Radical Christianity in the Holy Land: A Comparative Study of Liberation and Contextual Theology in Palestine-Israel
Kuruvilla, Samuel Jacob
Date: 28 April 2009
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Theology
Palestine is known as the birthplace of Christianity. However the Christian population of this land is relatively insignificant today, despite the continuing institutional legacy that the 19th century Western missionary focus on the region created. Palestinian Christians are often forced to employ politically astute as well as theologically ...
Palestine is known as the birthplace of Christianity. However the Christian population of this land is relatively insignificant today, despite the continuing institutional legacy that the 19th century Western missionary focus on the region created. Palestinian Christians are often forced to employ politically astute as well as theologically radical means in their efforts to appear relevant within an increasingly Islamist-oriented society. My thesis focuses on two ecumenical Christian organisations within Palestine, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem (headed by the Anglican cleric Naim Stifan Ateek) and Dar Annadwa Addawliyya (the International Centre of Bethlehem-ICB, directed by the Lutheran theologian Mitri Raheb). Based on my field work (consisting of an in-depth familiarisation with the two organisations in Palestine and interviews with their directors, office-staff and supporters worldwide, as well as data analyses based on an extensive literature review), I argue that the grassroots-oriented educational, humanitarian, cultural and contextual theological approach favoured by the ICB in Bethlehem is more relevant to the Palestinian situation, than the more sectarian and Western-oriented approach of the Sabeel Centre. These two groups are analysed primarily according to their theological-political approaches. One, (Sabeel), has sought to develop a critical Christian response to the Palestine-Israel conflict using the politico-theological tool of liberation theology, albeit with a strongly ecumenical Western-oriented focus, while the other (ICB), insists that its theological orientation draws primarily from the Levantine Christian (and in their particular case, the Palestinian Lutheran) context in which Christians in Israel-Palestine are placed. Raheb of the ICB has tried to develop a contextual theology that seeks to root the political and cultural development of the Palestinian people within their own Eastern Christian context and in light of their peculiarly restricted life under an Israeli occupation regime of over 40 years. In the process, I argue that the ICB has sought to be much more situationally relevant to the needs of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, given the employment, socio-cultural and humanitarian-health opportunities opened up by the practical-institution building efforts of this organisation in Bethlehem.
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