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Palestinians search a house after an Israeli air strike, in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on October 12 2023.
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Black Christians call for permanent ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The petitioners request Churches of Christ participate in an ‘international reconciliation conversation.’

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Thirteen leaders from predominantly Black Churches of Christ have signed a formal letter calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. 

The initiative — led by James Michael Crusoe, Edward Keyton and Quintessa Hathaway — began in February during Black History Month after the Somebody Must Come Preaching podcast featured the trio on an episode titled “Their struggle is our struggle.”

Crusoe

Crusoe

“We didn’t take a position, per se, to say one group is right and the other group is wrong,” Crusoe said. “This is more about peace. How do you bring two parties together?”

The minister for the Arlington Road Church of Christ in Hopewell, Va.,  said 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 specifically spoke to him:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

“Through Christ there is forgiveness,” Crusoe said. “Christ is redemption. That was our objective — not to point the finger at the Israelis or the Palestinians, not even to point the finger at the United States’ involvement in it, but to ask what can the church do to bring peace and reconciliation?”

Hathaway

Hathaway

Hathaway, a member of the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., and a former Democratic congressional candidate in Arkansas, acknowledged the controversy around the Israel-Hamas war. 

“We have to be willing to even touch upon issues that are controversial,” said Hathaway, whose preacher, Christopher Jackson, is among the signatories. “Jesus tells us to address matters such as these things. Jesus was a revolutionary. Jesus was an activist. He stood up against the Roman government. As true followers of the gospels, the Holy Bible, we have this same charge.”

The letter states that the “life and legacy of Christ requires followers to go into all the world teaching and preaching the Gospel and that the Great Commission is not limited to the church house. The Church of Christ is participating in an international reconciliation conversation.”

Hathaway hopes the document will motivate Christians to speak up about social issues — and perhaps even influence the president. 

“Our goal and objective is that the Biden administration hears that the Church of Christ is concerned about this matter, that we have our finger on the pulse of the problem,” she said. “We also seek for our fellowship, for members of the body and for ministers to go out and be about the business of spreading the word when it comes to what’s happening on domestic and international issues.”

The Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants killed about 1,200 Israeli citizens and abducted about 250 civilians. Nearly eight months later, more than 130 still remain in captivity, though a quarter are believed to be deceased, according to Israeli officials. 

Israel’s offensive actions — which have included the bombing of hospitals, a refugee camp and an aid caravan — have killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Palestinian children represent 37 percent of the reported deaths.

The deaths of innocents are what motivated Warren Blakney Sr., minister for the North Peoria Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., and former president of the Tulsa chapter of the NAACP, to sign. 

The statement released by Black church leaders.

The petition started by Black church leaders.

“I think one thing we probably would all agree on for the most part is that the killing of children and babies and the bombing of hospitals in this kind of culture and time is not what we would accept as Christians,” Blakney said. 

The document states, “What is happening in the Holy Land is genocide, inhumane, and is not reflective of Christian values.” 

Other signatories include Dwight Brownlee of Memphis, Tenn.; Perry Johnson of Tampa, Fla.; John Marshall of Anderson, S.C.; Roosevelt Johnson of Savannah, Ga.; Loyd Harris of Little Rock, Ark.; Joe Woodley of Hopewell, Va.; Marvin Bailey of Emporia, Va.; and Ruben Pillay of Durban, South Africa.

Keyton

Keyton

The death toll also disturbs Keyton, minister emeritus for the Bouldercrest Church of Christ in Atlanta. He denounced Israel’s military response and said he believes most people want the nation “to cease and desist from this level of brutality.”

“I’m thinking about human lives — not so much Israeli lives or Palestinian lives — but people’s lives in general, because we all bleed,” Keyton said. “I just want to see it come to a stop.

“Jesus said, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” he added. “And I would not want any entity blowing up my children, blowing up my infrastructure and killing people that had nothing to do with the conflict.”

AUDREY JACKSON is the Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected].

Filed under: black churches Black History Month ceasefire death toll International Israel Israel Hamas war News Palestine petition for ceasefire Top Stories war

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