Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Valiant US leadership is needed

Churches for Middle East Peace announces that valiant U.S. leadership is needed, and that starts with you and me.

In this season of hope and expectation we must remind the President that we support peacemaking even when that path is daunting. Send a Christmas card now to President Obama and let him know that we believe in peace!

While direct talks failed to produce the desired results, we haven't given-up on peacemaking. As a world leader, the role of the U.S. government is crucial to a future peace with justice and security for all.

The president is facing the need to develop a new strategy for advancing an agreement for peace.

What's happening to Palestinians and Israelis cannot be tolerated by Christians who hear the call of Jesus to embody and work for peace. Violence and dehumanization directed at any person cannot be endured without a high price being paid by all of us.

In this season of hope and expectation we must remind the President that we support peacemaking even when that path is daunting. Send a Christmas card now to President Obama and let him know that we believe in peace!
While direct talks failed to produce the desired results, we haven't given-up on peacemaking. As a world leader, the role of the U.S. government is crucial to a future peace with justice and security for all.

If you have send a card by postal mail, many thanks! Please pass this email along to someone you know who may also want to send a card.

Make peace a priority this Christmas. Send a card and join the campaign for peace. Take another step in the hard journey toward peace in the Holy Land. http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5575/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4819


For the Peace of Jerusalem: Christians for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Now [http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5575/p/salsa/web/common/public/index.sjs] is a national campaign calling on people of Christian faith across the country to work for a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. The campaign’s launch on December 1, 2010 is especially timely given the U.S. administration’s focus on direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leadership, the challenges these talks have already faced, and the important role of the Holy Land in this season’s celebrations of Christ’s birth. Find out more about the campaign and its members at http://www.peaceofjerusalem.org/.

Churches for Middle East Peace - http://www.cmep.org/ - a 26-year old coalition of coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region. For more information visit http://www.cmep.org/.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lutheran Bishop Younan: Fear Not

The Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, released a Christmas message last week. Here's the link to the statement: http://www.elcjhl.org/Admin/Bishop/2010.12_BishopYounan_ChristmasMessage2010.asp

Christmas Message 2010

Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan
Bishop of the ELCJHL

“Fear Not!”

When we think of the Christmas story, the most common words that come to mind are peace, joy, hope, faith, and love. Christmas is a pleasant time when families come together, when choirs sing, and when children are filled with fantasies. Yet the first two words of Christmas are “Fear not!”

8"In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Fear not! for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” – Luke 2:8-11

It was the same when the angel appeared to the aged priest Zechariah at the temple: “Fear not!”

And when Gabriel appeared to the young girl Mary in Nazareth: “Fear not!”

And when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and an angel appeared to him in a dream: “Fear not!”

In first century Palestine, there were so many reasons for them to be afraid:
•For Zechariah, the impotency of old age and the potential loss of mental and physical abilities.
•For Mary, a young vulnerable girl, pregnant outside of marriage in a patriarchal society.
•For Joseph, the pressures of leading an upstanding and righteous life with religious zealots judging him on the basis of Mary’s pregnancy.
•For the shepherds, the threat of the natural world with wild animals about to attack their flocks during the darkness of night and the lawlessness of thieves and bandits who would not be afraid of using violence on them for material gain.
•For all of them, questions about God’s presence in their lives when God seemed so very far away.

And yet, “Fear not!” was the message of the angel to all of them. And it was not the terrifying, life-destroying, bad news they might have expected. It was good news of great joy for each one of them and for all people. “Fear not! For I bring you good news of great joy!”

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” – John 3:16

For Zechariah, for Mary, for Joseph, for the shepherds, the message was very simple, “God has not forgotten you. God is not far away or removed from your lives. God hears your cries of loneliness, inadequacy, uncertainty, doubt and fear about who you are, what is your purpose in life, how you fit in with your relationships to others, your relationship to this vast universe, and most of all your relationship to God—to God who comes in the form of a child born in a humble manger, among common people like you, on a still silent night, in a small village like Bethlehem. This is good news of great joy. God loves you. Fear Not!”

In the first epistle of John, we are told “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). And so the first word of Christmas must be that spoken by the angels, “Fear not!” It is the first, the middle, and the last word of Christmas. “Fear not!” Here in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and into the whole world, “Fear not!” Then, 2,000 years ago, and today at Christmas 2010, “Fear not!”

There are many issues today that cause us to fear: health problems like cancer and diseases like HIV/ AIDS, economic issues like job loss and decreasing funds for retirement, family issues like divorce or the death of a spouse, environmental issues like global warming and disappearing natural resources, international tensions and the development of more destructive weaponry, extremism in politics and religion. Once again we need a Christmas angel proclaiming, “Fear not!”

Yes, here at Christmas time 2010 in the Middle East, we once again long for a heavenly angel to comfort us with these words, “Fear not!”

Our people are in danger of drowning in fear. Many Christians in many parts of the Middle East are increasingly cowering in fear and becoming timid in their witness. Just a little over a month ago in Baghdad at Our Lady of Salvation Church terrorists gunned down two priests and fifty-one defenseless worshippers. Since then, another three were killed in Mosul and an elderly Christian couple were murdered in their own home in Baghdad. So how do Christians respond? In an Associated Press story, one woman, afraid to give her name, said she lives in a constant state of fear, keeping her children indoors and out of school. In less than fifteen years, the number of Christians in Iraq has declined from one and a quarter million to only 400,000. For centuries Christians and Muslims have lived side by side, yet today religious extremists are holding hostage the moderate majority, Christian and Muslim alike. Iraqi Christians are once again in need of a Christmas angel proclaiming “Fear not!”

A similar picture is developing in Egypt where Coptic Christians have fresh in their memories the drive-by shooting that left six Christians dead in Nag Hammadi as they were leaving church after last year’s Christmas Eve Mass. As we approach another Christmas season, there are heightened tensions in Egypt. We ask both sides — Christians and Muslims alike — to dialogue concerning their differences for the sake of their long-standing relationship. We announce to them from Jerusalem, “We are praying for you.” And we say, “Fear not!”

These and other situations have resulted in the U.S. State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” for 2010 reminding us that: “The right to believe or not to believe, without fear of government interference or restriction, is a basic human right.” To believe without fear — to worship without fear — is a fundamental human right. Yet, because of extremism, people are afraid.

These and other situations were the reason that the Vatican recently held its Synod on the Middle East to:
•“confirm and strengthen Christians in their identity through the Word of God and the Sacraments.
•And to give new life. . . so that they might provide an authentic witness of joyful and attractive Christian life.” [Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, The Middle Eastern Synod in its Geopolitical and Pastoral Context (Zenit.org, May 22, 2010)]

I hope that the World Council of Churches will hold a similar conference so that we Christians of the Middle East will have a coordinated strategy and be strengthened in the process.

Here in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, including Jordan, we are not facing the same problems of persecution as our sisters and brothers in many countries of the Middle East. There may be social and political problems, but we thank God for the religious freedom we enjoy. Here Christians today number only 1.4 % of the population with many Arab Christians emigrating because of the political situation and the lack of willingness and resolve to bring about a just peace, because of lack of jobs, because of lack of housing, because of the difficulty of travel, and because of the rise of extremism on both sides.

Palestinians and Israelis today face a common enemy: fear. In the absence of justice and peace, the common denominator is fear. Fear of the other. Fear for the future. Fear that freedom is not coming. Fear that children will grow in hatred. Fear of insecurity. Fear of the occupation. Fear is our common prison that keeps us locked up in cycles of mistrust and shattered dreams. It is a fear that builds non-productive “facts on the ground”. It is a fear that will only ever vanish when there is peace based on justice and reconciliation built on forgiveness. We proclaim that such a just peace is possible today. We pray that all political leaders will seize the opportunity before it is too late. The same message of the first Christmas rings true today, “Fear not!” There is a child who was born into a world of fear in order to take away that fear and to bring peace to earth and good will to humankind.

The Christmas message must speak loud and clear once again, “Fear not!” We are in need of a heavenly angel, a messenger of God, who says, “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not, Zechariah. Fear not, Joseph. Fear not, Mary. Fear not, shepherds. Fear not, Palestinian Christians. Fear not, Arab Christians. God hears you. God loves you. God empowers you. God calls you to be a vibrant and living witness in this place at this critical time in history.”

When the angels appeared to the Beit Sahour shepherds, the promise of good news overshadowed all their fears. The announcement of God’s love for them and the world cast out all the fear that might have prevented them from traveling to Bethlehem amidst the crowds and the Roman soldiers on that first Christmas night.

The announcement of God’s love for them brought them to the manger where they bowed in humble worship to the long-promised Christ-child, where they prayed, where they uttered songs of thanksgiving, where they were fed spiritually and strengthened in order to return to their normal, mundane, and sometimes exhausting tasks of daily life. Luke describes this return in such encouraging words, “The Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

For the shepherds, the dangers were still there. The threats of violence were still very real and no different than before. The demands of making a living, of supporting their families, and sharing with their neighbors and communities, none of that was different from the day before. In many ways, their lives had not changed, but their spirits had. They went about their daily tasks glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. From the beginning of those two small words — “Fear not!” — the shepherds were called to witness, and sent out, unafraid, to share the good news with those around them.

Likely their home communities, their friends, and even their families met them with some reluctance, perhaps with skepticism and doubt. Those around them were still living in fear. I wonder how the shepherds began their stories about that first Christmas night? Most likely it was with those same two words, “Fear not!” And their witness would have provided a contagion that changed families, transformed communities, and encouraged others no longer to live in fear, but to share in that vibrant witness of the hope that came to Bethlehem in the child born in a manger.

Our task as a church is to be the salt of society, the leaven of the dough. Our task today is to provide education. It is also our task to provide our society with educated individuals who promote the values of human rights, freedom of religion and democracy. Our task is to train leaders who will become teachers, lawyers, and professionals who will contribute to the well being of society. Our task is to provide a witness of non-violent struggle against injustice, to promote religious toleration, to provide a model of peoples of different religious and ethnic backgrounds learning to see God in the other and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can no longer be timid or afraid about our witness to the world. At this time of hopelessness, it is essential that we Christians develop a theology of witness and coexistence focusing on the reasons that the babe of the manger calls us — like the shepherds of old — to witness here in the Holy Land.

Today Christians in the Middle East are just a small minority, living in a world filled with danger and filled with what must seem to be insurmountable challenges. And so it was with those first shepherds of Beit Sahour, only three or four of them, perhaps one or two still children, all uneducated and untrained in speech. I could understand if they had been timid in telling the story. But Luke tells us they went home glorifying and praising God. And I could understand if today’s Christian community remained timid about its witness. But then I hear again those first two little words of the Christmas message: “Fear not!”

The angels call to us from the first Christmas.

“Fear not!”

They speak to us when we hear the Christmas story once again.

“Fear not!”

And from the manger in Bethlehem we continue to hear.

“Fear not!”

We wish you a Peaceful Merry Christmas and A Blessed New Year 2011 full of a just peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Website: http://www.elcjhl.org/

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bethlehem Prayer Service simulcast video available

If you missed the 4th Annual Bethlehem Prayer Service, simulcast from the Washington National Cathedral last Saturday, you can enjoy the service courtesy of the cathedral's on-demand video:

The joint simulcast service joined the National Cathedral with Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

Worshippers in the National Cathedral gathered with others in the USA and beyond who watched the service live. In Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians continue to bear witness to their faith this Christmas, as they have done for generations. Once again, voices were joined in seeking and offering hope for a better future.

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternated between Washington, D.C., and Bethlehem, bringing together people of different lands, languages and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

In Bethlehem, participants includes The Right Reverend Suheil Dawani, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Right Reverend Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and President of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev. Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem's Christmas Lutheran Church.

Participants in DC included: The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church; The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of Washington National Cathedral; and The Reverend Richard H. Graham, Bishop, Metropolitan DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Highlights from the ELCA Peace Not Walls newsletter

It's late in the month for me to be sharing the Dec. 2 ELCA Peace Not Walls newsletter. The complete newsletter is at this link: http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/Resources/Newsletter.aspx

Here are some highlights:

Join CMEP's new national Christian campaign; send Christmas greetings to the President
“For the Peace of Jerusalem: Christians for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Now” is a year-long effort of 26 (and the number is growing) Christian churches and organizations to engage Christians across the country in the pursuit of a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land.

The initial campaign action is to send thousands of Christmas greetings to President Obama as a way to show him and all those who hear of our ecumenical efforts that we expect peace with justice and security for all Palestinians and Israelis; and, in the spirit of Advent, we expect it soon.

How you can help:
• Sign and send an online card at http://www.peaceofjerusalem.org/.
• Organize a card-mailing campaign in your synod or congregation. Cards should be signed and mailed (in one big envelope) to CMEP before Wed. Dec. 22 for delivery to the White House. Find planning advice and sample messages by clicking on the Take Action tab.

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The final entry in “Prince of Peace” 2010 Advent/Christmas Sunday Reflections from Christians in the Holy Land (this one by Brother Jack Curran, FSC, PhD, Bethlehem University): http://www.cmep.org/sites/default/files/advent2010_4_0.pdf

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Journey to Bethlehem in Advent by ELCA Denver lay leader Jan Miller is at her blgo: http://adventjourneybethlehem.blogspot.com/

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Churches for Middle East Peace has a completely new and updated website. Find Christian and Interfaith Statements, news, resources, photos and more at http://www.cmep.org/.

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Film, “Budrus,” expands theatrical release
“Budrus,” the award-winning film about Palestinian non-violence, is expanding its U.S. release. See a trailer and find showings: http://www.justvision.org/en/budrus

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New Gaza report published
Amnesty International and 21 other human rights and aid groups published a November 30 report on conditions in Gaza, titled, “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade.” The 12-page report outlines the struggles which the people of Gaza continue to face and states, “Lifting the blockade of Gaza remains a legal, economic and political imperative for those seeking a lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The time for credible and effective action is now.” Read the full report: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/ngos-gaza-civilians-continue-suffer-2010-11-30

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Litany for Bethlehem from Bright Stars

Bright Stars of Bethlehem shares this litany for Advent

Litany for Bethlehem Sunday (Advent 2010)

Voice I -
With Christians around the world, we are traveling to the little town of Bethlehem to see the child whose face reflects the face of God.

Voice II
By the light of a star, we travel to see what God has done and is doing for us, among us, within us.

I - We remember the story of a star-lit stable and an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. In our memory we smell the hay and hear the bleating of sheep as shepherds approach and wise men come bearing gifts.

II - With hope born of memory and faith, we also come to the stable to give thanks to God for the birth of this child whose life bears witness to God’s presence among us.

I - And in the little town of Bethlehem this day the miracle continues in the faith and lives of God’s people who live behind a wall that separates neighbor from neighbor and farmers from their fields. In the witness of our sisters and brothers of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, the light of that ancient night still shines transforming humble stables and ordinary lives into places where God can be seen and experienced.

II - Let us continue to believe in the miracle of Christmas and the transforming power of God’s love made known to us in a tiny baby born in a manger. Let us join with Christians in Bethlehem, asking God to be born in and through us this year that our lives might also be bright stars of hope in our world.

Sing: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

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Bright Stars of Bethlehem: http://www.brightstarsbethlehem.org/

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dar al-Kalima College was dedicated Tuesday

Dar al-Kalima College campus was dedicated Nov. 30, 2010 in Bethlehem

The Mount Murair campus of the Dar al-Kalima College in Bethlehem, Palestine, was dedicated Tuesday, Nov. 30. Video is at: http://www.diyar.ps/media/dak.wmv

“Dar al-Kalima College is a direct answer to the current shortage of higher education institutions in Palestine and a beacon of hope for future generations,” said Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and president of the Diyar Consortium. More than half of the Palestinian population is under the age of 19, with current projections predicting further growth. "With no expansion of the current educational system to absorb these growing numbers, a significant number of gifted young people in Palestine will have nowhere to further their education beyond the 12th grade and will have extremely limited opportunities in finding employment.”

The college, which opened its doors Sept. 15, offers 2-year degrees in the arts, multimedia, communication and tourism studies and in other major academic disciplines. Dar al-Kalima College offers majors and courses not offered elsewhere in Palestine, which can mean new jobs and opportunities for graduates. More than 200 full-time students will attend classes there and more than 1,000 people will participate in continuing education classes this academic year.

“Our mission is to, through education, build a culture of democracy, critical thinking and free expression,” said Dr. Nura Khoury, Dean of Dar al-Kalima College. “As the first Lutheran college in the Middle East, we hope to contribute to the strengthening of civil society in Palestine.”

Bright Stars of Bethlehem, based in the United States, has played a large part in fundraising for the college. The group organized a five-day trip to Bethlehem for the dedication.

Bright Stars of Bethlehem asked congregations and chapels across North America to pray together in Advent for peace in Bethlehem.

For more about Dar al-Kalima College, check the Bright Stars newsletter: http://www.brightstarsbethlehem.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=0&Itemid=82

(Bright Stars of Bethlehem, NFP, a 501 (c) (3) charity in the United States, was founded in 2003 to support educational, health and wellness, cultural and arts programs in the Holy Land. Our mission is to ensure that Christianity survives and thrives in the Middle East and to bring hope and healing to people in need. For more information on its mission and ministries, visit http://www.brightstarsbethlehem.org/)

Contact: Beth Nelson Chase
Vice President Bright Stars of Bethlehem

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Send prayers and wishes for Advent and Christmas

The Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches writes to invite you to send your prayers and wishes for Advent and Christmas in Bethlehem 2010.

For some, Christmas means spending time in a warm, safe atmosphere with family and friends. In a call for prayers that Pax Christi has initiated, they remind us, however, that this happiness cannot be shared by all people around the globe. Pax Christi notes that "Christmas celebrations in Israel and Palestine occur in a very difficult and instable climate". The call goes on to describe how "hope remains a keyword in the life of the citizens of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, city of peace" and how "individuals and groups keep up the search for non-violent routes that lead to peace and justice for both peoples".

Since December 2000 Pax Christi has been sending out peace messages to friends in Bethlehem. PIEF endorses and joins this call and hopes member churches of the World Council of Churches will send out wishes and prayers for justice and peace to Bethlehem.

Messages can be e-mailed to the Arab Educational Institute at the following address: aei@p-ol.com

Read all messages at http://www.aeicenter.org/ and http://www.paxchristi.net/ [You can read the 2009 messages here; some might provide ideas for use in your own congregation or group's prayer vigils.]

With prayers for a just peace in Palestine and Israel,

Yours in Christ

Michel Nseir
Programme Executive
Public witness programme
Special focus on the Middle East
World Council of Churches


PIEF: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-affirming-peace/churches-in-the-middle-east/pief/pief-home.html

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Notes while traveling in Palestine and Israel

Since I'm traveling, I've been posting occasionally to Facebook friends. Here's a running list of those posts, offered here because they contain some good links.

Nov. 23
Jim Wall's analysis is completely chilling. We are dupes, and it feels awful.
US Offers Bibi 20 F-35 Bombers, The Jordan Valley and a Free UN Pass
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been meeting with his seven-member inner cabinet. They are discussing the offer Hillary Clinton made as an incentive to Israel to “freeze” settlement construction for 90 days.
Nov. 24
Looking forward to another yummy Middle Eastern breakfast and really good coffee. Think I'll try a fresh persimmon as they are in season.
Nov. 24
Cool event this afternoon in Beit Hanina: http://www.diakonia.se/documents/public/IHL/IHLsessions/IHL_session_Invitation_IHL_and_Corporate_Accountability_24_Nov2010.pdf Corporate accountability for International Crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Nov. 24
"Who Profits ? Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry." Www.whoprofits.org
Nov. 24
Wow fascinating stuff at this symposium at Diakonia in East Jerusalem. Check out all the cool info at www.alhaq.org - Al Haq.
Nov. 24
Here's a good example of a successful op ed project. Good job Portland folks.
OregonLive : Boycott: Put more pressure on Israel to change
‎"That year the first snows came heavily, big flakes falling into the lake like words into memory, heavy, irreclaimable." Rhoda Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.
Having an espresso in the Golden Walls hotel lobby bar. Used to be the Pilgrim's Palace, first hotel I stayed at in Jerusalem 1977.
Ann Hafften Is sitting in a meeting of the Jerusalem municipal council. We're here at the invitation of a member of the Meretz party; he's part of a coalition advocating on behalf of Palestinian homeowners in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood ; their homes have been taken over by extremist settlers.
Ann Hafften Just arrived atop the Mount of Olives for Thanksgiving fellowship and dinner at the "Stone House" at Augusta Victoria. Eager to see Mark & Susanne Brown and other friends. EAPPI meetings completed.
When you're sick and someone sets a bowl of soup down on front of you, don't you just lean into that first spoonful with a tangible rush of gratitude!
Historian Rick Perlstein ("Nixonland") applied himself to one recent example: polls showing that most voters in the last congressional election believed President Obama had raised their taxes, although he'd cut them. Led by Rush Limbaugh, "conservative commentators told them Barack Obama was a tax-mad lunatic. They lied....
The mainstream media did not do their job and correct them. The White House was too polite -- Who will smack down all the lies? http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/feature/2010/11/17/democrats_mainstream_media/index.html Over the past few decades, America's "mainstream media" has been hornswoggled by one big falsehood after another
Last night
Trying to sleep through the worst part of the front end of a cold. I think I'll eat something and sleep some more. Tomorrow, got to be on my feet for church at Redeemer Lutheran in Jerusalem's Old City.
TodayGlad to have met with both EAs from the USA, Clark serving in Hebron and Donna in Jerusalem. Bless their hearts! Check for their blogs here... www.eappi-us.org
It's almost twilight in Jerusalem; there's just enough daylight for one more walk down the block.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Israeli settlements remain an obstacle - LA Times

Last week, a pretty good editorial about settlements in the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-settlements-20101111,0,727949.story

Nov. 11, 2010
Settlement fatigue
Four decades is enough. If Israel wants peace, it must stop building in the occupied territories.

"This tiresome controversy has been raging ever since Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (along with the Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula) in the 1967 Middle East War. The first settlement was built in the Golan a month later. That's four decades ago. Four decades during which the international community has been demanding that Israel step back to the pre-1967 lines, four decades during which Palestinians have called for an end to Israeli efforts to redraw the political map. It's been 35 years since the first Los Angeles Times editorial on the subject called the settlements an `obstacle to peace.'

"At the time that editorial was written in 1975, there were fewer than 5,000 settlers in the West Bank. Today there are nearly 300,000. That doesn't count those living in the Golan Heights or the 190,000 Israelis who have moved into traditionally Arab East Jerusalem."


[I've just pulled the concluding paragraphs since they provide such a good summary.]

"If Israel were serious about negotiating a peace deal, wouldn't it stop building? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that a segment of the Israeli political establishment simply refuses to accept the new reality — and that segment, mostly made up of right-wing and religious political parties, is crucial to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's delicate coalition government. Truthfully, the settler movement's political power extends beyond the right wing; that's why settlements have grown steadily regardless of what government was in power, including those of Labor Party Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak.

"This page continues to believe, as it did in 1975, that settlements are an obstacle to peace. There's plenty of blame to go around, to be sure, for the absence of a final deal, but on this issue, the Israelis are squarely in the wrong. As long as they continue building in the occupied territories, the world will continue to question the depth of their commitment to peace."

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Naim Ateek at Guilford College: the view from a Christian Palestinian

The Rev. Naim Ateek made a presentation at Guilford College, Greensboro, N.C., and the school's newspaper wrote up a very fine report.

Use this link to the The Guilfordian article: http://www.guilfordian.com/news/dr-naim-ateek-sharing-the-view-from-a-christian-palestine-1.1772231

Here is the story:

Dr. Naim Ateek: sharing the view from a Christian Palestine
By Victor Lopez, staff writer

On Nov. 3, the Reverend Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek, a Palestinian Christian, visited Guilford for a luncheon speech in the atrium of the cafeteria.

Ateek, founder and head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, met and spoke to members of the Guilford community.

Ateek discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - the effect of Israeli's occupation on Palestine - and also the challenge of inter-faith discussions within the province.

"I know Naim personally from our annual summer work/study trips to the Middle East and have met him many times," said Director of the Friends Center and Campus Ministry Coordinator Max Carter. "I support the theological work he is doing on the conflict and appreciate the work of Sabeel in asking the tough questions that need to be asked in applying Christian principles to the conflict."

Ateek's work centers on finding common ground between Christian and Jewish believers in a largely Jewish province.

"During vigorous inter-faith discussions between the 1960s and the 1980s, the Palestinians remained invisible," said Ateek in Cornerstone, Sabeel's quarterly publication. "They were hardly mentioned in the dialogues. The agenda was pregnant with Jewish-Christian concerns."

Ateek pointed to the Third Arab-Israeli War which was fought in June of 1967 between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

According to Ateek, the 1967 war opened many people's eyes to the existence of Palestinians as refugees who were removed by despots.

Ateek expressed support for a two-state solution, the rejection of violence, and held both Palestinians and Israeli Jews accountable in a commitment towards peace.

Carter was pleased by the turnout for the discussion and the mixture of off-campus, faculty, students, and members of the Jewish community who attended.

"It was important especially, I believe, for members of the Jewish community to hear a Palestinian articulate a Christian position on the conflict," said Carter.

Some, like junior and vice president of Hillel, Benjamin Macdonald (who spent last semester studying in Israel), was not as receptive as Carter regarding Ateek's message.

"Ateek shied away from talking about Palestinian accountability in the conflict," said Macdonald.

Macdonald said that he thought Ateek oversimplified the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.

"Ateek suggested once Palestine is recognized as a sovereign land, there will be no problem," said Macdonald. "He did not address Israeli fear. It's more complicated than that, there were a lot of things he left unsaid."

Michelle Grisaffi, a junior and peace and conflict studies major, said attending the luncheon helped leaven her education about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"There was a great deal of discussion about the importance of ending the occupation and creating a space of understanding and love in which Palestinians and Israelis can come together," said Grisaffi.

Grisaffi said she was exhilarated after the discussion and felt called to action.

"Being in a room filled with intelligent, knowledgeable people who care passionately about the Israel and Palestine issue was moving," said Grisaffi.

"It was the kind of experience that makes you want to jump out of your chair and rush out and do something important."

Macdonald cautiously agreed with Grisaffi: he, too, was glad for Ateek's visit.

"Ateek's visit was good," said Macdonald. "I wish there could have been more of a discussion. There's a line between having a debate and hearing him speak. The conversation didn't develop that much and it makes me want to bring in more perspectives."

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For more about Sabeel, see the US friends' website: www.fosna.org

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Monday, November 8, 2010

2011 Sabeel International Conference set for Bethlehem

From Friends of Sabeel--North America, this announcement regarding the 2011 International Conference.

Sabeel's eighth International Conference will be held in Bethlehem Feb. 22-28, 2011, under the theme: Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance

You can download a conference flyer here: http://fosna.org/files/fosna/2011_Conference_Poster_Update.pdf
Register before Dec 1 for a $200 discount. Register before Jan 1 for a $100 discount.

The conference begins in the evening on Feb. 23 and runs through dinner on February 28, 2011, at the Bethlehem Hotel.

Conference cost: $1,050 ($950 double room; includes the night of the Feb. 23).

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

- John Dear S.J. is a Jesuit priest, pastor, peacemaker, organizer, lecturer, and retreat leader and the author/editor of 25 books including Living Peace.

- Richard Horsley is the Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and author of Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Order.

- Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town since the end of 2007.

- Ched Myers is an author, organizer and advocate. He has worked with peace and justice organizations and movements, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Pacific Concerns Resource Center and the Pacific Life Community. With Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries he focuses on building capacity for biblical literacy, church renewal and faith-based witness for justice.

For more information please email: conf2011@sabeel.org or call 972-2-532-7136 (in Jerusalem)

The cost includes a non-refundable registration fee of $300, all accommodations and meals for 6 days, all transportation and honoraria during the visit. It does NOT include airfare, transportation to and from the airport, personal expenses, souvenirs, or travel insurance.

Registration deadline: January 25, 2011. Find the form at this link: http://www.fosna.org/files/fosna/2011Conf_RegistrationForm.pdf

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Jerusalem Women Speak 2010

I'm hopelessly late to post information about the Jerusalem Women Speak tour. There's still time to catch the excellent panel in a couple locations.

Thursday, November 4th
Tahlequah, Oklahoma
“One Land, Two Peoples, Three Faiths”

10:00 a.m. – Jerusalem Women Speak, Webb Auditorium, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

12:00 p.m. – Lunch at United Methodist Women’s Fall Festival, FUMC 300 West Deleware, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

1:30 p.m. – Cherokee Nation Historical Museum
Tour with AAUW members.

3:30 p.m. – Coffee with NSU Women Faculty and Students, NSU Campus – Seminary Hall

6:30p.m. – Dinner with the American Association of University Women and Community

Saturday November 6, 2010
Washington, D.C.
The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation – 12th International Conference
3900 Harewood Rd. NE Washington, D.C. – The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

1:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Workshop
Sunday November 7, 2010

6:00 p.m. Busboys and Poets at Shirlington Village
Arlington, VA

With the media's constant negative and skewed message, it is nearly impossible to have any realistic assessment of the Middle East ... especially one of hope. If the Jerusalem Women Speak Tour continues to bring Americans the real facts on the ground, grassroots activists will respond—that will make a difference in building a better future for all the people of the region.

This year, the JWS Tour will make presentations in Washington, DC, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. They will speak at the prestigious Fulbright Center, the influential Clinton Library in Little Rock, and at community forums, college campuses, and churches in heartland America.

They will carry the vision of the many JWS speakers before them: that Americans can and must end the tragic suffering of women and children; that the occupation, cruelty and oppression must end; and that a fair and just solution must and can be forged.

To achieve this vision there is much work to be done. The people of Gaza are still prisoners in their own land which is yet to be rebuilt from the devastation of war. Their borders are closed to persons and material aid. Repeated non-violent demonstrations through the years have yet to stop the illegal blockade on Gaza, despite solidarity actions around the globe, and leaders with visions of peace are being locked up.

In East Jerusalem we hear daily of Palestinian homes being taken over, leaving Palestinian home owners devastated and homeless—out on the street—with no redress and no recourse.

Under military occupation nothing is sacred, secure, or safe from seizure—not in the Holy City of Jerusalem, not in Gaza, and not in the West Bank, where the Israeli settlers continue to destroy olive trees, beat farmers, and set fire to a mosque.

The JWS women bring these facts to American audiences and make them real. They also bring a message of hope, inspiration and motivation, as they demonstrate the ability of Christians, Muslims, and Jews to work together toward a just solution for a land on which all three lived together for centuries in peace.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Munib Younan addressed the Roman Catholic leaders on Middle East issues

Bishop Younan Addresses Vatican Synod on the Middle East - http://www.elcjhl.org/news/2010/septoct2010.asp#Vatican

On Thursday, October 21, Bishop Munib Younan was invited to address Pope Benedict XVI and the Synod of Bishops at the Special Assembly for the Middle East at the Vatican in Rome. Younan is the leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation.

The Special Synod, which convened on October 10, brought together with Pope Benedict XVI "both cardinals and archbishops, who are heads of the various offices in the Roman Curia, presidents of episcopal conferences around the world, who are concerned with the issues of the Middle East, [and] representatives from the Orthodox Churches and ecclesial communities and Jewish and Muslim guests.

"In Bishop Younan's address to the Special Assembly, he expressed gratitude for the initiative of the Synod in caring for Christians in the Middle East, and stressed the importance of strengthened ecumenical relations both in Israel-Palestine and in the whole Middle East.

Please read the Bishop Younan's entire statement; find it at this link:

The Synod of Bishops made a Concluding Statement from the Special Assembly of the Middle East, released Friday, October 22. It also reflected on challenges and aspirations of the church in the Middle East, and issued appeals to Catholic members throughout the world, ecumenical partners, Jewish and Muslim dialogue partners, and local as well as international political and social leaders.

In the Synod's appeal to the international community, they urged all "to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the [UN] Security Council's resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories" (VII.11).

The Synod also spoke out in condemnation of violence and terrorism, saying, "We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world."

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Check this schedule for Rev. Naim Ateek's upcoming US visits

Naim Ateek Visits US Cities Oct 28-Nov 7

The Rev. Naim Ateek, founder and director of Sabeel in Jerusalem, will be in the U.S. from October 28 to November 7, 2010 for speaking engagements in Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut and New York. Please share this information through your faith community and social networks, and if you are near any of these areas, we hope you can participate. Sabeel is the ecumenical liberation theology center.

October 28, 29 & 30, St. Paul, Minnesota
Friends of Sabeel Conference
One Land, Two Peoples, Three Faiths: Time for Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace
Olson Campus Center, Luther Seminary
2481 Como Ave, St. Paul, Minnesota
Registration & Program info: http://www.fosna.org/files/fosna/events/Brochure.StPaul.Oct2010.pdf

Nov 2-4, 2010, North Carolina
Naim Ateek will speak in Davidson, Charlotte, Burlington, and Durham.
Click here to see Rev. Ateek's full schedule of public events in North Carolina.

Saturday, November 6, 2010, Atlanta, Georgia
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Is Peace with Justice Possible in Israel/Palestine?
Trinity Presbyterian Church of Atlanta
3003 Howell Mill RoadAtlanta, GA 30327
Click here for Conference Schedule, list of speakers, and registration information.

Saturday & Sunday, November 6 & 7, Old Lyme, Connecticut
TREE OF LIFE CONFERENCE—Co-sponsored by Friends of Sabeel
First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
Lyme Street and Ferry Road
Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371860-434-8686
Naim Ateek will give the keynote address on Sunday afternoon at approximately 4:30 PM
Click here to download complete Conference Schedule

Sunday, November 7, 10:45 AM, New York City
Naim Ateek will deliver the sermon during the 10:45 AM service.
The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
New York City (212) 870-6833
If you wish to watch/listen, the service is live streamed through the church's website. The sermon will be downloadable (for Mp3 players) from "Sermon to Go" which is also available on the church's website.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sabeel presentation in D.C. tonight

Washington, D.C notice: Tonight Sabeel DC Metro presentation at the Potter's House, "The Palestinian Christian Cry for Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation in the Holy Land." The time is 7:30 pm. The Potter's House is at 1658 Columbia Rd. NW. It's a free event. When diplomacy fails, we citizens and people of faith get b...usy! Bring your friends and find out about the work of Sabeel! Paul Verduin and Susan Bell, Co-coordinators, Sabeel DC Metro (affiliate of Friends of Sabeel--North America) www.sabeeldc.org

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One Land, Two Peoples, Three Faiths — Time for Reconciliation, Justice and Peace

Upcoming Sabeel Conference in St. Paul: One Land, Two Peoples, Three Faiths — Time for Reconciliation, Justice and Peace
See the website: http://www.fosna.org/content/st-paul-mn-conference-oct-29-30

This preview was published in the Metro Lutheran newspaper in Minnesota.

Christians seek way to just peace in Holy Land
Charles P. Lutz

To what are Christians called in the quest for a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis? Responses to that question will be central to a conference at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, October 29-30.

Some 300 Minnesota church members are expected to meet under the theme “One Land, Two Peoples, Three Faiths — Time for Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace.” The conference is planned around the vision of Sabeel, the international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. It is sponsored by Friends of Sabeel North America, with more than 30 Minnesota church groups as co-sponsors.

A variety of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders will make presentations on both theology and politics of Israel/ Palestine peace-seeking. Among the highlights will be a keynote talk by Naim Ateek, Anglican priest who is founding president of the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

Other presenters scheduled are Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian American Christian who chairs the Free Gaza Movement; Mark Braverman, Jewish American who probes the role of religious beliefs in interfaith discourse on Israel/Palestine; Dr. Don Wagner of Chicago’s North Park University, a specialist in Christian Zionism; and Dr. Fouzi Slisli, faculty member at St. Cloud State University, who will explore Islamic political cultures among Palestinians.

Cindy and Craig Corrie will present the peace-building activity of the Rachel Corrie Foundation, which they established after their daughter was killed in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer as she protested its demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza.

Work opportunities in the Holy Land, both short- and long-term, will be shared by a panel of Minnesota church persons who have recently served there.

The conference will run Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. Cost for the event (two meals included) is $90; $45 for students. Friday only or Saturday only (with one meal) is $45. For more program details and to register, go to www.fosna.org/.

Co-chairs for conference planning are a pair of ELCA Lutherans, Kathy Adam of Plymouth, Minnesota, and Lynne Rigg of Red Wing, Minnesota. Rigg, a retired pastor, notes that “Sabeel means ‘the way’ in Arabic. And we expect the conference will help us find our way from peace talking to peace acting.”

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Films look at Christian Zionism and nonviolent resistance

Two current films take a look at the theology of Christian Zionism and effective nonviolent resistance.

"Budrus" explores the dynamic among Palestinians and Israelis who joined together to oppose the building of the separation barrier through the town of Budrus. I met the filmmakers early last summer and was impressed with a trailer for the film.

NPR featured "Budrus" on "All Things Considered" Oct. 14 - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130573003

"The new documentary film Budrus tells the story of a Palestinian village that was right in the path of a planned section of the Israeli security wall. As Israeli border security tried to clear the path for bulldozers, the people of the village mounted a sustained nonviolent protest to block the construction. Over the course of many months in 2003 and 2004, Palestinians of all political stripes were joined by Israeli demonstrators. Israelis finally did reroute the wall closer to the border and away from the town. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with the film's writer and director, Julia Bacha, about the movie and its message of nonviolent protest."

"With God On Our Side" looks Christian Zionism, which teaches that Jews have a divine right to the land of Israel.

With God On Our Side website - http://www.withgodonourside.com/

Friends in Riverside, Malibu and San Diego, Calif., Seattle and Tacoma, Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., Washington, D.C., and Silver Hill, Ala. - check the "screenings" tab for dates in your areas. This film is very important.

With God On Our Side
Directed by Porter Speakman, Jr.

"With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God's chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel."

Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel's security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn't favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another crossroads for peace, news from CMEP

CMEP Bulletin
October 8, 2010
Peace talks at a crossroads. Again.

Tensions around the fledgling peace talks have increased over the past week as new deals and conditions have been put on the table in an effort to get both the Israelis and the Palestinians to remain in negotiations. High level talks are taking place, but not between the two parties. Instead U.S. negotiators are in charge of the bartering chips.

Friday marked a key event in the unfolding process, as Arab foreign ministers met in Libya ahead of the Arab League Summit to discuss the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the current impasse they face. Jordanian and Egyptian leadership have both voiced support for President Abbas’ intention to walk away from the talks if Israeli construction in the West Bank continues [http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=22549]. One of the suggestions that has come out of today’s discussion by Arab leaders is that Abbas return to indirect negotiations with his Israeli counterparts instead of abandoning the entire process [http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/10/2010108162020226451.html]. The U.S. reportedly worked back room negotiations to call on Arab states to refrain from pushing the Palestinians to withdraw from the talks.

The U.S. and Israel are also continuing to negotiate the bundle of security guarantees made to Israel in exchange for a one-time, two-month extension of the settlement construction moratorium. Any such deal would require approval by Israel’s cabinet ministers and there are no ministerial meetings scheduled in the coming days. One new element of the negotiations is that reportedly the Netanyahu government has asked the U.S. to renew its support for the commitments made in an April 2004 letter from President George W. Bush to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040414-3.html].

As the negotiations continue, construction has begun on more than 350 new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Israel is also getting closer to approving a law that would require any non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to officially declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish democratic state [http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040414-3.html]. While the law may have little real impact, as the family members of Arab Israelis have been barred from becoming naturalized citizens since the height of the second intifada, questions have been raised as to whether this move is part of a larger Israeli initiative of seeking recognition as a Jewish state.


Washington Update
Washington is quiet these days as members of Congress have left the hallowed halls of government to return to their home districts and campaign for your votes. But before they left, there was some movement in a few pieces of legislation that affect the region.

The Security Cooperation Act (S. 3847) passed the House and Senate late last week. One section of the massive piece of legislation gives Israel the same status as the United States’ NATO allies, said Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) on the House floor. The legislation also includes language that “strengthens the U.S. commitment to the security of the Jewish state of Israel by expediting the process for approving foreign military sales to that country and by extending the dates and the amounts of U.S. excess equipment that can be transferred to Israel from regional stockpiles," said Rep. Smith (R-NJ).

Also at the end of last week, a dear colleague letter was circulated, seeking support and co-sponsors for a bill (H.R. 5351) introduced in May by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The bill is critical of the International Criminal Court specifically for its “seeking to prevent the democratic, Jewish State of Israel from defending itself from violent militant groups and their state sponsors.” Language denouncing the Goldstone is also a part of the bill, which currently has 30 cosponsors. No new representatives have signed on since July.

While your members of Congress are in your community, this is a great time to let them know that Middle East peace is an important issue for you. Watch for resources from CMEP in the coming weeks to help you make your voice for peace heard.


Support CMEP
This is a critical time for everyone to be advocates for Middle East peace. You can amplify your voice and CMEP’s impact by financially supporting our work here in Washington and around the country.

It is vitally important that CMEP continues to give voice to the views of Christians, your views, in Washington, DC. Christian voices of love and respect must sound loudly in Washington and in your community as well. You can help with your donation today


Additional Resources:
“Arab ministers support ending talks,” Al Jazeera English, October 8, 2010: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/10/2010108162020226451.html

Text of letter from President Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040414-3.html

“U.S. Believes Arab States Won’t Scuddle Mideast Talks,” Mark Landler and Ethan Bronner, The New York Times, October 8, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/world/middleeast/08mideast.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast

“ Diplomatic Memo: Risks and Advantages in U.S. Effort in the Mideast,” Marck Landler, The New York Times, October 5, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/world/middleeast/06diplo.html?ref=middleeast

“Israeli loyalty oath bill stirs Arab-Israeli unease,” Joshua Mitnick, The Christian Science Monitor, October 7, 2010: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/1007/Israel-loyalty-oath-bill-stirs-Arab-Israeli-unease

The Security and Cooperation Act of 2010 (S. 3847): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.3847:

American Self-Defense Protection Act of 2010 (H.R. 5351): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.5351:

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Churches for Middle East Peace
110 Maryland Ave. NE Suite 311
Washington, DC 20002

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Monday, October 11, 2010

ELCA Middle East Network October Newsletter

ELCA Middle East Network Newsletter
Oct. 7, 2010

Bishop Hanson joins interfaith call for U.S. leadership for Middle East peace
Bishop Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, joined 27 other leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) in releasing a statement urging prayer and offering hope for the peace talks. In addition, members of the NILI coalition met on September 29 with Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state, Near Eastern Affairs, and General James L. Jones, U.S. national security advisor. Dennis Frado, director, Lutheran Office for World Community, represented Bishop Hanson who was unable to be at the meetings. To read the full NILI statement and the ELCA press release: http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls.aspx

Bishop Younan reflects on the role of religion in the Middle East in Washington Post blog
Bishop Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and president of the Lutheran World Federation, addressed the question, "Can religion solve conflicts in the Middle East?" in a column in the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog. Younan asks, "Is the problem religion or extremism in religion?" He goes on to say, "The answer can be found in an early Christian text: 'Those who say, 'I love God,' and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.'" (1 John 4:20) The piece, originally published in Common Ground News Service as part of a series on the role of religious leadership in the Israeli-Arab conflict, can be found at this link: http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/can_religion_solve_conflicts_in_the_middle_east.html

Fragile peace talks hinge on extension of Israeli settlement freeze
As this issue of the newsletter is being written, the future of Palestinian and Israeli direct peace talks is tenuous at best after the expiration of the Israeli settlement freeze. At the same time, voices around the globe call for the continuation of talks, and leaders are working to come up with a formula that will allow the talks to continue. Christian and interfaith groups are urging diligence and offering prayers as the sense of urgency is great. See the ELCA's Peace Not Walls home page for updates on the peace talks and the church's voice in support of a just peace - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls.aspx

Find analysis and updates also on the web site of Churches for Middle East Peace - http://www.cmep.org/

`Budrus,' documentary about effort to save a Palestinian village, opens in three U.S. cities
The film, `Budrus,' is an award winning documentary about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. `Budrus' will be opening at the Quad Cinema in New York on October 8, at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles on October 22, and the West End Cinema in Washington, D.C. on October 29, followed by additional showings around the country. To learn more or to organize an event around the film, contact Nadav Greenberg, Just Vision’s Outreach and Media Associate, at nadav@justvision.org or 857-234-6728.

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

WCC News: Kairos Document, A Moment of Truth

Kairos Document, A Moment of Truth
By Manoj K. Das (*)

Find the Kairos Palestine document at this web page: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/

It was the moment of truth. A wave of hope travelled from face to face as Nora Carmi introduced the Kairos Palestine document on Tuesday 28 September to participants in the World Council of Churches’ UN Advocacy Week now taking place in Geneva. [Note: the WCC event took place Sept 27-Oct. 1.]

The international audience listened to a new commandment of love, offered as an instrument of strategy in the struggle against forces that have continued to outpace peace efforts at every turn of events.

The Kairos Document is a word to the world from Palestinian Christians on what is happening in Palestine and Israel. It was launched in Bethlehem in December 2009. The document calls on the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and functional apartheid for more than six decades. It stands in the tradition of an earlier Kairos Document, launched by Christians in 1985, that addressed the political situation in South Africa during its apartheid era.

The Kairos Document of 2009 is a cry of hope reflecting love, prayer and faith in God. It urges all the churches and Christians in the world to stand against injustice and modern-day apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories, and calls the churches to revisit theological distortions that serve to justify crimes perpetrated against people and the dispossession of their land.

“We have learned that if people are silent the stones will cry out. So let us not be silent. Let us cry out,” said Carmi, a member of Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem.

Her appeal found a response in nodding heads, even as her listeners’ attention remained glued to the text of the document.

“A few hours from now, Israel will host yet another Zionists’ rally,” she said on Tuesday. “We are going to distribute flowers and a small card with directions on finding the Kairos Document in the virtual world.”

“We call it a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” she added, “because the Palestinian cause is a just cause and we have to stand by it.”

And to those still-troubled minds, Nora Carmi cited history: "When we introduced a similar argument to end apartheid in South Africa, not many believed in this branch of diplomacy. But it did work. That is why we are embracing faith and hope to deal with a situation which has resisted all efforts of morality as well as legal efforts.”

“In the whole process, we forget that we are dealing with human beings. Hope gives us the capacity to see this. And ‘hope diplomacy’ means that we are not giving in to evil.”

“Our message is simple,” Carmi continued, “Israel’s unending occupancy is a sin against God.”

Earlier, Dr Jeff Halper, president of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, while speaking on “Israel-Palestine: Towards better peace, apartheid and warehousing”, pointed out that Israel was indulging in demolition without any reason.

Settlers have occupied a majority area pushing that majority population to a meager 22 percent of the land. And they continue to occupy more. Palestinians today have only about 40 percent of the 22 percent of land into which they have been pushed and walled. Still they offer peace and are ready to accept the geographical demarcation.

“And if this is not seen as a generous offer, I don’t know what a generous offer means,” Halper said. He also criticized the hypocrisy of calling a 20-foot-high wall built on Palestinian land a “separation barrier” meant to insure the security of all parties.

In illustration of Halper’s perspective, Xavier Abu Eid, an advisor to the Negotiations Support Unit, power-pointed images that conveyed how quickly Palestinian areas were shrinking and succumbing to the physical muscle and diplomatic might of Israel.

“A good number of [Israeli] settlers are economic settlers rather than ideological settlers,” Abu Eid added.

A new set of laws further “prevents us from even dreaming of gaining access” to any of these areas, continued Abu Eid. “As a result, we have seven out of ten million Palestinians living in exile. The basic requirement for lasting peace is to acknowledge separate statehood for Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

(*) Manoj K. Das is an editor for Asianet News T.V.

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The Kairos Palestine Document in English:

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

UN Advocacy Week in Geneva - WCC reports

I've wanted to share the good reports from the World Council of Churches at UN Advocacy Week in Geneva. Got a little behind, but these worth reading.

Nigerian and Palestinian keynote speakers provide a focus for UN Advocacy Week

See the full story at this link - http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/browse/1/article/1634/nigerian-and-palestinian.html

“We hope to learn from the lessons of history,” Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Nigeria told activists gathering for the sixth annual United Nations Advocacy Week (27 September to 1 October) organized by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC). For the first time, UN Advocacy Week is being held in Geneva rather than New York City, in conjunction with the 15th session of the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city.

About 120 people representing various ecumenical, ecclesiastical and interreligious bodies and networks are attending the week-long event at the WCC’s central offices in the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva.

Akeredolu, formerly the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, shared the podium with fellow keynote speaker Afif Safieh, a former Palestinian ambassador to the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the USA and the Vatican.

(...) Ambassador Safieh remarked that the problem faced by Palestinians is not the legacy of past colonialism but “the process of accelerating colonization” evident in the occupied territories today. Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the Israeli government’s decision not to extend a 10-month freeze on the building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, Safieh acknowledged that “Palestine faces a difficult decision – whether to return to the peace table.”

Up until now, Safieh said, the national will of Israel has tended to prevail rather than the international will as expressed by UN resolutions or the road-map supervised by the “Quartet” charged with leading the peace process. The Quartet is made up of the UN, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the USA.

“But the Quartet is now really a One-tet,” said Safieh, “a uni-polar or mono-polar system” dominated by the United States. And in terms of Middle Eastern politics, he added, “the United States suffers from a self-inflicted impotence. It is left with all the political weight of Luxembourg or Liechtenstein.” The Israel-Palestine peace negotiations, he warned, are “a continuous test of political courage.” And while Palestinian negotiators have been “unreasonably reasonable” in the immediate past, he warned that “we have no more elasticity.”
Safieh asked the world’s churches to “lobby American society” for a just peace in Israel-Palestine. He saw signs of “reawakening American idealism,” of a world Jewish community uncomfortable with Israeli policy in the occupied territories, of a Pentagon deeply concerned that conditions in Palestine provide the principal “recruiting sergeant for extremists” in Muslim nations.

Asked about the demand for a Palestinian “right of return,” he replied that such a right may be interpreted to mean return to a home, return to a hometown or return to a homeland (like the Palestinian homeland envisioned in the two-state solution). “We will exercise those three rights,” he said, “in differing degrees.”

In their concluding remarks, both speakers hailed signs of hope. (...) Safieh, who admits that “history, unfortunately, is a cemetery of oppressed people,” nevertheless affirms that “history needs our help to make the right decision” in regard to pending outcomes. He concluded by telling an audience made up largely of Christians, “In the end, though, I believe that Palestine will resurrect. And as you know, in Palestine we have had experience of resurrection!”

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Here are links to related stories:

KAIROS Palestine, a Moment of Truth - http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/kairos-document-a-moment.html

Gaza Panel report - http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/gaza-panel-calls-for-free.html

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem - http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/tveit-encourages-christia.html

Boycotts and divestment - http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/boycotts-and-divestment.html


The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

CMEP: Peace Talks at a Crossroads

CMEP's newsletter starts off with analysis of negotiations toward peace, but let me point readers first to the bulletin's concluding point: Don't Let the Peace Talks End - http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2010/2010sep22.html

Your voice makes a difference. If you haven't yet written a letter supporting the peace talks, add your voice to the choir.

Churches for Middle East Peace Bulletin
October 1, 2010

Peace Talks at a Crossroads
The moratorium on construction in the West Bank expired at midnight September 26. In the days and hours leading up to that moment, intense diplomacy, including President Obama's call for the extension of the moratorium before the UN General Assembly on September 23, attempted to keep together the fragile direct peace talks that began one month ago.

That diplomacy has been followed this week with news of continued behind the scenes negotiations. U.S. and Israeli officials reportedly drafted an agreement for extensive additional U.S. security and political assistance to Israel in return for a 60-day extension of the settlement freeze in order allow direct talks to resume, only to have the idea thus-far rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu. The details of the negotiations were revealed in the U.S. media on September 30 by David Makovsky, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has put off the decision about his government's participation in the peace talks until he meets with the Arab League on October 6. The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that Netanyahu's office had asked settlers to keep a low profile in the media and avoid provocation as the moratorium ended.

Declining Hope
At an event at the Palestine Center in Washington this week that discussed the peace talks after the freeze, Middle East analyst Michele Dunne, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the talks, "dead in the water." The asymmetry between the two parties will now intensify, she said, making it "difficult to the point of impossible" to come to any sort of agreement. Also, this breakdown, and the settlement debate that led up to it, will result in the "diminished credibility of U.S. negotiators."

Interfaith Support for Continuing Negotiations
On September 29, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders visited with Gen. James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a meeting organized by the National Interfaith Leadership Initiative. The leaders presented a statement to the two officials that called on the U.S. for strong leadership to continue the negotiations and issued a reminder that while peace is difficult, it is also possible. The statement said:"We refuse, now and always, to give into cynicism or despair. We are people of hope. We call upon the members of our religious communities to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to support active, fair, and firm U.S. leadership to advance comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The time for peace is now."

Challenging the Talks
A letter signed by 87 Senators supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was also sent to President Obama late last week. While it generally supported the negotiations, it failed to call on both sides to avoid actions that undermine the talks or make it more difficult for the other side to remain at the table. Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now gives an excellent analysis of the implications of the letter. In his speech before the UN General Assembly on September 28, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the assembly that peace with the Palestinians is decades away and that the issue of Iran is more pressing than a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian Authority. One of Lieberman's more controversial points was that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace, and that guiding principle for negotiations should be not "land for peace, but rather exchange of populated territory." Prime Minister Netanyahu dissociated himself from Lieberman's statement.

The Best Hope for Peace - CMEP Newsletter
CMEP's quarterly newsletter focuses on the renewed direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians that unfolded in early September. Read the full commentary as well as reports from the field and CMEP's 2010 Advocacy Conference in the newsletter, now available online.Thank you for your letters! In response to our action alert supporting a strong U.S. role in keeping the parties at the negotiating table, CMEP supporters sent more than 2,600 messages to President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Your voice makes a difference. If you haven't yet written a letter supporting the peace talks, add your voice to the choir.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bishop Younan online at the Washington Post's `On Faith'

OpEd piece by Bishop Younan online at the Washington Post's "On Faith" Blog

An OpEd piece written by the Rev. Munib A. Younan is now available online at the Washington Post "On Faith" Blog. Younan is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The article examines the role of religion in the Middle East. Here's the link: http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/can_religion_solve_conflicts_in_the_middle_east.html

Bishop Younan calls on religion to be "prophetic, a catalyst for reconciliation, and to offer peace education."

The OpEd piece is part of a special series about religious leadership and its role in the Israeli-Arab conflict and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews). Copyright permission for this 700-word OpEd is granted through Common Ground News, please contact them if you are interested in having this published in your local newspaper.

Can religion solve conflicts in the Middle East?
By Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan

Is religion the problem in the Middle East conflict? Or can religion be the solution?

Many people have opted for the former, observing that so often the negative side of religion is what is being covered in the news. Those who attract the cameras are people we call hardliners--like Pastor Jones in Florida earlier this month--those who appear inflexible, and leave no room for compromise. They are the ones stoking the flames of the conflict and creating an image that religion is at the heart of the ongoing struggle.

Is the problem religion or extremism in religion? The answer can be found in an early Christian text: "Those who say, 'I love God,' and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen" (I John 4:20).

At the heart of Christianity are two principles: love of God and love of neighbor, as Jesus himself taught (Matthew 22:37-40). Yet this was not original with Jesus. It came right out of the Jewish Torah. Islam teaches the same.The problem is not Islam, or Judaism, or Christianity. The problem is when certain individuals claim to be speaking for God, or defending God, and act counter to this core teaching that love for God shows itself in respect for the other. We call such individuals extremists.

For the full article, go to the Washington Post:

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Accompaniment in Umm Salamone

Faye Buttrick, ecumenical accompanier (EA) in Bethlehem, posted this report on her blog: http://fjbuttrick.blogspot.com/

Accompaniment in Umm Salamone

A Palestinian woman carrying the four colored Palestinian flag and accompanied by two children walked down the street toward us. Behind her stood four army soldiers and their vehicles, situated to block the street against traffic. Behind us a crowd of about 50 demonstrators had gathered for their weekly protest. More soldiers and vehicles stood in front of them, barring the entrance to the main road, the protestors’ destination. They had come to call attention to the Israeli plan which will extend the separation barrier closer to the village of Umm Salamone and thereby cut the village off from their agricultural lands. The court in 1979 ruled in favor of the village but later the court overruled that decision for security reasons.

The demonstrators process every Friday from the nearby village of Al Ma’sara to Umm Salamone, bringing together people from the area, Israeli activists, and, on this day, internationals from Spain, France, Canada and other countries plus three Ecumenical Accompaniers. Flags of Palestine, France and Japan were raised above the crowd whenever a chant or speech was heard in that language. In particular the 65th anniversary of the bombing Hiroshima was lifted up. Our taxi driver Elias said that similar anniversaries from around the world are always included as a sign of solidarity.

The flag bearer was greeted by several women at the intersection of her street with ours. Passing in front of us, they walked with her to join the demonstration. Speeches against the occupation and call for freedom for the Palestinian people were repeated in several languages and accompanied by chants that reminded some of us of the antiwar slogans of the 60’s and 70’s. On this day the words were changed to fit a new situation where international law and human rights continue to be ignored.

Elias told us that he noticed an Israeli commander cautioning a soldier. This week only words were heard; no action by the soldiers was taken. We will continue to accompany the demonstrators, as previous EAs have done.

I work for EAPPI-US and Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of my sending organizations or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact US Coordinator Ann Hafften (eappi2008@gmail.com) or the EAPPI Communications Officer (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission. Thank you.

Faye and John's blog: http://fjbuttrick.blogspot.com/

For more about EAPPI - www.eappi-us.org

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In Austin, Texas, this weekend - Mission in Borderlands

Connecting Ministries: Mission in Borderlands

The “Peace not Walls” task force has prepared a “Connecting Ministries” event to be offered through the Southwestern Texas Synod’s School of Mission on Saturday, October 2nd, at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 200 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, Texas, from 10 am – 4 pm.

Connecting Ministries focuses on creating understanding, relationship and opportunities for shared mission and service at the border regions of the world. This event will focus on borderland ministry in both the Holy Land and the Texas/Mexico border region, featuring the SWT Synod’s work in the in the Rio Grande Valley and the work of our sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land.

We are blessed to have two extraordinary leaders for this journey into border ministry.

Niveen Sarras is a member of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, where she is involved in Christian Education with a special focus on children and youth. Niveen is currently a Ph.D. student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She received the Kathryn Sehy Endowed Scholarship for 2008-09, a newly-established fellowship fund that supports a student in the area of interfaith studies. She is particularly interested in interfaith efforts in Israel/Palestine and plans to return to Palestine to continue in academic and mission work.

Rev. Mariana Mendez currently serves as the mission pastor of Mision Luterana “Agua Viva” in the Texas border town of El Cenizo, near Laredo. Mariana and her husband, Pastor Moises Mendez, support the ministry of seven gathered communities in the region in worship and Bible study and a range of co-operative ministry activities to meet the needs of people struggling with poverty and limited opportunity.

Under the guidance of these leaders in presentations, interactive sessions, role playing and worship, participants in Connecting Ministries will experience the lives, issues, questions, and opportunities faced by those who serve and minister in these places, and will discover their own place and ways to participate in sharing these vital ministries.

For more information and to register, visit our website: www.swtsynod.org/form10300.htm

For more information contact:
Tammie Danielsen
SW Texas Synod/ELCAPeace Not Walls Task Force Member

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