Jun 6, 2014

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An “olive agenda” for Palestine – Lutheran pastor of Bethlehem

An “olive agenda” for Palestine – Lutheran pastor of Bethlehem

Dr Mitri Raheb, Palestinian-Lutheran pastor of Bethlehem, was the speaker at the 3rd Steve de Gruchy Memorial Lecture, held at Rondebosch United Church, Cape Town Dr Raheb has amongst other last year received the German Media Prize. His latest book is called Faith in the face of Empire.

Dr Raheb explored his connection to Steve de Gruchy. They come from the same generation and have both signed the Kairos document – the South African and Palestinian versions thereof. They both have shared an entrepreneral spirit because of a believe that theology should be incarnated. And they’ve shared a collective passion for the arts.

He went ahead to test the “olive agenda” of Steve’s theology to the Palestinian context. The so-called “green (environmental) agenda” of the north often clashes with the “brown (poverty) agenda” of the south, which is focused on economical justice. So Steve “blended these two into a new colour or metaphor – that of the olive”.

Dr Raheb showed how interconnected these agendas are and how they meet, specifically in Palestine. This can be illustrated as far as the cutting of olive trees are concerned, but also regarding the confiscation of Palestinian water resources by the Israeli occupiers. In the process Palestine is impoverished on several levels.

Palestine used to be full of olive, pomegranate and fig trees. An olive agenda is needed in response to the imperialist conquest which is made and backed by the use of mythology and theology, not unlike in the case of apartheid South Africa. It furthermore calls for the wisdom of sustainability, said Raheb.

The sense also needs to be developed that none of the Holy Land’s previous occupiers could stay as long as some of the olive trees. Alien influences are shallow rooted and empires are not sustainable. An olive agenda furthermore helps us to think of others and the poor; “0thers” also in the sense of other and next generations for whom one should plant and provide.

An olive agenda is finally an agenda of hope, said Dr Raheb. One should not remain mesmerized by hopelessness and become too comfortable in the role of a victim. One should rather take courage and also act. Prof John de Gruchy, in  thanking Dr Raheb, linked onto this saying that Christian hope simply do what is necessary at the given time.

The Lecture was presented by the De Gruchy family, Kairos Southern Africa, Rondebosch United Church & the Centre for Christian Spirituality.

Mitri Raheb at St Georges Silvertown

Dr Raheb preached on Pentecost Sunday at St George’s Anglican Church, Silvertown.


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