A British Baptist leader joined a reported 15,000 people last Saturday in a march in central London showing solidarity with Palestinians.
“I took part in this march because Palestinians today are suffering unjust treatment, and as a Christian, with a special interest in that part of the world, I believe it is our duty to speak out against these injustices,” said Gordon McBain, regional secretary for the Middle East and North Africa with BMS World Mission.
McBain said he identified with the plight of Palestinians last year visiting Baptists in the West Bank and witnessing conditions under which Palestinian people are forced to live.
McCain said import restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in shortages in food, fuel and medical supplies in Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians, who already feel their right to self-determination has been repeatedly denied, suffer massive unemployment within an occupied territory they are not allowed to leave. Israel’s multi-tiered system of citizenship with different rights afforded to different groups “cannot by anyone’s estimation be called just or egalitarian,” he said.
“As a Christian I feel it is our duty to show solidarity, not only with Palestinian Christians, but with all Palestinians, as we have done and will do for many other oppressed peoples,” McBain said.
McBain said it “felt good” to be involved in the March 10 rally, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative and the Palestinian Forum in Britain and supported by a wide variety of groups ranging from labor unions to the Stop the War Coalition, Pax Christi and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
According to news reports, 20 speakers brought messages of solidarity with Palestinians and calling for an end to the siege of Gaza, withdrawal from occupied territories and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The rally marked the 60th anniversary of the modern state of Israel. While Israelis celebrate May 14, 1948 as a declaration of independence, Palestinian people commemorate the date as “Nakba,” an Arabic word for “catastrophe” signaling the beginning of six decades of illegal occupation by Israel.
McBain said he didn’t agree with everything he heard at the rally, but, “It felt good to stand alongside Christians, Jews, Muslims and other groups, all concerned for just treatment of one of the poorest nations on earth.”
BMS World Mission is working to develop partnerships within Israel and the Palestinian territories to minister to trauma, poverty and injustice. The agency said those links should not be construed as support for any terrorist activity.
“This is a controversial area, geographically, politically and theologically, but this is not primarily about politics, but about people whose position in society or personal circumstances mean they are suffering on a daily basis,” McBain said.
“I believe that, by standing alongside Palestinian Christians and Palestinians generally, we will not only be helping them, but helping the work and message of Christians in the Middle East as a whole, by showing them that Western Christians really do care,” he said.
Baptist leaders from Great Britain and Australia were among more than 140 international religious leaders signing a joint declaration released May 8 calling for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We ¦urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God,” said the letter, signed by religious leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Other signers of the declaration included Andrew Bevan, pastor of Littlemore Baptist Church in Oxford, U.K.; Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain; and Ross Clifford, president of the Baptist Union of Australia.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.