Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ELCA Peace Not Walls Resources

This news came out from ELCA Peace Not Walls several weeks ago. For all the links (and there are many), go directly to

Middle East Network Newsletter
May 9, 2007

1. New Peace Not Walls "Frequently Asked Questions" page
2. Marking 40 Years of Occupation

New Peace Not Walls "Frequently Asked Questions" page

A new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is available on the ELCA Peace Not Walls web site. The following questions have been posted so far - to view the answers, visit the FAQ page.

Why is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict important?
Why is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) involved?
What changes are Lutherans and the ELCA advocating?
What is the ELCA's position on peace in the Middle East? How does it justify its position?
What does the ELCA say about violence and terrorism?
Can we make a difference? Three-part response

Marking 40 Years of Occupation

(This information is available at
As the Palestinian people face the anniversary of 40 years of life under occupation, organizations in the Holy Land and around the world are planning commemorative events and advocacy efforts. The links below are provided for your information, should you and your local groups wish to participate. However, the views expressed at these Web sites represent the positions of the outside organizations and may not reflect official positions of the ELCA.

On January 29, 2007, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson was part of a group of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders who met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In a Jan. 30 news release, Hanson said, "All participants acknowledged the immediate need to end the human suffering while pursuing the long-standing, vexing issues that have prohibited peace from being achieved thus far. I urged Secretary Rice to hold both Israelis and Palestinians accountable for advancing steps toward negotiations immediately."

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has designated June 3-9, 2007 as a week of "International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel" [ ]

The WCC is also launching an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine - the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum - at a conference June 17-21, 2007, in Jordan. [see ]

WCC Israel-Palestine page -

June 5 Initiative of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information - tp://

IPCRI home page -

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"For the Peace of Jerusalem" Report

"For the Peace of Jerusalem" Conference Report

This email is also available online at:

May 15, 2007

The Churches for Middle East Peace board and staff thank all who participated in our May 6-8 conference, "For the Peace of Jerusalem." Your presence here in Washington, together with your work in your home states, amplifies CMEP's voice on Capitol Hill urging U.S. policies that are conducive to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

CMEP's 2007 conference was an exciting time for fellowship, in-depth education and training, and advocacy. On Sunday, May 6th conference participants gathered in the sanctuary of National City Christian Church for an ecumenical worship service. On Monday, participants attended plenary panels and workshops to prepare them for their Congressional meetings. The conference culminated with a lobby day on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 8th. 150 church members and clergy, from 26 states, attended the three-day conference. Conference participants held meetings with over 65 House and Senate offices, with many of the Tuesday meetings including the Representative or Senator.

In their meetings, church advocates conveyed a message of support for U.S. leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a negotiated resolution for Jerusalem. Conference participants had two requests for their Representative and Senators:
1) "Support Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's new Middle East peace initiative and encourage sustained diplomatic engagement by the Administration to help bring about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and
2) "Support the U.S. policy that the status of Jerusalem be determined through negotiations, reject actions that would preempt a negotiated agreement, and support religious freedom in the holy city". Participants were well prepared to talk about the need for Israeli-Palestinian peace and the sharing of Jerusalem. They reported that their balanced approach and message of compassionate peacemaking was well received by Congressional offices.

The conference took participants inside-the-beltway to hear government officials and policy experts from think-tanks and interest groups. Highlights of the conference included presentations by Geneva Accord negotiators Daniel Levy and Ghaith al-Omari, Lincoln Chafee, the former Republican Senator from Rhode Island who chaired the Middle East subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Judith Kipper from the Council on Foreign Relations and Robert Danin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

The 10 workshops provided participants with opportunities to hear and talk with some of the policy experts and specialists who work cooperatively with CMEP in Washington, including Americans for Peace Now, American Taskforce on Palestine, Catholic Relief Services and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

CMEP plans to post on our website - -the text of the homilies of (Armenian Orthodox) Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, (Catholic) Auxilary Bishop Denis Madden, (Episcopal) Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, and videos of six workshops that focused on Jerusalem. Watch for a message about these transcripts and recordings.

At the Monday evening reception, Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-MN) from Minnesota rallied the participants for their Hill meetings emphasizing the soundness of CMEP's advocacy voice and the importance of citizen advocacy at home as well as in Washington. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) from California sent an encouraging letter to the participants, "As the daughter and granddaughter of Lutheran ministers, I was proud to be raised with these ideals [of peace, hope and humanitarianism] and I truly believe that they embody the path we must take to achieve peace among Israelis and Palestinians."

Links to press coverage are included below [...]

Legislative Update: Sens. Biden (D-DE) and Sununu (R-NH) are currently circulating a Dear Colleague letter - - urging support for funding for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence and peace-building activities. The letter closes on Thursday and current signers include: Bingaman (D-NM), Brown (D-OH), Dodd (D-CT), Isakson (R-GA), Sanders (I-VT), Snowe (R-ME), Voinovich (R-OH), Warner (R-VA).

To send an email or call your Senators, urging them to sign on to the Sununu-Biden letter,
Ask them to: "Please sign the Sununu-Biden Letter urging $20 million in funding for the Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Reconciliation and Democracy Fund for FY08, $10 million of which would be dedicated to people-to-people activities. Programs that promote peace and cooperation among Israelis and Palestinians, together with a vigorous political process, are integral to achieving a negotiated two-state solution."


Conference Press Coverage:
"Mainline churches lobby for U.S. engagement" - - Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 11, 2007

"Middle East Peace address by ecumenical coalition in Washington" - - Lucy Chumbley, Episcopal News Service, May 9, 2007

"ELCA Synod Bishops Urge Two-State Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" - - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, May 9, 2007


Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).

Churches for Middle East Peace
Phone: 202-543-1222

OCHA Closure Update - May 2007

Information from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

OCHA Closure Update

Movement within and in and out of the West Bank is controlled by numerous checkpoints, roadblocks, earthmounds and gates. These manned and unmanned physical barriers combined with the Barrier and complex permit regime, restrict the movement of around 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank.



OCHA Weekly Briefing Notes/ Protection of Civilians

Of note [week of May 4]

Gaza Strip:
- Four Palestinians, including a 17 year-old boy, were killed by the IDF during incidents along the border fence in the Gaza Strip. A fifth Palestinian died of wounds sustained during a previous IDF incursion.
- During the week, a total of 22 homemade (Qassams) rockets were fired towards southern Israel (compared to 30 rockets the previous week), at least three of which landed in Palestinian areas. No injuries were recorded.
- The IDF entered the Gaza Strip on three separate occasions; twice to conduct a levelling and excavation operation near the border fence and on a third time to conduct a house-to-house and tunnel search operation under the cover of heavy helicopter fire near Sufa crossing.
- In three separate incidents, IDF vessels opened fire in the direction of Palestinian fishing boats west of Rafah and Al Nuseirat Camp. No injuries were reported.
- The BBC’s Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston, has been missing for more than seven weeks after apparently being abducted on 12 March. His whereabouts remain unknown and there are serious concerns for his welfare and safety.

West Bank:
- Five Palestinians, one Israeli and two internationals were injured by Israeli settlers this week in the West Bank. Israeli settlers also attempted to again return to the evacuated settlement of Khomesh in the northern West Bank and clashed with nearby Palestinians before being evacuated by the IDF two days later.
- Access of Palestinians to the Jordan Valley improved dramatically. Movement from the West Bank continues to be controlled through the four main checkpoints. However, a permit is no longer required to enter the Jordan Valley for West Bank residents. Access is only possible with public transportation.
- For the second week Palestinians from the northern West Bank received renewed requisition orders for plots of lands that were requisitioned during the building of the Barrier in 2002 and 2003. The renewed orders are for three years from the date of the expiry of the original order and until 31 December 2008.

Ongoing and escalating PA strikes:
- Industrial action is escalating in the West Bank (amongst teachers, healthcare practitioners and other PA workers) and spilled over into the Gaza Strip where PA school teachers have remained on strike since 30 April to protest the non-payment of their salaries.

For more information, please contact Juliette Touma, 054-81-555-46,

United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mac House
P.O.Box 38712
Tel:++ 972-2-5829962/5853

Monday, May 28, 2007

Interview with Bishop Munib Younan on YouTube

Pastor Eric Shafer provides links to four excerpts from his interview with Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The bishop visited Trinity Lutheran Church, Lansdale, Pa., in January. Links to the YouTube segments can be reached from the congregation's web site:

The Rev. Eric C. ShaferSenior
PastorTrinity Lutheran Church
Lansdale, Pennsylvania

The home page of the church in Jerusalem is

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Middle East Peace addressed by ecumenical coalition in Washington

Middle East Peace addressed by ecumenical coalition in Washington -

Middle East Peace addressed by ecumenical coalition in Washington
By Lucy Chumbley May 09, 2007 [Episcopal News Service]

Twenty Episcopalians from around the country joined an ecumenical coalition in Washington, D.C., May 6-8 to press for sustained diplomatic engagement by the Bush Administration to bring a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic church bodies and organizations, held the conference for 150 attendees who participated in some 65 meetings with Members of Congress and key staff.

Before meeting with the law makers, the delegates worshiped together and attended "inside the beltway" briefings on related issues given by lobbyists, representatives of think tanks, academics and government officials. A silent processional, broken only by the jingling of an incense censor, set a reflective tone for the opening prayer service at National City Christian Church, which included two songs of peace in Hebrew and Arabic, "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" and "Ya ar-Rub as-Salaami." "These are real heart songs of Jerusalem," said Ann Staal, a CMEP board member representing the Reformed Church in America, who organized and led the service. "If you were to sing one of these on the streets of Jerusalem, I'm sure someone would join you."

Homilies were offered by Roman Catholic Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church's 25th Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold.

Griswold described a visit to the tomb of Abraham in the West Bank city of Hebron. "To my left there was a group engaged in Koran study and to my right, a group of Jewish women praying," he said. "And I thought, what is it that makes it so difficult for us to recognize each other as children of one father?"

There are three Abrahamic siblings, Griswold said, because "it's important that no one feels they've got the corner on divine love and compassion. We are reminded that God loves everyone." Jerusalem is a divided city, he said, and "everything that divides us is in some way represented in those walls." Therefore peace in Jerusalem would be a "sacramental symbol" for what is possible elsewhere. In her opening remarks, Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations and chair of the CMEP Board of Directors, described the Israel-Palestine situation as "the single most difficult issue on which to be an advocate."

"Peace cannot be realized without the strong backing of our churches," said CMEP's executive director Corinne Whitlatch, adding that "of all the issues it is Jerusalem to which the churches bring the most credibility, clout and understanding."

Recounting the history of the American presence in Jerusalem, where the U.S. has maintained a consulate since the 1870s, Philip C. Wilcox Jr., president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a former U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem and a member of St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., said, "Rich with history, burdened with conflict, Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict."

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel claimed Jerusalem as its capital in defiance of the United Nations Partition Plan, the U.S., which does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, kept its embassy in Tel Aviv. It still maintains a consulate in Jerusalem, which the state of Israel does not recognize.

"Our embassy remains in Tel Aviv," he said. "This will continue I am certain until there is a comprehensive negotiated settlement that is accepted by all parties."

Wilcox spoke of the "the doctrine of united eternal Israeli Jerusalem" which he said was a myth promoted by Messianic Jews and the Israeli military in the aftermath of the 1967 War. The truth, he said, is that in those days and today "East and West Jerusalem are really two cities ... Jerusalem will have to be shared if there is ever to be peace."

These and other briefings, including a presentation by Shea on "Syria, Iran and Iraq: Keys to Middle East Peace" will be available online.

Shea and Daryl Byler, director of the Mennonite Central Committee's Washington office, reflected on their recent trip to Iran and the need for diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran and Syria. Shea, who visited Syria with a CMEP delegation last year, remarked: "It is encouraging that Secretary Rice met with her Syrian counterpart while in Egypt last week. We hope that this will be a first step toward restoring our relations with Syria, and indicative of possible future steps with Iran."

Ambassador Wilcox and Geneva Accord negotiators Ghaith Al-Omari and Daniel Levy, who also addressed the group, each pointed to opinion polls that consistently show that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution.

"We know the solution," Levy said. "What we have lacked is the political will. What we also miss is American friends to help push this forward ... If you are interested in restoring America's credibility in the Middle East, you have to go back into the business of making peace between Israel and Palestine."

"Credibility is everything," said Lincoln D. Chafee, an Episcopalian and former Republican U.S. Senator from Rhode Island. "I suggest to you [the U.S.] does not have it now." But, he added: "Policy is not made by Congress. The real power is only through the power of the person."

"The vast, vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians want the problem solved," said Judith Kipper, adviser for Middle East Programs and director of the Energy Security Group at the Council on Foreign Relations. "They want a two-state solution. We as Americans really have an important role to play ... It's an avenue to go back to our core values of peace keeping and peace making."

News circulated by Friends of Sabeel--North America
PO Box 9186Portland, OR 97207
(503) 653-6625

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nonviolent action commemorates anniversary of the Catastrophe

Nonviolent Action in Southern Bethlehem to commemorate 59 year anniversary of the Catastrophe

Friday, May 18, 2007

In their continuous commitment to resisting the building of the Apartheid Wall in the villages that are located south of the Holy city of Bethlehem, the local organizing committee dedicated this Friday’s action to commemorating the 59 year anniversary of the Nakbah (the Catastrophe). For almost sixty years Palestinians have been suffering not only from what the Israeli occupation has done but in deeper terms from the neglect of the international community in addressing their basic human rights.

Over one hundred Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis met this day at the location of Abu Elias’s house (a farmer who passed away as a result of a heart attack three days after he received Israeli orders that called for confiscating the biggest portion of his land for the building of the Wall). It is truly incredible to see how empowered local young leaders continue to grow in their courage and commitment to not give up in the face of growing pressure by the Israeli military to suppress any nonviolent action in this location.

As the protestors were gathering, over fifteen Israeli army jeeps came to the location filled with over 150 heavily armed Israeli soldiers, police and what is know as members of the “special intervention force.” No force big enough can suppress the dedication of those committed to a cause. The event began with a welcoming in Arabic and English that included a reminder that what we are suffering today is not a result of just the wall being built around Palestinian areas, but it is a result of how the international community has ignored and neglected the legitimate rights of the Palestinians for almost sixty years, especially the issue of the Palestinian refugees who have now had two generations born in very terrible conditions in refugee camps across the Middle East. This was followed by a call to Friday prayer where as the Muslims prayed, small groups of other faiths and spiritual believes prayed in their own way for peace and justice in this part of the world.

The prayers were followed by an attempt of the protestors to walk peacefully on the main street that connects the Southern villages together. The Israeli army response to this nonviolent attempt was brutal and extremely violent. Many were beaten up and two of the Israeli activists were arrested. It was truly incredible to see the zero tolerance that the Israeli soldiers are now being ordered to show towards any group of nonviolent protestors.

A decision was then made by the local committee to move the protest to the land where the construction of the Wall is taking place. As the protest moved down the valley and up to this location, the Israeli army had organized itself to meet us and to also prevent the nonviolent protest from taking place.

The victory for the day was in how the protestors were actually able to push the soldiers to back to an area that allowed us to organize a sit in and then the local organizers (after clearly explaining the injustice that these solders are doing in the name of their government) declared the action as over.

Never Give Up -
Trust in the Power of Nonviolence to Heal the World

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

NCC women's delegation finds 'palpable' uncertainty in Mideast

NCC women's delegation finds 'palpable' uncertainty in Mideast

[NCC News] New York City, May 16, 2007--"The uncertainty was palpable," wrote Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos following a visit with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, "in the concerns that many expressed that hopes for lasting peace throughout the region were dim."

Dr. Kireopoulos, the associate general secretary for international affairs and peace for the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), is accompanying a delegation of U.S. women church leaders to Jordan and Israel/Palestine.

"The lament is, quite profoundly, that lack of vision--in the Middle East, and in the international community--leaves a vacuum to be filled with radicalism, violence, and hopelessness," wrote Kireopoulos in a blog posted on the NCC website .

The delegation of more than a dozen women is led by the Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young, an at-large vice president of the NCC and vice president of the North American Baptist Women's Union. They will be in region for nearly two weeks. The delegation's special focus is the plight of women and children suffering through hostilities in the Middle East.

Kireopoulos wrote of the delegation's experience last Sunday at a service at a Syrian Orthodox church in Amman, Jordan. Following the service delegation members talked with some of the thousands of refugees from Iraq now living in Jordan. He described it as emotional exchange.
"Tears were shed--in compassion, and in repentance--as we shared stories with one another," wrote Kireopoulos. "Tears were also shed in solidarity, as one of our delegation members, a Gold Star Mother, shared the story of her son who was killed in Iraq."

The delegation is expected to return next Tuesday (May 22).

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
---NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,
Latest NCC News at ---

May 15, 2007
By Antonios Kireopoulos
As we entered Israel/Palestine from Jordan, our thoughts were on our experience in Amman. Passing over the Jordan River via the King Hussein Bridge, we were filled with the kind of joyful anticipation that comes with knowing we will walk the land where Jesus walked, and with the kind of sorrow that comes with knowing we will also be walking a land that still is in the midst of conflict.

Our experience in Amman heightened both of these expectations, for we had been in a place of both peace (wrought by years of stability) and uncertainty (wrought by tensions in Iraq on one side and in Israel/Palestine on the other). We saw the benefits of peace in, among other things, the economic growth, empowerment of women, and programs for refugees who make up a large percentage of Jordan's population. We celebrated this aspect of Jordanian society.

The uncertainty was palpable, however, in the concerns that many expressed that hopes for lasting peace throughout the region were dim. The lament is, quite profoundly, that lack of vision--in the Middle East, and in the international community--leaves a vacuum to be filled with radicalism, violence, and hopelessness.

On Sunday morning, we were blessed to have the opportunity to worship at the Syrian Orthodox church that, due to its living ties to ancient Christian communities, ministers to refugees from the Iraq War. The blessing was magnified in a meeting after liturgy with many Iraqi people--men, women, and children--who suffered, and continue to suffer, the consequences of the US war in Iraq. Tears were shed--in compassion, and in repentance--as we shared stories with one another.

Tears were also shed in solidarity, as one of our delegation members, a Gold Star Mother, shared the story of her son who was killed in Iraq. These thoughts were with us as we crossed the Jordan River on our way to Jerusalem, the City of Peace. ###