder its words, including the statement, "We pledge, God helping us, never again to participate in, to contribute to, or (insofar as we are able) to allow the persecution or denigration of Jews." Today Presbyterians watch with consternation the escalating violence in many parts of the world, including theMiddle East. As they do so, one of the concerns that must be addressed is the violence against Jews that is seen both inIsraeland around the world.

  • The world has seen the conviviality of innocent people, gathered to enjoy food, drink, and friendship, shattered by sudden death and injury. A festival of hope and freedom, the Passover, has been distorted by the killing and maiming of celebrants so that the occasion became a symbol of hope diminished.
  • The Jewish community's felt need for security has been intensified by violence against Jews and Jewish institutions in various parts of the globe, reinforcing once again historic images of insecurity.
  • Political violence on all sides has undermined fragile trust so that leaders replace talk of peace with the rhetoric and images of war.

None of these can be supported as acceptable expressions of anger and frustration, retribution, tactics in a political struggle, or the acceptable reactions to human wrongs, new or old. No matter how these acts are rationalized, they are not justifiable.

The fear and the pain experienced in the depths of the souls of both Palestinian and Jewish communities cause deep concern and heartfelt pain among people of good will. Acts of hate and terror inflicted on innocent children and youth, women and men of Israel and the larger Jewish community must be unequivocally condemned and vehemently abhorred. This is in no way inconsistent with speaking out about the political and military violence of the Israeli government or the militant activities of Israeli settlers. It is possible to speak with Jewish neighbors and fellow citizens about Israel in ways that do not diminish their hope, their security, or their trust. This can only happen when people speak and act with respect for those with whom they agree or disagree.

The time has come to call people living in Europe and North America to cease hateful acts against Jews that diminish the hope, security, and trust of Jews and Palestinians alike. Even careless words denigrate and lend support to those motivated by the genuine hatred that is manifest in burned synagogues, physical violence against Jews, hostile writing or posted symbols calculated to breed terror. The words of the 1987 General Assembly particularly call our own people in the United States to examine ourselves, lest our attitudes and actions spawn tragic consequences.

Many people throughout the world are alarmed by the expansion of conflict in recent months and weeks. At a time of new efforts to break the cycles of violence, the time has come to call on those most closely involved. Palestinians are called, once and for all, to cease striking terror in the hearts of Israeli Jews by stopping attacks on noncombatants while they are carrying out the activities of their daily lives or the celebrations of their people-hood. Israelis are called, once and for all, to cease striking terror in the hearts of Palestinians by stopping military operations that assault harmless people and disable Palestinian infrastructures. It is time to stop activities that increase hatred and mutual recrimination and that destroy hope, security, and trust.

Hear the words of A Theological Understanding of the Relationship between Christians and Jews: "Both Christians and Jews are called to wait and to hope in God. While we wait, Jews and Christians are called to the service of God in the world." Our vocation includes "ceaseless activity in the cause of justice and peace."

Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)