What can we learn from Bonhoeffer concerning the churches facing Palestinian suffering?


  • Ulrich Duchrow




Bonhoeffer, apartheid, Israel, Palestine, human rights, international law


Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay on “The Church and the Jewish Question” (1933) inspired already two ecumenical processes. The first one was the decision of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 1977 declaring apartheid a status confessionis, the second was the call of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) to engage in a processus confessionis “regarding economic injustice and ecological destruction” (1997). This led the LWF (2003), the WARC (2004) and also the World Council of Churches (WCC in 2013) to formally reject imperial neoliberal capitalism. Now it inspires the church actions against the state of Israel, depriving the Palestinians of their civil and political rights and the justification of this by misusing the Bible in (Christian) Zionism. This amounts to apartheid according to all relevant human rights organizations and the UN. There are important consequences for Christian-Jewish relations in Germany and the West today. After Western antisemitism and the horrific genocide by German Nazis against the Jewish people it was extremely necessary to overcome this past by intensive Christian-Jewish dialogue. However this has become a deal to silence critique of Israel’s constant violations of international law and human rights, as pointed out by the Jewish liberation theologian Marc Ellis. In order to overcome this a theology of land respectful of human rights is needed. Churches are being called to a process of study and discernment leading to action. A special responsibility lies with the churches in Germany and the USA because their governments must link their cooperation with the State of Israel to international law and human rights.