January 07, 2021 | by Patricia Daughtery,Hubert Ivery,Michael Yoshii
Editor's Note: The following article was the work of collaboration between the Conference Task Force on Children Ministry and the Conference Task Force on the Criminalization of Children and Youth.
January 6th is the observance of the Epiphany of the Lord and a time for illumination of the birth of Jesus Christ into the world. The Task Force on Criminalization of Children & Youth joins the Task Force for Children’s Ministry in bringing you Epiphany and New Year’s greetings.
The lectionary gospel text (Matthew 2:1-12) for Epiphany tells the story of the magi who travel from the east following a star which will guide them to honor the birth of Jesus. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, the magi are summoned by King Herod, who enlists their help in finding the location of the birth.
Threatened by news of a new royal dominion embodied in the birth of Jesus, King Herod plans a violent pre-emptive strike to prevent this possibility. But as the magi are led by the star to the holy family in Bethlehem, they are also warned in a dream not to return to Herod. After giving homage to Jesus, they circumvent King Herod and leave Bethlehem.
Enraged and anxious not knowing the where Jesus is, King Herod issues an edict for the murder of all children under 2 years old. Like the magi, Mary and Joseph had already been warned in a dream, and fled to Egypt for the safety of their new born child. As we observe Epiphany, and illuminate the birth of Jesus we are mindful of the violent threats that were present even as he took his first breath of life in the world.
Sadly, today in Bethlehem the social reality for children is hauntingly similar to the biblical narrative we read for Epiphany.
Palestinian Christians and Muslims living in Bethlehem and the West Bank live under the siege of the illegal Israeli military occupation. They are subjected to daily human rights abuses which include the abusive treatment of children. Annually there are an estimated 500 to 700 children separated from family through the Israeli military detention system; a cruel system that perpetuates the systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children.
These conditions are exacerbated today with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting detention facilities. In the biblical text, upon the enactment of the murders at the behest of King Herod, we hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah accentuating the cries of “Rachel weeping for her children.” Today Palestinian mothers also cry out for the lives of their children.
Joseph, Mary, and the Magi received messages from the God on how to respond to the threats of King Herod. We encourage you to discern how God is speaking to you today in response to this Prayer Challenge. Illuminate the birth of Christ in worship, pastoral prayers, participation of children in the reading of the Word, Wisdom, Prayers, and Action.
Matthew 2:1-12 and 17
17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because
they are no more.”
Hear the personal testimony of three Palestinian children in this 10 minute video: Diaries of Childhood in Military Detention
A quote from Palestinian Christians from Kairos Palestine https://kairospalestine.ps/
“Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid, urging them to work for a just peace.”
We proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.
We declare that the military occupation of Palestinian land constitutes a sin against God and humanity. Any theology that legitimizes the occupation and justifies crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people lies far from Christian teachings.
We urge the international community to stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle against oppression, displacement, and apartheid.”