Kairos and Lent in the “Holy Land”

Crossposted from Ekklesia, UK by ST with permission of Tim Siedel

Experiencing the Lenten season in Palestine is unique. It carries with it incredible feelings of closeness and concreteness as one visits sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem – the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected. Yet, those feelings of closeness are easily swallowed up by a sense of separation and forsakenness as one considers the current situation.

In the recently released Kairos Palestine Document, Palestinian Christians take this situation as their starting point in challenging theological interpretations of those “who use the Bible to threaten our existence as Christian and Muslim Palestinians,” trying to “attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights.”

Though Easter and its celebration of resurrection and new life defines Christianity, in a place like Palestine the season of Lent always seems more appropriate. Lent is a time of preparation in expectation for Easter. It is a time marked by fasting and other acts of penance with the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving signifying the pursuit of justice toward God, oneself and one’s neighbour.

With restrictions on movement and the denial of freedom of religion, this sense of Easter celebration delayed and Lenten season prolonged characterises much of life in the ‘Holy Land.’ Indeed, as Palestinians remember more than 40 years of occupation and more than 60 years of Nakba (catastrophe), the ongoing experiences of dispossession and justice delayed are all too real.

Palestinian livelihoods continue to be devastated as more land is being expropriated for the construction of a 430-mile or 700-kilometre barrier that has little to do with security and terrorism, built not on the ‘Green Line’ but instead on Palestinian land. As it cuts deeply into the West Bank, the Wall forms the borders of what some call ‘reservations’, isolated islands of land on roughly 40 to 50 per cent of the West Bank where Palestinians are confined.

Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. (Luke 2.10)

For Christians, the words from Luke’s gospel hold the core of our faith: that God so loved the world that God came into the world in Christ to be born in our midst to embody hope and new life. During this sombre time of Lent, we look to Jerusalem and wait with eager anticipation for signs of new life.

Yet, even as we wait, do we listen to the voices of the children of Jerusalem today who still wait: for justice, for peace, for basic human rights, for a sign that the world hears them, trapped behind concrete walls and locked into tiny enclaves? When they hear the words of the angels: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people,” they wonder when this promise might include them, too.

What does it mean for us to proclaim this “good news?”

(see the rest of the article here, if you wish)