Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Forty Years: Enough is Enough!

From the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land - http://www.holyland-lutherans.org/

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, City of Peace
May 2007

Forty Years: Enough is Enough!

In 1967, Bishop Younan was 17 years old, living in St. John's convent, just a stone's throw from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. He had just come back from finishing studies at the Lutheran boarding school in Beit Jala. That day in June, at 11 am, they heard shooting. All 15 families who lived there crowded into the dark basement of the church. They huddled together for days there, frightened and terrorized by all the shooting and shelling. When the shooting died down, the Israelis brought buses to Jaffa Gate to take people away to Jordan, and many left. But his father was adamant. He said, "In 1948, we moved, and we were never allowed back. This time, whatever happens, I will not leave Jerusalem."

Everyone believed that the occupation would be short-lived; no one would have imagined that we would still find ourselves under the heavy hand of occupation 40 years later. No one would have imagined that this single reality would shape our everyday reality so completely 40 years later, determining where we are allowed to go, whom we are allowed to marry, whether we can build a house or keep our land, or even if a family member might disappear into Israeli prisons without notice or be injured or killed by tanks and shooting. We emphasize that no violence is justified on any side, and we speak out constantly against violence no matter the perpetrator. We denounce the recent escalation of infighting and rocket attacks, as we do the ongoing Israeli incursions and extrajudicial assassinations. But unless we resolve the root problem - the desperate and hopeless conditions created by military occupation that breed violence and revenge – we will simply remain trapped in this endless cycle.

There is something in human nature that will always refuse and rise up against occupation, and eventually justice will win and the occupation will end. That doesn't mean all violence will immediately cease, but that we will finally be on the only path that will lead to a lasting peace: the path of justice, freedom and equal human rights for all. It will also mean we will stop handing over full control of the peace process to the extremists who can stop it at will with one horrendous act by a few desperate people or by destructive infighting by factions. More and more people are recognizing that this is the core issue of the conflicts in the Middle East, and that dealing justly with this situation is the only way to take the oxygen out of the fires of extremism and terrorism. The recent eruption of violence in the Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon is yet another example of the extremism and violence that fester and grow when people are locked up with no hope, no future and no where to go. Sisters and brothers, and partners all over the world, thank you for working with us to end this illegal occupation, for it will liberate both Israelis and Palestinians from being held hostage to fear, violence and oppression.

Suggestions for Marking the Significance of 40 Years

Devote a Sunday or special event to explore the realities of Palestinian Christians. There are many video and website resources as well as speakers available to help with this. Contact your national church group, visit our website www.holyland-lutherans.org or Rev. Julie Rowe of the ELCJHL at revjbr2003@yahoo.com.

One good model that has proved effective is a Friday-night and Saturday introduction to the people and the realities of Palestinian Christians and this conflict. One part of this was a teleconference with a Palestinian Christian here, Bishop Younan one time and Schools' Director Dr. Charlie Haddad another, with an Israeli peace activist to answer questions about the situation. Participants have said it was very helpful. For more information about this, contact the Rev. Ann Helmke of the San Antonio peaceCENTER (annhelmke@justice.net). Other websites and items of note:

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 [ http://www.icappi.org.au/ME111E06.pdf ]

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.http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/all-news-english/display-single- english-news/article/1637/work-begins-on-an-interna.html ]

WCC Israel-Palestine page http://wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/regconcerns-palestine-israel.html

June 5 Initiative of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information http://www.june5thinitiative.org/

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