Episcopal Church acts to support Palestinian children’s rights

Chicago, July 18, 2018—The Episcopal Church on Friday became the fourth U.S.-based church body to pass a national resolution calling on the United States to protect the rights of Palestinian children.

During the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church on July 13, church leaders passed a resolution advocating for the rights of Palestinian children. The resolution, titled “Safeguard the Rights of Palestinian Children,” highlights widespread and systematic ill-treatment by Israeli forces against Palestinian child detainees and calls on Israel “to guarantee basic rights and exercise a prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of detained children (defined as persons under 18 years old).”

Episcopal human rights advocates in Maine and Illinois initiated draft resolutions several months ago. A final version passed unanimously out of committee before being approved by the House of Deputies on July 12 and later the House of Bishops on July 13.

Jennifer Bing, Palestine Israel Program Director at American Friends Service Committee and co-leader of the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, provided testimony in support of the resolution on July 6 before the House of Deputies Committee on Social Justice and International Policy.

“I know many of you are mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles of young children,” said Bing. “When you hear about Palestinian children being awaken in the middle of the night, hand tied and blindfolded and taken away by Israeli soldiers, I know you share my moral outrage.”

Sarah Lawton, an Episcopal Church deputy from California and chair of the House of Deputies Committee on Social Justice and International Policy, introduced the resolution in the House of Deputies on July 12 noting, “This resolution would raise our church’s concern about these practices and urge us to action to keep U.S. assistance from being used in discriminatory and abusive detention practices aimed at [Palestinian] children.”

Similar to H.R. 4391, a bill introduced into the U.S. Congress in November 2017, the resolution calls on the Secretary of State “to certify annually that no funds obligated or expended in the previous year by the United States for assistance to Israel have been used to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law.”

Newland Smith, a deputy from Chicago, provided additional testimony to the House of Deputies before the vote that drawed on a visit to the occupied West Bank in March where he met with Palestinian families and social workers.

“Arrests of Palestinian children in the middle of the night are part of a system of intimidation,” said Smith. “These arrests have a profound impact on families. Fathers cannot protect their child. They suffer sleep deprivation with health implications. People say they become numb, ‘I’m afraid of being afraid.’ They are afraid of a tomorrow where their child is out of school [due to arrests].”

The Episcopal Church is a mainline Christian denomination with three million members in the United States, and is the U.S.-based member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In recent years, the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have all passed resolutions specifically focused on widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces. Additionally, regional bodies of the Methodist and Lutheran churches have also passed resolutions concerning the rights of Palestinian children.

Watch the presentation of the Resolution C038 in the House of Deputies (starting at 01:20:28) and the House of Bishops (starting at 01:11:00):

Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) is a local, independent Palestinian human rights organization committed to securing a just and viable future for Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.