Issue No.
164, December 2011 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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     Book of the Month

Challenging Empire God, Faithfulness, and Resistance

Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis, and Maurine Tobin, editors
Published by Sabeel, Printed by Emerezian Press, Jerusalem, 2011

This book is a compilation of most of the papers that were presented at Sabeel’s Eighth International Conference that was held February 23-28, 2011, in Bethlehem, Palestine. The conference attracted over 300 people from 15 different countries. The text contains presenters’ thoughts on the most cutting-edge issues in today’s world. The focus of the conference, and this subsequent book, is the analysis of Empire, its impact on religion, politics, social movements, and economics.

For many years now, the Palestinians have been conscious of living under an essentially global US American Empire, of which Israel is an extension and an essential strategic partner. The local expressions of this Empire are felt by its Palestinian victims on a daily basis: the belligerent occupation, the settler form of colonisation, the excessive use of military force, the oppressive system of control, the manipulation of laws and regulations that humiliate and oppress people, the apartheid wall, the dehumanising checkpoints, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) policies that aim to strip the Palestinians of their land and push them out.

The book documents the growing awareness among biblical scholars and theologians of the dimensions and dangers of Empire. The text contains a set of well-crafted expressions that both diagnose the problem and suggest remedies for the root cause. Ambassador Hind Khoury writes an introduction to the book’s five sections. In the first section, “Mapping Empire,” Mazin Qumsiyeh outlines the history of the regional conflict and the patterns of resistance. Ambassador Afif Safieh follows with a discussion of current political realities. Reverend Mitri Raheb, New Testament scholar Richard Horsley, Sabeel Director Naim Ateek, Reverend Christopher Ferguson, and US American scholar-activist Ched Myers contribute to the section called “The Church and Empire.” The “Tactics of Empire,” in the area of media, economics, and knowledge, are discussed by Jonathan Cook, Sam Bahour, and Munir Fasheh. Jafar Farah adds the voice of how Empire impacts Palestinian citizens of Israel. The section, “Faith for Action” features the speeches of South African Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Catholic priest John Dear, and Andreas van Agt, the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands. The last section is “Sustenance for the Journey.” The conference statement and Sabeel board member Samia Khoury’s transcript conclude the text. The scholars’ words contained here challenge people everywhere to look at Empire in light of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ about the kingdom of God.

At the time of the conference and the book, the Arab Spring broke out, and the book chapters note this important context. It tackles the questions, “How can we be faithful to God and to our human values as we daily interface with Empire? How has theology been used as a tool of Empire? What does Christian radical discipleship mean for Palestinians and people of faith globally as we live the difficult situation produced by Empire?”

Various essays clarify the close relationship between faithfulness and resistance. To be faithful to God is to resist the vileness of Empire; and to resist the evil of injustice is to be faithful. Challenging Empire is a must-read for those seeking information about Biblical interpretation and forms of resistance that do not use the tools and tactics of Empire but those that are in line with peaceful and nonviolent methods.
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