Christian leaders travel to Bethlehem for Christmas in solidarity with Palestinians

A delegation of Christian leaders from around the globe, including a cohort from South
Africa, has arrived in Palestine to spend this Christmas in Bethlehem in a demonstration of
solidarity with Palestinian Christians and all Palestinians in the illegally occupied Palestinian
territories by Israel, including the Gaza strip. This pilgrimage of solidarity is being organised
by Kairos Southern Africa in collaboration with Kairos Palestine.

The group traveled via Jordan, and arrived in Amman on the 20th of December, and will be
departing on the 26th of December. Kairos Palestine and SABEEL will host the delegation in
Jerusalem and Bethlehem. During their trip, the group will spend some initial time in
Jerusalem, among other things, meeting with released Palestinian prisoners, meeting with
families of Israeli hostages, visiting the Holy sites of the Abrahamic faiths, including the Al
Aqsa Mosque, and meeting with church leaders, Christian and civil society organisations and
Human Rights groups. The group will then move to Bethlehem where they will meet
Christian organisations and church leaders, attend various worship services, including a
Christmas midnight mass, and participate in an annual peace march.
The international delegation consists of:

1. Rev. Frank Chikane, an emeritus pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission of
South Africa (AFM), a former General Secretary and Vice President of the South
Africa Council of Churches (SACC), and former Moderator of the Churches
Commission on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches
2. Archbishop Thami Ngcana, General Secretary of the Council of African
Independent Churches.
3. Dean Michael Weeder, Dean of the St George’s Anglican Cathedral in
Cape Town and currently on a fast for Gaza
4. Ds. Riaan de Villiers, a Dominee of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk,
Groote Kerk, Cape Town.
5. Rev. Rene August, an Anglican priest, and a veteran of the anti-apartheid
movement; she is a reconciliation trainer with The Warehouse, a worshipping
community organisation in Cape Town, South Africa.
6. Ms. Goitsione Makuo, a lay member of the Cape Town Cathedral Council.
7. Rev. Solomon Maans, minister of religion in the African Methodist
Episcopal Church (AME), Johannesburg, South Africa.
8. Mr. Jimmy Matthews, a South African Journalist.
9. Mr. Nkululeko Conco, an Anglican lay person and an Attorney.
10. Rev. Dr Chris Ferguson, pastor of the United Church of Canada (UCC),
Chancellor-Qonkuy, Platform of Protestant Universities in Iberoamerica,
International Prof. of the Universidad Reformada of Colombia, and former General
Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
11. Rev. Susan Wilder, Presbyterian Church, USA
12. Rev David Wildman, Methodist Church, USA
13. Others will join later

Bethlehem, being the birthplace of Jesus, is of course deeply significant at this time. Of
similar significance are the parallels between the time of Jesus’ birth and now, which are hard
to ignore. Then, the land was under occupation by the Roman empire. Now, the occupier is
the state of Israel. Then, King Herod carried out a genocide of boys under the age of two.
Now, Israel is carrying out a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza which is now spilling over to
the West Bank, and more than 8 000 children have been killed.

The genocide, which Palestinians see as a continuation of the Nakba (catastrophe) which
started in 1947, has been happening on the watch of the international community without
lifting a finger to stop it. By yesterday the official death toll in Gaza reached about 19 000
Palestinians killed over a period of just more than two months. Of these, more than 8 000 are
children, more than 6 200 are women and 678 are elderly. Over the same period more than
51 000 have been injured and at least 7 780 are missing, and more than 8 000 are thought to
be buried under the rubbles of bombed buildings and structure. More than 1 930 000 (85% of
all Gazans) have been displaced. 1 680 families have been bombed and 63 000 (61%)
residential units destroyed.
Hospitals, schools, churches and mosques, United Nations (UN) facilities, sewage pump
stations, water wells, agricultural land, bakeries, Government buildings and public facilities have been bombed. What is worse is that even ambulances are being bombed. 135 UN staff have been killed and 26 injured; 300 medical personnel have been killed, 236 injured and 38 arrested. 192 journalists have been killed, 80 are injured and three are missing. Palestinians are deliberately starved by blockading supplies of food, and patients are left to die because of a lack of medical supplies which are also blocked.

These acts of the Israelis are clearly not just acts of terrorism but crimes against humanity in
terms of international law, and those who are responsible, including those who support this
genocide must be brought to book through the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In the illegally occupied areas in the West Bank, since the 7th October 2023, 298 Palestinians
have been killed and 65 of these are children; more than 3 365 have been injured; 4 528 have
been arrested, 65 of then school children. There are19 533 Israeli violations and assaults; 641
Israeli settler assaults; 2 921 incursions and 1 643 Palestinian homes stormed.
In total 7 800 Palestinian are in detention with 3 730 detained since after October 7th.
From these reports it is clear that Palestinians are left at the mercy of the brutal occupying
force where no international law applies. Even the UN has been neutralised by the veto by the
United States of America (USA) at the UN Security Council which supports Israeli’s
genocide, including a $US3.8 billion per year in military assistance. The USA has given
Israel more military assistance than any other country since World War 11 amounting to
Thus, while Christmas is typically a time of joy and celebration, Kairos SA and Kairos
Palestine notes that, “This year, joy and good news are being replaced with increased settler
violence and the implementation of a new Nakba.” For this reason, Palestinian Christians in
Bethlehem in the West Bank have decided to cancel festivities and public Christmas
celebrations this year.

Watch: CLIP BY REV MUNTHER ISAACS and CLIP OF PALESTINIAN PATRIARCH: Free Palestine this Christmas 2023)

On the invitation of these Palestinian Christians and in solidarity with their lament and
struggle, the delegation of church leaders will join them in Bethlehem for Christmas as one
Body of Christ and deliver a clear message that, “When THEY suffer, WE suffer. We join them, to stand where Jesus stood with those who are suffering; to pray with them, to encourage them, to mourn with them, to say no to genocide, and yes to a ceasefire and negotiations to end the Occupation.

From the West Bank the delegation will head for the Rafah Gate via Cairo to try to reach out
to the victims of genocide in Gaza. It is our prayer that the relevant authorities will allow the
delegation to be able to carry out their pastoral responsibilities and be there for the victims of
the genocide as part of our ministry of presence and service to God’s people.


Media Queries:
Khuthalani Khumalo
SACC Communications Consultant
Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email:

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