On February 10 (Ash Wednesday in the Western Christian calendar), the Palestinian Lutheran Bishop, Munib Younan, on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC), launched the Lenten Campaign of the Ecumenical Water Network. Entitled "Seven Weeks for Water," it was presented at the (German) Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem.
- Dr. Antje Jackelen, the Archbishop of Sweden, (another "yes-advocate/no-advocate" of the document)
- Rev. Dr. Olaf Fykse Tveit, the General Secretary of the WCC (he heads the body that generated Kairos Palestine and continues to be its main sponsor)
- Mrs. Hind Khoury, the current Secretary General of Kairos Palestine; also a Palestinian economist from Bethlehem and PLO delegate general to France 2006-10)
- Mr. Dinesh Suna, the Coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, Israel. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
It was an impressive group of seasoned activists for Palestine who gathered for a ten-page prefabricated liturgy during an hour-long church service. The few people in the pews were to be sensitized about an alleged injustice to the Palestinian people: the supposed deprivation of rightful quantities of water by supposedly evil Israelis. In order to bring some action into this otherwise flow of distorted information, each participant got a cross of ash on his forehead -- possibly one of the few remnants of the Christian custom of Lent.
In regular Lenten services, for seven weeks until Easter, solemn memories of divine mercy on the sinners of the world take center stage for Christians. But not in this liturgy. Center stage was instead given solemnly to committing a sin of evil speech: launching a lie about an Israeli-made water shortage suffered by Palestinians, a sin that all present were invited to commit daily for the next seven weeks; a sin in which all the member churches of the WCC are invited to participate.
Those leaders of the Protestant churches, turned into political propagandists without even any hindrance, used the pulpit of Jerusalem unjustly to call upon the Protestant faithful worldwide to listen to Palestinian water libels against the State of Israel. This liturgy abused the biblical readings as a means of invigorating the equally false Kairos Palestine message, that Israel takes the Land of Palestine and has no right to be where it is.
The WCC acolytes who gathered at the Redeemer Church are now set up to spread this propaganda through a confusing network of seemingly distinct organizations, all of which turn out -- on closer inspection -- to be WCC subsidiaries.
Two organizations were highlighted: first, the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace (PJP), launched in 2013 at the 10th WCC Assembly in South Korea. The PJP in Jerusalem was accompanied by three strategic support groups: the "Theological Study Group," the "Reference Group," and the "International Research Group." Second, the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN), launched in 2008 as a network of churches and Christian organizations, to keep watch on water access. Although PJP and EWN seem to be two different entities, the WCC's press center advertised its Seven Weeks for Water campaign as a
"pilgrimage of water justice in the Middle East, with specific reference to Palestine. The Biblico-theological reflections and resources for the seven weeks will be based on the water crisis in Middle East region and take into consideration issues of justice and peace."
That is, the work of PJP and EWN is closely interlinked. Both groups, in fact, are committed to the Palestinian cause and can be best understood as parts of the WCC-sponsored network that implements the Kairos Palestine agenda.
A close look at the EWN website shows no scientific analysis, neither of water distribution nor of water politics for the territories of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The EWN material also shows no reference to any of the existing water distribution analyses in Israel (e.g.: here and here). Neither is the well-documented mismanagement of water by the Palestinian Authority mentioned, nor is Israel's just and generous over-the-quota water support for the PA areas.
The aim of the water campaign clearly appears to spring from an unjust and unsubstantiated discrimination against the State of Israel, as propagated in the Kairos Palestine statement. The intent of launching the Seven Weeks for Water campaign was unashamedly addressed by Tveit in his sermon,
"As the WCC's Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is focused on issues of the Middle East, particularly in this year, we hope your stories and struggle for justice and peace will become the stories and struggle for the churches around the world. May this Lenten season help us to reflect on these issues more deeply. May the Seven Weeks for Water during this Lent help us to highlight the water crisis in Palestine and other places in the world in desperate need for more clean water."
Such Palestinian narratives had been collected, a short time before the services at the Redeemer Church, under the watchful eyes of Bishop Younan, when the "International Research Group" met in Bethlehem. Dinesh Suna wrote on his Facebook page:
"The IRG meeting of the WCC's Pilgrimage of justice and Peace started today at Bethlehem. To set the tone of the discussion we went to listen to stories of struggle to end occupation of Palestine by Israel. It was quite a touching moment for us to hear these stories..."
Did these people ever meet with Israelis, as well? Did the "International Research Group" ever research the countless academic water analyses, which are freely available on-line? There is no reference that either activity ever took place.
Instead, we are informed, the WCC's PJP is organizing "two strategically important groups" in "the Holy Land" between February 9-17. One is PJP's "Theological Study Group" at the Roman Catholic St. Anne's Church in Jerusalem on February 9-11, "in order to deepen the theology for accompanying PJP."
The other is PJP's "Reference Group" in Bethlehem, February 12-17, presumably for parading more "eyewitnesses of the water crisis." The Palestinians certainly are experiencing a water crisis; the question is, or should be, for their sake, to what extent are they themselves are responsible for it, and to what extent are their own leaders responsible for keeping them as victims to have them appear more wretched for effective international "marketing."
Tveit and his WCC staff accompany both groups. The point of this money-intensive travel of those well-salaried clergy-cum-politicians is not to solve any misery. Rather, it is, as Tveit sermonized: "we hope your stories and struggle for justice and peace will become the stories and struggle for the churches around the world."
In short, the WCC invites the Christian world to join in an assault upon the State of Israel. This is the actual underlying message of Kairos Palestine and PJP's Seven Weeks for Water campaign.
Predictably, WCC's PJP projects will find any number of young, enthusiastic, uninformed and naive Christian followers to deceive. And the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem is just a perfect location for launching more and more of such initiatives. How curious.
Also curious is that the German Protestant Church, owner of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, and committed to reconciliation with Israel, seems to tolerate WCC approaches against Israel, under the local auspices of the Palestinian Bishop. Is Bishop Younan just a willing fig leaf for German Protestant Church agitation against Israel? Or does the German Protestant Church not know what is going on in its own church in Jerusalem?
Thomas Smith is a scholar based in the Middle East.