Richard Melson

March 2006


Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, promote unity among them, and lead them to social action.

1st International Young Adult Conference,

"Together: Facing Challenges... Finding Hope"
26 July - 6 August 2006

6th International Conference,

"The Forgotten Faithful:

The Challenges and Witness of Palestinian Christians"
November 3-9, 2006

Sabeel’s Statement on the New Realities in Palestine

Jerusalem Office:

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

PO Box 49084
Jerusalem 91491
Palestine via Israel

Tel: (+972) 2 5327136
Fax: (+972) 2 5327137

General Info:

Community Building Program:
Youth Program:
Women's Program:
Clergy Program:
International Program:
Public Relations:
2006 International Conference:

Nazareth Office

Sabeel Nazareth
PO Box 8862
Nazarath 16300

Tel: (+972) 4 6020790
Fax: (+972) 4 6020790



Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians.

Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. The word "Sabeel" is Arabic for ‘the way‘ and also a ‘channel‘ or ‘spring‘ of life-giving water.

Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.

Palestinian Liberation Theology

Palestinian Liberation Theology is an ecumenical grassroots movement, rooted in Christian Biblical interpretation and nourished by the hopes, dreams and struggles of the Palestinian people. Originating in the land where Christ lived, this theology seeks to provide a holistic vision of God‘s redeeming activity in the midst of the current reality. In a situation where justice has been long neglected, Palestinian Liberation Theology opens new horizons of understanding for the pursuit of a just peace and for the reconciliation proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

By learning from Jesus - his life under occupation and his response to injustice - this theology 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. Additionally, this blossoming theological effort promotes a more accurate international awareness of the current political situation and encourages Christians from around the world to work for justice and to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

History of Sabeel

In 1989 an ad hoc committee was formed to implement, on a practical level, a Palestinian Liberation Theology. On a pastoral level, some of the Palestinian clergy were listening to the cries of the people at the grassroots. They felt the need to respond not only to their physical sufferings, but also to the way these sufferings were being aggravated by the religious argument in the political conflict. People where asking "Where is God in all of this oppression and injustice?" We needed to work out a Palestinian theology of liberation as a pastoral response to such questions. Many of the Palestinian Christians also wanted to abandon the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, which was being used to justify their suffering. As Christians, however, the Bible is essential to our faith, so it was necessary to find in the Bible the God of justice, the God who is concerned with the oppressed.

The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek convened a committee of ten clergy and lay people to explore ways in which this theology could be developed and shared with fellow Palestinian Christians. They decided to host an international conference that would put Palestinian Liberation Theology in the context of other Liberation Theologies from around the world. Several local workshops were held to formulate ideas and prepare people for full participation in the conference.

In March 1990 the conference took place at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute. Local and international theologians developed the themes of the conference: Palestinian Reality; Palestinian Christian Identity; Power, Justice, and the Bible; Women, Faith, and the Intifada; and International Responses to the Quest for Palestinian Theology. The proceedings were published in a book entitled Faith and the Intifada (Orbis Books 1992), edited by Palestinian Liberation Theologian Naim Stifan Ateek, Jewish American Theologian Marc Ellis and American Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether. The conference led to the founding of Sabeel as a liberation theology movement.

The Sabeel Center is located in Jerusalem, serving Bethlehem, Ramallah and the surrounding areas, with a branch office in Nazareth to serve the Galilee.

In recent years, International Friends of Sabeel chapters have been founded in Australia, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. International Friends of Sabeel Chapters provide support for Sabeel‘s work in advocacy, education, and nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.


Sabeel affirms its commitment to make the gospel relevant ecumenically and spiritually in the lives of the local indigenous Church. Our faith teaches that 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. Since a strong civil society and a healthy community are the best supports for a vulnerable population, Sabeel strives to empower the Palestinian community as a whole and to develop the internal strengths needed for participation in building a better world for all

Only by working for a just and durable peace can we provide a sense of security and create ample opportunities for growth and prosperity in an atmosphere void of violence and strife. Although remaining political and organizational obstacles hinder the full implementation of programs, Sabeel continues to develop creative means to surmount these challenges. We seek both to be a refuge for dialogue and to pursue ways of finding answers to ongoing theological questions about the sanctity of life, justice, and peace.

Sabeel Snapshots

March 2006

Greetings from Jerusalem! Life at Sabeel is never quiet! Many Sabeel programs and events at the start of the year have focused on the Palestinian elections of January 25 and the new political situation following Hamas' victory.

Please see our new website!

for Sabeel's statement on the elections, A Wake Up Call!

In the midst of the elections and Christmas celebrations continuing into January with Eastern Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Christmas January 19, Sabeel has continued with local community, youth, and clergy programs, and hosted many international visiting groups during January and February of this year.


Upon the initiative of the Laity Committee in Jerusalem, Sabeel along with six other Christian groups in Jerusalem promoted awareness about the importance of participating in elections. On January 12, over 300 Jerusalemites gathered at the Orthodox Club and put forth questions to the nine Christian candidates running for the two seats allocated to Jerusalem. This challenging joint effort emphasized the positive power of unity, democracy and human rights. It also warned the candidates about their accountability to their voters.


On January 9, dozens of people gathered around Cindy and Craig Corrie at Sabeel for an informal discussion about their courageous struggle for a just peace. After the initial shock of losing their beloved daughter Rachel in Rafah, they dared speak out to their own government and traveled several times to this area to build bridges of understanding and teach forgiveness and nonviolence. Voices like theirs are very much needed to prick the conscience of political leaders who want to obliterate the truth. The audience was deeply touched and encouraged by their testimony and witness.

The Open Forum

In the first session of 2006 held on February 7. Naim Ateek presented the theme of the WCC 9th General Assembly: "God in your grace transform the world" After a brief introduction about the WCC, Rev. Ateek focused the discussion on the Palestinian Christian context and how to bring about a transformation and face the upcoming challenges in a constantly changing situation. An audience of about 50 people, largely women, highlighted the changes that have occurred in our area in the past few months, and explored practical ways of effective change by studying Romans 12.

Lenten Program

This year's Lenten Program (as well as all other local programs) is entitled "Unity in Faith" in preparation for Sabeel 6th International Conference, "The Forgotten Faithful," November 2-9, 2006 (see below for details.) On February 28, over eighty (80) participants from Jerusalem (including 4 men!) headed towards Jericho. The first stop was the Orthodox Convent, Deir Hijlah, where tradition places the refuge of St. Jerasmus. In addition to its being a religious site, it is also a pleasant stop. In Jericho the group visited the Coptic Church Mar Antonius and the Greek Orthodox Zaccheus Church. The rest of the day was spent at the Rawdah Park for lunch and a spiritual panel discussion with Father Mina (Coptic Church) and Father Firas (Franciscan Friar). The Jericho YWCA President Vera Pano moderated the afternoon session that was attended by a number of Jericho community members.

To end a memorable day, the Jerusalem participants enjoyed a stop at the YWCA production center to purchase some of their delicious pastries and other home products.


A small group of Palestinian women met for three sessions to read with Janneke Stegeman, A Dutch student of theology the controversial and difficult scripture reading of Jeremiah 32. In preparation, Monica Styron, a Presbyterian pastor and volunteer at Sabeel, introduced Jeremiah and placed the readers of the Old Testament in the context of the passage. In every single scripture reading one can find the exclusive and inclusive connotations, hence the necessity of avoiding literal explanations outside their own context.


Sabeel hosted another enlightening clergy program on February 3. Eight clergy from different denominations met at Sabeel in the morning and the Coptic priest Father Afram led a bible study. After the bible study, the clergy seriously discussed the current situation after the Palestinian elections. A fellowship lunch followed the discussions. We look forward to more clergy programs in the coming months of 2006!


Christmas Giving

On 26th of January, twelve (12) teenagers went to Lazarus Home for Girls, an orphanage in Bethany, to spread a bit of Christmas cheer. The teenagers worked with a clown to do face-painting and to bend balloons into shapes for the children, and they handed out gifts which they had wrapped. After this voluntary service, the teenagers ate dinner together to celebrate the New Year.

Youth and Society

On the 4th of February, 65 young adults from Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah, met for a full day activity in Jericho. There, they discussed in groups how young adults can become active in the church and society and enjoyed a barbecue together. Rev. Naim Ateek closed the day with a time of biblical reflection and hymn singing.


During January and February, Sabeel hosted a number of international visitors. In addition to the current political situation in Palestine and Israel, groups came to Sabeel interested in everything from Liberation Theology and the Palestinian Christian community to moral investment and interfaith work. During the past few months, significant discussion surrounded the Palestinian elections of 25 January. In addition, the Sabeel statement on the election's outcome along with other Sabeel publications were handed out to the visitors at the end of each meeting.

Sabeel would like to thank its visitors, individuals and groups, for their time and support: seminarians from Yale Divinity School, CT, US; All Saints Episcopal Church, CA, US; United Methodist Volunteer and Mission (VIM), US; United Methodist seminarians from Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA, US & Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, TX, US; Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, UK; United Methodist Annual Conference representatives, US; Lutheran seminarians from Luther Seminary, MN and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, CA, US; United Methodist Volunteer and Mission (VIM) coordinators group, US; the Tree of Life Journey, CT, US.

Sabeel also met with the Board of Diakonia and the Board of the Lund Mission Society Mission to discuss present and future partnerships.

Contemporary Way of the Cross

On February 20, Nora led the local Sabeel staff on the Contemporary Way of the Cross in the vicinity of the Sabeel office, as an exercise in capacity-building of tour leaders for this particularly important program that we offer. We stopped at a refugee camp (Shu'fat,) a settlement (Pizgat Zeev), and drove through the tens of demolished homes in the same area. Even as Palestinians who know and live the occupation, the shock of seeing the eight (8) foot wall dividing the playground of the Anata Secondary Boys School brought angry feelings forward. Seeing the soldiers throw sound bombs in a neighboring girls' school, as a provoking fun act was too much! After that, it was good to stop and reflect on the Mt. of Olives, and overlooking Jerusalem, remember that we still do not know the things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-42).

Sabeel offers this program to any interested group numbering at least ten people. In a meeting with travel agents on February 23, Sabeel encouraged them to offer this program to pilgrims who request it.


The Nazareth Sabeel office invited community members to join them in prayers for reconciliation the Petite Soeurs de Nazareth chapel in solidarity with the Mughar Christians, who continue to mend their lives after enduring violence in this village last spring. The couples group met at the Sabeel office in Nazareth on March 3 to hear stories from and dialogue with Sister Elena from the Little Sisters of Nazareth convent. Speaking from her experiences while living in Gaza for twenty (20) years and Ramallah for ten (10) years, Sister Elena spoke about the life of families and especially women in the Occupied Territories and compared and contrasted this with the experiences of couples in Nazareth and the Galilee region.

Looking Ahead

At the start of the new year, Sabeel Nazareth focused on clarifying its vision for the coming year. In addition to remaining committed to exploring Christian faith and presence in Israel, through Sabeel's activities in Nazareth, we hope to deepen our relationships with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and strengthen relationships with and increase our understanding of Muslim and Jewish communities working for peace. As we look ahead, we hope to extend our work in Galilee, Haifa, Shafaamr, and other villages.

The Nazareth office is also preparing for the two (2) upcoming international conferences, the 1st International Young Adults Conference, Together: Facing Challenges … Finding Hope, in July & August, and the 6th International Conference, The Forgotten Faithful, in November.

Ahlan wa-Sahlan!

Sabeel welcomes Omar Harami, our new PR staff member in the Jerusalem office, and volunteer Andrea Dalton.

IFOS Snapshots

This month: Friends of Sabeel—North America

Something different is in the air. After many years of being ignored by the media and even by the mainstream American churches, Sabeel finds itself on the pages of newspapers, on radio stations and numerous websites, the topic of heated debates in churches and in academia. And to what do we attribute this sudden preeminence? Sabeel’s support for the resolutions of the Presbyterian Church USA, the World Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church USA, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Church of England, and others, encouraging divestment from companies supporting and profiting from Israel’s occupation. This has profound political and economic implications. And Sabeel has been at the center of it. We thank the churches for taking bold steps, for going beyond statements to concerted action, and we thank those who oppose the church movement and oppose the ministry and message of Sabeel for drumming up lots of "negative" media attention.

Our critics are well-organized and have substantial funding for their media campaign of distortion and attacks on Sabeel. They accuse Sabeel of being anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, pro-terror, a roadblock to peace. According to one source, they have over 200 paid staff in the U.S. working to discredit Sabeel and church divestment actions. Detractors disparagingly say that Sabeel is "the driving force behind the church divestment movement." It’s true: if you want to know the truth about yourself, listen to what your critics have to say about you.

You will see more and more of Sabeel in the media as our successful regional conferences continue and the churches continue to study their investments and identify corporations to engage on the issue of military occupation. You can be part of this by getting active in your church. We can help you with materials for discussion, such as Sabeel’s document—A Call for Morally Responsible Investment: a Nonviolent Response to the Occupation. Sabeel is heating things up, like that hot little mustard plant in the parable that grows with faith and flourishes. We’ve had 15 successful conferences and our membership and support base in the churches continue to expand. As for those critics working so hard to malign Sabeel, well, as Mark Twain once said: "Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."

- Sister Elaine Kelley

Sabeel's 1st International Young Adults Conference,

Together: Facing Challenges … Finding Hope

26 July – 6 August 2006.

During this conference, international and Palestinian young adults will meet, share stories, and learn about one another’s cultures. We hope you will leave with new awareness of Christians around the world, and new passion to pursue justice in your home communities. The conference will include:

Cultural events and visits with families

Hikes to religious sites

Travel to Palestinian towns

Bible studies and worship

Volunteer work

Workshops and group discussions

Seek truth... … discover unity

The registration and program fee for the conference is $600. This includes all of your land costs—food, accommodations, ground transportation, speakers and activities—but it does not include airfare. For a group rate on airfare, contact Yusef Daher at Daher Travel (, by phone 972 2 628 3235 or 972 050 554 5179, or email or


See to download a registration form

or contact for more information.

"The Forgotten Faithful"

A Window into the Life and Witness of Christians in the Holy Land

6th International Sabeel Conference

November 2-9, 2006

Through lectures, workshops, worship and excursions in the Holy Land, Sabeel’s 6th International Conference will provide a unique opportunity to encounter the realities of Christians in Palestine and Israel.

History: Consider the 2000 year presence of Christians in the Holy Land

Present Realities: Critically examine the impact of the Israeli occupation on the political, social, economic, and religious conditions of Palestinian Christians

Personal Stories: Hear from Christians about their challenges and aspirations

Muslim-Christian Relations: Understand the relationships of Christians with their Muslim sisters and brothers

Israeli and International Solidarity: Discover the support of the Israeli peace movement and the international community in the struggle for a just peace

Partnership and Bridge Building: Develop practical tools and ideas to support and empower Christians in Palestine and Israel.

Meet your Christian brothers and sisters, learn about their history and present struggle, champion their just cause and advocate for peace and reconciliation for all the people of the land.

Conference Schedule

(subject to change)

Thursday, November 2

Arrivals and Registration in Hotels

Welcoming Reception in the evening

Friday, November 3: Jerusalem


Opening Ceremony

Plenary: History of Arab Christianity

Panel: Growth of Palestinian Christianity and the Palestinian Church

Lectures: -The Impact of Islam and Crusades on Christianity

-Christianity in a Contemporary Setting


Overnight in Jerusalem

Saturday, November 4: Bethlehem

Bible Study with Dr. Kenneth Bailey


Lunch with Christian Community


Overnight in Jericho

Sunday, November 5: Ramallah and Villages

Worship in Jericho or Ramallah

Visits to Christian Villages

Lunch and receptions with Local Communities

Lectures: Political Perspectives

Overnight in Jericho

Monday, November 6: Ramallah

Bible Study with Dr. Kenneth Bailey

Introduction to Christian Survey Results

Lectures: Present Realities; Political, Social, and Religious

Evening Barbecue and Entertainment

Overnight in Jericho

Tuesday, November 7: Galilee

Travel to Aboud: History and Visits

Visits to Christian Villages with Community Receptions

Overnight in Nazareth

Wednesday, November 8: Nazareth

Ad Hoc Meetings

Optional Tours of Nazareth

Discussion with Sabeel-Nazareth Chapter

Survey Discussion

Closing Dinner and Evening Entertainment

Thursday, November 9: Sea of Galilee

Closing Worship at St Peter’s Primacy

Optional Tours of Holy Sites and/or Boat Trip on Sea of Galilee

Free Afternoon in Tiberias

Post-Conference Tours may be arranged individually through Shepherd’s Tours and Travel

Registration Fees: $350 USD (or equivalent)

Make checks for registration payable to Sabeel. Registration begins May 1, 2006

See website for registration form:

Special Land Packages: (includes accommodations, all land travel, lunches,

entrance fees, airport shuttle service,)

for all land and air, make checks payable to

Shepherd’s Tours

Option I (four and five stars)

Single- $955

Double- $797

Triple- $776

(Includes: Notre Dame Hotel-Jerusalem, Intercontinental Hotel-Jericho,

Mary’s Well Hotel-Nazareth)

Option II (three star and four stars)

Single- $915

Double- $762

Triple- $741

(Includes: Gloria Hotel-Jerusalem,

Jericho Resort Inn -Jericho,

Mary’s Well Hotel-Nazareth)

For flights information from departing cities worldwide:

Contact: Shepherd’s Tours and Travel

PO Box 19560


Tel: (+972) 2 6284121

Fax: (+972) 2 628 0251


Sabeel: March 2006 Snapshots


PrelimBrochureNovConf.doc (1.77 MB)

TOGETHERinvitationfinal.doc (0.03 MB)

snapshotsmarch06.doc (0.81 MB)


Thursday, March 16, 2006