The highest and most prominent decision-making body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) yesterday voted to join and support the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation.
The church – representing Anglican Christian communities in southern African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola – passed the resolution in the city of Johannesburg during its Provincial Synod, which takes place every three years.
According to the motion which was passed, "the situation in the Holy Land demands the attention of the Christian Church precisely because that is the place where Jesus Christ was born, nurtured, crucified and raised."
The church also outlined the differences between the Biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel, warning its members not to conflate the two entities, as well as the ideology of Zionism and Judaism.
The ACSA also acknowledged that due to South African's own experience of apartheid a few decades ago, "Southern Africans have a special responsibility to stand by the oppressed in the same way that others in the international community stood with us during our own oppression."
The resolution was originally introduced to develop practical ways to end and ease the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Anglican Bishop of Namibia Luke Pato told the Afro-Palestine Newswire Service: "It is the right time, it is God's time for the occupation to end and for Palestinians to be liberated."
Pato added that the resolution is the continuation of the Anglican Church's long-time support for the Palestinian struggle against the occupation, and comes almost four decades after Archbishop Desmond Tutu led a delegation for the first time to the occupied Palestinian territories in the 1980s.
South African delegates put forward a request to the Anglican Communion Office in the United Kingdom (UK) to vote on a similar resolution in the Lambeth 2020 Conference, which will summon active Anglican bishops from 165 countries around the world next summer.
Palestinian figures have welcomed the resolution, with Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa Hashem Dajani saying: "Palestinians simply want to achieve peace, freedom, justice and dignity, and this resolution is an important step in forcing Israel to comply with international law and end its illegal occupation of Palestine." Dajani also expressed his hope that other denominations and groups would follow ACSA's footsteps.
Hamas spokesperson Basem Naim, who spoke from the besieged Gaza Strip, said the decision was an important show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and it "encourages us to continue our struggle against the occupation."