Influential group of black churches push for cease-fire in Gaza as Pelosi calls it ‘Putin’s message’

Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, speaks during the 'Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks' protest against racism and police brutality, on August 28, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, speaks during the "Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks" protest against racism and police brutality, on August 28, 2020, in Washington, D.C. | AFP via Getty Images/Jacquelyn Martin

An influential group of more than 1,000 black pastors with thousands of congregants are calling on President Joe Biden and his administration to push for a cease-fire in Gaza as the war between Israel and Hamas deepens, but former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the call for a ceasefire is the message of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Black faith leaders are extremely disappointed in the Biden administration on this issue,” the Rev. Timothy McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which has more than 1,500 members, told the New York Times.

“We are afraid,” said McDonald who was one of the first pastors of more than 200 black clergy in Georgia to sign an open letter calling for a cease-fire. “And we’ve talked about it — it’s going to be very hard to persuade our people to go back to the polls and vote for Biden.”

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The call for a cease-fire in Gaza isn’t new and has been a constant refrain from groups such as the Black Church Pac which began calling for a cease-fire almost as soon as the war began.

Megachurch pastor, the Rev. Jamal Bryant, who leads the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, who is one of the founding members of the Black Church Pac, told the NY Times that he believes the war in Gaza could threaten Biden’s chances for re-election in November.

“I think Biden threatens his own success,” he told the publication, noting that Democrats seem to be “almost on cruise control and feel like: Oh, the black people will come around. They’ll be forgiving, and they’ll go along with us.”

The pastors, who are also calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas, as well as an end to what they describe as Israel's "occupation of the West Bank," according to the Times, said that unlike other wars, the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza has resonated with black Americans.

“We see them as a part of us,” Rev. Cynthia Hale, founder and senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, explained. “They are oppressed people. We are oppressed people.”

“Black clergy have seen war, militarism, poverty and racism all connected,” Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network, whose members lead some 15 million black churchgoers added. “The Israel-Gaza war, unlike Iran and Afghanistan, has evoked the kind of deep-seated angst among black people that I have not seen since the civil rights movement.”

A survey conducted Oct. 20-25 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel on Oct. 7,  found that 43% of black Americans supported some form of cease-fire in Gaza, while 24% believe the U.S. should not get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The survey of 1,600 adults which included 800 black Americans and 800 white Americans had a margin of error of +/- 3.6% for the black sample of respondents and +/- 3.51% for the white sample of respondents.

While the feelings of black Americans toward Biden remained largely unchanged, in general, as a result of the war, the study found independent, and young voters felt slightly worse about the president. Though nearly half of black Americans said they did not feel connected to the plight of Israelis or Palestinians, more of them said they felt connected to Israelis, the report said.

Yvette Carnell, president and co-founder of The American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) Advocacy Foundation, questioned the framing of the narrative presented by the black church leaders in the NY Times piece and whether or not their claim is truly representative of the hundreds of thousands of congregants that make up their churches.

“Support what you want, but I tire of this framing,” Carnell began in a statement on X, in response to the group’s call on Biden.

“There are African leaders/dictators who oppress African people. Russia is bombing Ukraine. Bosnia, Herzegovina etc. Oppression is not a lens through which we find sameness. There are oppressed people everywhere. Are the Jews the same as #ADOS bc of the Holocaust? Weren’t Palestinians just recently calling a dead Black Israeli soldier the N word?” Carnell asked.

“And is this where black pastors take a stand? Plant their flag? I was at the Baptist Convention last week, and although I heard Dr. Cornel West speak on Palestine, I didn’t hear it anywhere else. Are these black pastors representing their constituents? The needs of their constituents?”

When asked by CNN political commentator Dana Bash on "State of the Union" Sunday if she was concerned young people, progressives and Arab Americans might stay home instead of voting this year due to anger over Biden’s support for Israel in the war against Hamas, former House speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the call for a ceasefire is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s message.

"For them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin's message," she said. "Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It's about Putin's message. I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia. And I say that having looked at this for a long time now, as you know."

Pelosi further noted that while she doesn’t think people protesting the war in Gaza are “Russian plants” she does believe some organizations protesting Biden’s position on the war could be influenced by Russian money.

“I think some financing should be investigated,” she said. “And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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