Public Witness

Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire Now!

Allison Tanner

December 23, 2023

Sunday morning, immediately following worship, Lakeshore will head outdoors to raise a banner on our sanctuary building that says “Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire Now!” This action connects our worship of the Prince of Peace with our work for God’s peace on earth – in Gaza, in Oakland, and throughout the world. It connects us with the people of Bethlehem, who are asking the world to not celebrate Christmas as usual when genocide is taking place in the land of Jesus’ birth. And it connects us with the interfaith community who will be participating in similar actions throughout the weeks to come.

There will be a short service of prayer and banner blessing as part of this action. We will be joined by representatives of the interfaith community. Media have also been invited – below is the press release that has gone out to the larger community. I trust this will be a powerful way to engage in Public Witness with our larger community and as part of a growing movement pressuring the powers that be to put their weapons down.

Praying for peace and working for justice together,

Pastor Allison

 

East Bay Christian Churches Raise Banners and Hold Christmas Prayers  in Solidarity with Palestine

From the Cancellation of Christmas Festivities in Bethlehem to Local Actions, People of Faith Say No Christmas As Usual

Oakland, CA –  As there will be no music, lights, posadas or pilgrims on the streets of Bethlehem this year, several East Bay Christian Churches and Interfaith allies will hold prayer services for peace and raise banners saying, “Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire Now!” on their churches this Christmas Eve. This action comes as an act of solidarity with Christians in Bethlehem, throughout the West Bank, and across the Middle East who have canceled Christmas festivities in light of Israel’s ongoing bombardment, indiscriminate attacks, and targeted killings in Gaza.  

“As Christians we cannot celebrate Christmas as usual and ignore the appeals of our fellow Christian clergy in Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth,” says Rev. Allison Tanner, one of the faith leaders organizing the banner raising and Pastor of Public Witness at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland. She references Rev. Munther Isaac of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, who said, “It is not possible to celebrate or rejoice when our families and people in Gaza are being massacred and ethnically cleansed. This is a time of mourning. This is a time of lament.”  

“We lament with them and acknowledge the reality of violence that has crushed people’s lives and homes, and we must recognize our part in it,” continues Rev. Tanner. “We cannot celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace and ignore the violence being perpetrated with the support of the U.S. government and our tax dollars.”

Beyond Palestine, Christian leaders across the globe including Pope Francis have elevated an appeal for ceasefire, pleading with world leaders to  say “No to weapons, Yes to peace.” To date, the death toll has reached 20,000 lost lives with nearly 2 million people displaced. 

“In this country, from this distance, we *could* conceivably celebrate Christmas as if nothing were wrong. Except that Jesus is in the rubble. God is in the rubble. If God is in the rubble, we can’t actually worship apart from what’s happening in Palestine,” states Vanessa Riles, lay leader at First Congregational Church of Oakland, “If we are seeking to find Jesus and pay homage, the star is rising this year over Gaza. So, we at First Congregational Church of Oakland will gather and raise this banner, in solidarity with Gaza, with Bethlehem, and with all those who long for a just peace and call for a permanent ceasefire now.”

This action comes on the heels of a large interfaith prayer walk for a permanent ceasefire that brought together 500 people representing diverse faith to the Golden Gate Bridge earlier this month. Additional congregations representing Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and other faith traditions will host banner drops in upcoming weeks. 

“Our church community and wider Methodists have had a long relationship with a village in the West Bank,” says Rev. Pamela Kurtz, pastor of Berkeley Methodist United  Church, who traveled to Palestine this April with the Friends of Wadi Foquin.  “Since the assault on Gaza began in October, there has been an increase in settler and military violence on Palestinians without consequence across the West Bank. This is a season of Peace, Hope and Justice. We call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire of the violence in Gaza, and steps towards lasting peace and justice for everyone in the region. We urge our California senators and representatives to join in this call.”

The “Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire Now!” Banners are part of a growing interfaith effort to publicly demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Banners will appear outside diverse faith communities in the weeks ahead and remain on sacred buildings until a Ceasefire is achieved to send a clear message demanding an end to the violence in Gaza and the West Bank.  To join this effort, sign up here: https://bit.ly/InterfaithCeasefireBanner.

Interviews with the faith leaders of participating churches and institutions are available by request.


WHAT: Religious leaders and congregation members gather in interfaith prayer for peace and hang up banners saying “Love Demands Permanent Ceasefire Now!” on the outside of Church buildings including Berkeley United Methodist Church, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, FIrst Unitarian Church in Oakland, and First Congregational Church Oakland.

WHEN: Sunday, Dec 24, 2023 

WHERE: Public and media are welcome to join prayers for peace and banner blessing at:  

  • 11:30am – Lakeshore Ave Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Avenue Oakland, CA 94610
  • 1:00pm – First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St, Oakland, CA 94612

VISUALS:  Large banners, multifaith leaders and prayers