DARE Regional Forum explores theology after Gaza

by Cheon Young Cheol

In response to the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, the Council for World Mission (CWM), in partnership with Dar al-Kalima University, organised its first DARE Regional Forum in the Middle East region in Istanbul, Turkey from 21-24 May.

The Regional Forum was a gathering of 28 theologians and scholars from countries including Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Mexico, Argentina, USA, and Canada.

The event fostered a robust intellectual dialogue and facilitated a meeting of minds as Palestinian and Middle Eastern scholars came alongside their international colleagues (with emphasis on academics from the Global South), to share their experiences, insights, and research on the failures of theology in the face of the war on Gaza, and the implications for the research of religion in general from a decolonial perspective.

A world where morality is in shambles

It is now clear that the war in Gaza has become a crucial litmus test for international morality and ethical standards in the 21st century. The genocidal war on Gaza has also made it abundantly clear that for the past century, the people of Palestine have been fighting not just the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, but an entrenched colonial order led initially by the former British Empire and more recently, by the United States backed by Europe.

In a statement released earlier by CWM at the onset of the Israeli military incursion into Gaza after 7 October 2023, CWM General Secretary, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum decried the “complete blockade of Gaza [as] wilfully leading innocent people to starvation and death, [and] a crime against humanity under international law. It is nothing but a genocide of an innocent population of over one million.”

As is the tradition of DARE forums, tough questions were raised and tackled in a “no holds barred” environment as participants debated and argued over issues such as whether theologians and scholars of religion have moral duties beyond the traditional one of speaking truth to power, especially since it is evident that the powerful know the truth but choose to ignore it.

Participants also explored how the intelligentsia from the Global South can push back against a rising tide of scriptural weaponisation by Western theology, the State of Israel, extremist Islamic groups, and state entities.

Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb, Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University, was a guest at the forum. Raheb, a celebrated academic and theologian, has penned many books over the years that attempt to shed light on the plight of the Palestinians living under apartheid conditions.

A running critique by Raheb during the forum was that “…the more biblical an organisation is anywhere in the world, the more Zionist it seems to be” – an observation that served to describe the imbalance of support between Israel and Palestine with the constant presence of “Christian Zionism” – a product of the syncretisation of Zionism and mainstream biblical interpretation – a political theology justifying the creation of modern Israel.

Conference papers and proceedings from the forum will be collected into a single volume and released in late 2024 or early 2025.

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