Sabeel’s “Via Dolorosa”

In his Easter Message of 2001, Sabeel’s founder Naim Ateek declared:

Here in Palestine Jesus is again walking the via dolorosa. Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, the woman trying to get through to the hospital for treatment, the young man whose dignity is trampled, the young student who cannot get to the university to study, the unemployed father who needs to find bread to feed his family; the list is tragically getting longer, and Jesus is there in their midst suffering with them. He is with them when their homes are shelled by tanks and helicopter gunships. He is with them in their towns and villages, in their pains and sorrows.
In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.

Now this comes from Cornerstone Magazine, Issue 53 – Summer 2009 (p.18):


Sabeel brought local Christians together to participate in a walk along the Via Dolorosa, using the Contemporary Way of the Cross, a liturgy created by Sabeel, which remembers the suffering of Jesus and relates it to current day sufferings of the Palestinian people.

At this point, you may feel like reminding Rev Ateek about the power of words, and why rhetoric about Jesus being the Palestinian persecuted by Israelis may conjure up images of the Christ-killer myth that Jews killed Jesus. 

Perhaps then Rev Ateek should pay attention to his own writings in the very same issue of Cornerstone:

Words are powerful instruments that people use for good and evil. Someone once said that people need to handle words carefully because they have more power than an atomic bomb. The letter of James in the New Testament, from which the above quotation is taken, is only one example of the power of words which we all use and abuse. For James, the tongue is a small member but it is capable of great exploits. Words can be “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” With words we can bless God and one another and with words we can curse them. If words are not controlled, they can consume people like fire. This phenomenon is not new. From time immemorial, human beings have discovered the power and subtlety of language and the use and misuse of words.



Filed under theology

3 responses to “Sabeel’s “Via Dolorosa”

  1. Dooley

    But remember that Sabeel and their supporters are not antisemitic, there just expressing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, honest guv!

  2. zkharya

    I think it’s fine to use the easter myth in this fashion. It would just be nice if Ateek remembered there were other “Palestinians” asides Jesus and his disciples who also were ethnically cleansed/crucified, and whom the first Palestinian Christians held to have been entirely justly so for their a priori rejection of Jesus, Palestinian Christians whose successors did everything they could to stop Jews reversing their crucifixion/dispossession.

  3. Pingback: The Methodist Church and Institutional Antisemitism « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism

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