SA church leaders return from solidarity Christmas visit to occupied Palestine

An international delegation, consisting of South African Christian leaders, returns from solidarity Christmas pilgrimage to Palestine.

An international delegation, consisting of South African Christian leaders, returns from solidarity Christmas pilgrimage to Palestine.

Published Dec 29, 2023


Cape Town - A group of South African Christian church leaders have returned safely from a Christmas pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, in a bold display of solidarity and support for Palestinians.

The South African cohort, part of an international delegation comprising around 20 members, left for Jerusalem via Amman, Jordan, last Wednesday and returned on Tuesday and Thursday.

The pilgrimage was organised by Kairos Southern Africa and Kairos Palestine.

Reverend René August, an Anglican Church priest, was among the delegation. August works as a peace-building specialist at Tearfund, a UK-based international non-governmental organisation.

“The hardest part was to know that there are Palestinians who are indigenous to those lands who had less rights than I did. We walked into this one terminal and the room was just full of people.

“There must’ve been 300 to 400 people sitting there and because we didn’t have Palestinian citizenship, we literally walked straight to the front and waited in the line and we were on the next bus compared to people who were obviously waiting there for a very long time and who had absolutely no rights.

“Palestinians have zero rights when they are in occupied territories and as a black South African woman, to walk into a place where I’m given so much privilege, it’s a very sobering reality,” August said.

Travelling in a bus with a Palestinian registration number also required that they take the longer route to their destination.

The group met with a Palestinian prisoner who, as a teenager, was accused of throwing a stone at a soldier, which he denied as he was under house arrest at the time. He was imprisoned for several years and made to pay a fine for his release.

The delegation met with Armenian Christians in Jerusalem who slept in tents as a way to stave off bulldozers in order to preserve their land and also travelled to Tel Aviv to meet with families of those who had been taken hostage by Hamas.

“All of the Israelis’ stories started with October 7. Every Palestinian we listened to, the story dated back to 1948,” August said.

“Hamas represents a very small percentage of the population and there are family members there (in Gaza). It’s not Hamas, it’s children, it’s hospitals, it’s premature babies, it’s old age homes, it’s churches, and so the misinformation and the very deliberate and strategic telling of a story from one perspective is what has created conditions for this genocide to take place.

“It’s literally a calculated, organised, intentional genocide that dates back to 1948 with the help of Europe, Britain, Germany, and US and over again it was said that we already knew that the US support of this war is simply another way for the US to remain in control in the Middle East.”

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