The Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek (Arabic: نعيم عتيق, Na’īm ’Ateeq) (born in the Palestinian village of Beisan in 1937) is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He has been an active leader in the shaping of the Palestinian liberation theology. He was the first to articulate a Palestinian theology of liberation in his book, Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, published by Orbis in 1989, and based on his dissertation for his degree in theology. The book laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical, and theological dimensions. A former Canon of St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, he lectures widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, was published by Orbis in 2008.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Theology
- 4 Views regarding Palestine and the Israeli occupation
- 5 Books
- 6 Funding
- 7 Supporters
- 8 Sources
- 9 See also
- 10 References
Early life and education
Born in 1937 in the Palestinian village of Beisan, Ateek moved with his family to Nazareth in 1948. He has said that Beisan (also known as Beth Shean) was destroyed by Israeli forces, turning his family into refugees.
He was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church in 1967. He holds degrees from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in California. In addition, he received a Doctor of Divinity degree from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in California in 1985.
Ateek earned his BA degree from Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas, in 1963, and his Master of Divinity degree in 1966 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), Berkeley, California. In 1985 he completed his doctoral studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Dr. Ateek has also received honorary Doctors of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California, and the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the distinguished alumni award from San Francisco Theological Seminary. In 2006, Dr. Ateek received the Sayre award from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship USA.
The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (also known simply as Sabeel), headquartered in Jerusalem, describes itself as "an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians", which "encourages Christians from around the world to work for justice and to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people".
One source traces the founding of Sabeel to a 1989 meeting at which "an ecumenical ad hoc committee of ten clergy and lay theologians" discusses "ways of fostering liberation theology among Palestinian Christians". The meeting led to an international conference in March 1990, organized with the help of the Mennonite Central Committee, which in turn led to the 1991 book Faith and the Intifada, co-edited by Ateek. These developments culminated in the 1994 founding of Sabeel, which held an international conference in 1996, leading to the creation of Friends of Sabeel.
Sabeel's stated vision is "to make the gospel relevant ecumenically and spiritually in the lives of the local indigenous Church.... following in the footsteps of Christ means standing for the oppressed, working for justice, and seeking peace-building opportunities, and it challenges us to empower local Christians."
Sabeel preaches a Palestinian liberation theology, which "hopes to connect the true meaning of Christian faith with the daily lives of all those who suffer under occupation, violence, discrimination, and human rights violations.
- Friends of Sabeel – North America
Sabeel describes Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA) as "a nonprofit, tax-exempt Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through non-violence and education". FOSNA cultivates support for Sabeel by churches in the U.S. and Canada. In 2010 and 2013 the Anti-Defamation League named FOSNA as one of the ten "most effective anti-Israeli groups in the United States", a list that included Jewish Voice for Peace. In response, FOSNA issued a statement saying they "were saddened to be considered a threat", but that it is "the blatant injustice and brutality of occupation, not our criticism of Israeli policies, that are undermining support for Israel and threatening its future".
- International Friends of Sabeel
- Community Building Program
Sabeel's Community Building Program seeks to educate the public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to foster "a sense of solidarity", and to contribute to the community's spiritual growth.
- Youth Program
Sabeel's Youth Program "provides opportunities for young people from different churches to meet and get to know each other" and "educates and empowers youth to be future Church and Civic leaders".
- Women's Program
Sabeel's Women's Program "encourages networks of women, fosters inclusivity, broadens knowledge of existing support resources, and educates women on their spiritual history and their responsibility as Christian women".
- Witness Visits
Sabeel offers regular "witness visits" to the Holy Land for Christian clergy. The trips provide them with an opportunity to meet, talk, and worship with Palestinian Christians and others who oppose the Israeli occupation. The clergy members are able to experience "the Separation Wall, illegal settlements, checkpoints, confiscated and demolished homes, refugee camps, and environmental degradation".
- Wave of Prayer
Each Thursday at noon in Jerusalem, Sabeel holds an ecumenical Communion service that is open to the community.
Sabeel also publishes a quarterly English-language newspaper Cornerstone, which "highlights Sabeel's ministry activities both locally and internationally as well as theological reflections on contemporary social and political events".
Friends of Sabeel – North America's (FOSNA) states: "Liberation theologies recognize that faith addresses the whole of personal and social life from a faith perspective. Thus a Palestinian liberation theology necessarily addresses the political and social systems that are obstructing justice and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and seeks to change those toward social and political patterns that will express just relationships."
In a page devoted to Palestinian Liberation Theology, FOSNA states that the theology has "10 characteristics", among which are the following: it is "contextual", "ecumenical", "interfaith", "a theology of non-violence", "not identified with any one political party", and a critic of Christian Zionism.
Kairos Palestine Document
In December 2009, Sabeel endorsed the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD), which calls on Christians throughout the world to join the 2005 call of Palestinian civil society to utilize boycotts, divestment, and sanctions to pressure Israel's government to end occupation, human rights violations, and illegal settlement of Palestinian land. The document, whose stated goal is to communicate the truth about the Arab–Israeli conflict to the world, was drafted by a group, among them Patriarch Michel Sabah, Rev. Mitri Raheb, Rifat Odeh Kassis, Rev. Ateek and others. The 2009 "Kairos Palestine" document has been described as echoing Ateek's own "Justice and Only Justice".
"Morally responsible divestment"
The term "morally responsible investment" came into widespread use as a result of a 2006 paper by Ateek, "A Call for Morally Responsible Investment: A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation", which has been described as "the central text of the pro-divestment movement".
"The Jerusalem Sabeel Document"
"The Jerusalem Sabeel Document: Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine–Israel" is one of the foundational documents of the organization. It calls for "one state for two nations and three religions".
Views regarding Palestine and the Israeli occupation
Views on Israel and Zionism
In 1989, in Justice, and Only Justice, Ateek wrote, "The preservation of Israel as a Jewish state is important not only to Israeli Jews but to Jews all over the world. I believe that we must honor their wish and accept it. In fact, the Palestinians should eventually guarantee the survival of Israel by accepting it as a Jewish state" (166).
In 2013, Friends of Sabeel – North America's website FAQ answered the question, "Does FOSNA support the existence of Israel as a Jewish state?" as follows:
This question is rooted in a presupposition, which needs to be carefully examined: that the State of Israel can only exist as a Jewish state, that is, as a state in which Jews are the overwhelming demographic majority and only Jews have full citizenship. Although Palestinians are 20 percent of the Israeli population today, they are relegated to second-class citizenship, lacking many rights and privileges enjoyed only by Jewish Israelis. To declare Israel a "Jewish state" would mean that this discriminatory treatment is enshrined as a core value of the state itself. It would also mean renouncing the internationally recognized right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, which they were forced to leave during the creation of the state. Lastly, to ask Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state is like asking Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians to recognize the U.S. as a "Christian state".
FOSNA's FAQ also addresses the question of support for a two-state solution:
For many years Sabeel and FOSNA supported the "two-state solution", which envisioned two neighboring states side by side, with Palestine occupying the West Bank and Gaza. But since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israeli settlements and their supporting infrastructure have confiscated more than 40 percent of the land and broken it into dozens of enclaves. As the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem states, "Israel's dramatic alteration of the West Bank map has precluded realization of Palestinians' right to self-determination in a viable Palestinian state."
Moreover, many Israeli political leaders (and the majority of Israeli citizens) have declared their opposition to a Palestinian state, and those officials who say they support "the two-state solution" declare that, at best, a Palestinian state would have no standing military, no control of its own airspace and no land bordering on other Arab states. In negotiations, Israel has also refused to relinquish most of the settlement blocs that have divided the West Bank into separate entities.With these facts in mind, FOSNA calls for a solution that provides equality and justice to all residents of the Holy Land, whether they are ultimately found in one state or two.
Use of Christian imagery
In his 2001 Easter message Ateek stated, in part:
As we approach Holy Week and Easter, the suffering of Jesus Christ at the hands of evil political and religious powers two thousand years ago is lived out again in Palestine. The number of innocent Palestinians and Israelis that have fallen victim to Israeli state policy is increasing.
Here in Palestine Jesus is again walking the via dolorosa. Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, the woman trying to get through to the hospital for treatment, the young man whose dignity is trampled, the young student who cannot get to the university to study, the unemployed father who needs to find bread to feed his family; the list is tragically getting longer, and Jesus is there in their midst suffering with them. He is with them when their homes are shelled by tanks and helicopter gunships. He is with them in their towns and villages, in their pains and sorrows.
In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.Using the Gospel story one can put it in a different and still very poignant way. Four things are clear today. Jerusalem still does not know what makes for peace; Jesus is weeping and his tears are mixed with many other people's tears; the number of people who are carrying their crosses is multiplying phenomenally; and the women of Palestine as well as many Jewish women are weeping over the many killed and wounded innocents. This is the reality of life today.
Condemnation of suicide attacks
In a 2003 document on suicide bombings, Ateek condemns suicide attacks but emphasizes they are the result of Israeli occupation. "If Israel labels them as terrorists", he wrote, "they are, after all, the product of its own making."
The FOSNA website's FAQ addresses the question of Palestinian violence as follows: "FOSNA does not condone any form of violence or terrorism—Palestinian, Israeli, American or other. Following the teachings of Sabeel, FOSNA maintains that the primary way to discourage violence is to end conditions of injustice. It insists that all people, Israelis and Palestinians, should live in peace and security but that this is brought about by just relationships, not by repression of one people by another, which foments resistance."
- Ateek, Naim Stifan: A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2008 ISBN 978-1-57075-784-6
- Ateek, Naim ; Cedar Duaybis; Maurine Tobin (Editors): Challenging Christian Zionism, Melisende, 2005. ISBN 1-901764-42-7
- Ateek, Naim Stifan: Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1989 ISBN 0-88344-540-9
- Ateek, Naim S.; Marc H. Ellis; and Rosemary Radford Ruether, (editors): Faith and the Intifada: Palestinian Christian Voices, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1992 ISBN 0-88344-808-4
- Ateek, Naim; Cedar Duaybis and Marla Schrader (Editors ): Jerusalem – What Makes for Peace!: Palestinian Christian Contribution to Peacemaking, London, United Kingdom, 1997. ISBN 1-901764-00-1
- Ateek, Naim and Hilary Rantisi (Editors): Our Story the Palestinians, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem, 1999.
- Ateek, Naim: Holy Land Hollow Jubilee. God, Justice and the Palestinians, London Melisende 1999. ISBN 1-901764-09-5
In 2012, Sabeel received 1,056,893 NIS in donations and contributions. In 2011, the figure was 1,361,235 NIS; in 2010, 1,205,457 NIS. Its 2012 donors included
- Kerkinactie//Global Diakonia
- Mennonite Central Committee-MCC
- General Board of Global Ministries NY
- The United Church of Canada
- Church of Scotland
- Presbyterian Church USA
- United Church of Christ
- The Presbyterian Church of Canada
- Father Brian T. Joyce
- Svenska Mission Skyrkan
- Randa & Bill Veach
- Samia Khoury
- Mr. & Mrs. Brok Comption
- Aelt Bergamo
- Episcopal Church of USA (DFMS)
- Church Together CTBI
- Pal Craft Aid
- Evangelists Missions Work
- World Religion Peace
- David & Julia Ralston
- Arkansas Coalition for Peace
- CCODP Canadian Catholic
- Sister Catherine Appleby
- Eglise Rejormeede France
- Globale Ministries NL
- Nina Chiba
- Solidarities Sacerdota
Several of Sabeel's donors, such as Sweden's Diakonia, the Netherlands' Kerk in Actie (Church in Action), the UK's Christian Aid, Canada's Development and Peace, and Finland's FinnChurchAid, receive millions annually from their respective governments and the EU. Also, the World Council of Churches, which promotes Sabeel's Contemporary Way of the Cross, "annually receives millions of dollars from European and Canadian taxpayers, both directly and indirectly".
Friends of Sabeel North American received donations in 2006 from several hundred contributors, including "a number of prominent U.S. churches and institutions, as well as longtime Christian Century columnist James M. Wall ... and Margot Patterson, then a journalist for National Catholic Reporter. Other recognizable contributors included a number of prominent Episcopalian clergymen, such as Brian Grieves, then director of the Episcopal Church's Peace and Justice Ministries, and Edmond Browning, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church."
Among Ateek's Jewish supporters are Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Jewish Liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis; clinical psychologist Mark Braverman; and American rabbi, journalist, and author Brant Rosen.
- Unmasking False Religion; Following Jesus in occupied territory. Sojourners Magazine, September–October 2001 (Vol. 30, No. 5, pp. 27).
- Apartheid in the Holy Land Desmond Tutu, April 29, 2002, The Guardian,
- Jerusalem: Eternal, intractable by Gerald Butt, 28 September 2000, BBC
- A journey of justice, a journey of faith. An interview with Naim Ateek by Brian Grieves, September 2001, in Witness
- The Theology of Sabeel: What We Believe: Notes from a talk by Rev. Naim Ateek, July 21, 2008, Milwaukie, Oregon
- Palestinian Christian
- Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
- Bishop Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal
- St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem
- About Sabeel
- "Voice of the Palestinian Christians". Friends of Sabeel – North America.
- Samia Khoury (Summer 2013). "PLT: A Rewarding Way" (PDF). Cornerstone (66): 5. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
- "Christian/Muslim Jerusalem Conference Slams Christian Zionists". Al-Bushra.
- About Naim Ateek
- "Vision". Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.
- ADL Lists Top Ten anti-Israel groups in America
- FOSNA Response to ADL, October 2013[dead link]
- International Friends of Sabeel
- "Community Program". Sabeel.
- "Youth Program". Sabeel.
- "Women Program". Sabeel.
- "Witness Visit". Sabeel.
- "Weekly Wave Prayer". Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.
- "Cornerstone". Sabeel.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA). Retrieved September 28, 2014.
- Palestinian Liberation Theology, from fosna.org, January 24, 2014
- Kairos Palestine
- Lowe, Malcom (April 2010). "The Palestinian Kairos Document: A Behind-the-Scenes Analysis". New English Review.
- "Holy Boycotts" (PDF). The Jerusalem Report via the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. March 20, 2006.
- "The Jerusalem Sabeel Document: Principles for Just Peace in Palestine–Israel". Friends of Sabeel – North America. May 1, 2006.
- Ateek, Naim Stifan (1989). Justice, and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. ISBN 978-0-88344-545-7.
- Ateek, Naim Stifan (2001). "An Easter Message from Sabeel". Sabeel. Archived from the original on 2008-03-10. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- Archives, Sabeel.org, 1996-2011
- Ateek, Naim (September 26, 2003). "Suicide Bombers / What is theologically and morally wrong with suicide bombings? A Palestinian Christian Perspective". Information Clearing.
- "Amazon.com". Naim Ateek.
- "Narrative Report" (PDF). Sabeel.
- Santis, Yitzhak (July 8, 2012). "A Process of Engagement". The Jerusalem Post.
- Updating the Ancient Infrastructure of Christian Contempt-Sabeel by Dexter Van Zile, April 14, 2012
- On Naim Ateek and the Sabeel Institute: A Conversation Between a Rabbi and a Congregant by Brant Rosen, October 3, 2013