Open Letter to Unitarian Universalist Colleagues on the War and Occupation in Palestine

DRUUMM supports this open letter and invites our members and friends to contemplate and consider signing on. “This is one of those on hell on earth moments. I believe that every day we organize collectively and risk publicly, we provide a visible response to the violence. This response is akin to a protective factor as it focuses attention and counters the dehumanizing silence and rhetoric in the universe.” – Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Community Minister

Beloved colleagues, 

In these difficult times, we offer care and comfort to those experiencing great loss, fear, and heartbreak. As we bear witness to the escalating violence that has destroyed Palestinian and Jewish lives in Palestine, Israel, and around the world, we also acknowledge the complexity of showing up faithfully to minister to our community and be a voice for love and justice in our larger world. 

As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm that all people have the right to flourish with inherent dignity and worth. Over the past month, we have witnessed devastating violence and cruelty that have precipitated genocide. Beloveds, we must not turn away. We, Unitarian Universalist ministers, seminarians, lay leaders, religious professionals, and educators, join the chorus of people of faith, activists, and leaders demanding an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid into Gaza, an end to US military support to Israel, and an immediate release of the nearly 10,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and the 240 Israeli hostages taken on October 7. 

We condemn the catastrophic violence that indiscriminately kills civilians. We witness with heavy hearts the profound impact of wars, neo-colonialism, systemic oppression, and capitalist greed around the world. We recognize war disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and is often rooted in ideologies of supremacy backed by state power.

This letter is an invitation. We need our Unitarian Universalist leadership to be bold and prophetic, speaking out explicitly about the widespread violence of occupation. While there are individuals who are taking action, and we acknowledge that the UUA has called for an immediate ceasefire, there has been ongoing silencing of dialogue amongst Unitarian Universalist religious professionals. We can and must show up in solidarity with our Palestinian and Jewish siblings. 

We lament the dehumanization of Palestinian and Arab people around the world. We call out the silencing and harassment of our Unitarian Universalist Muslim and Arab colleagues. We join with our Jewish siblings who have declared that their grief will not be weaponized to justify genocide. Safety is a collective project. None of us are free until all of us are free!  To that end: 

We commit to deepen our understanding of how our faith’s generalist theological framework of “Jewish and Christian teachings” often fails to grapple with our origins of Christian supremacy and Christian Zionism. We need our religious leadership to study and act, embracing a theological praxis that supports our congregations and Unitarian Universalists broadly, in a journey that understands dismantling white supremacy includes speaking up against the ongoing assaults on Palestinian humanity and self-determination. 

We offer gratitude to Unitarian Universalists acting in solidarity with Palestine – from direct action in the streets and targeting elected officials to statements of support. We recognize the varied risks UUs face based on race, gender, immigration status, faith tradition, positional power, and role. We see how students, reporters, organizers, faith leaders, and elected officials who speak out are targeted. We will not turn away from those who condemn genocide.

We call upon Unitarian Universalists and in particular, our Unitarian Universalist Association, Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, LREDA, the Association for UU Music Ministries, and other fellow religious professionals to take bold and immediate action to stop the genocide in Gaza. This includes calling for an immediate ceasefire without conditions, support for humanitarian aid, an end to US military support for the State of Israel, and immediate release of the nearly 10,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and the 240 Israeli hostages taken on October 7. It also means broadly committing to an end to the occupation, joining the fight for a free Palestine, and engaging in hard and necessary conversations about the impacts of Zionism.

We call upon Unitarian Universalists to take action in solidarity with Palestinian, Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA), and Arab-American communities who are experiencing escalating harassment and violence. This includes verbal harassment, physical violence, and murder, as well as increased surveillance by the state. The lives and safety of our beloveds around the world matter.

We call upon Unitarian Universalists to be persistent in combating anti-semitic violence and oppression. This must include condemning the targeting and harassment of anti-Zionist Jewish community members. We are clear that anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism. We follow the leadership of anti-Zionist Jewish leaders who are united in the call that “never again means never again for anyone”. 

History is repeating itself and our moral action is one critical action we can take to interrupt the cycle of violence. We must make a choice– support an apartheid government or support the struggle for liberation. Palestine will be free! Let us act now!

In faithful solidarity,

See the full list and the option to sign on publicly here. Signatories include:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Rev. Jason Lydon
Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, DRUUMM Community Minister
Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen
Antoinette Scully
Rev. DL Helfer
Rev. Mitra Rahnema
Rev. Joan Javier-Duval
Rev. Sangye Hawke
Rev. Clyde Grubbs
Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel
Rev. Verdis LeVar Robinson
Rev. Shari Halliday-Quan
Rev. Amanda Weatherspoon
Rev. Kevin Alan Mann
Rev. Lindasusan Ulrich
Nico Van Ostrand
Elizabeth Valencia
Rev. Sara Green
Rev. E.N. Hill
Rev. Kierstin Homblette Allen