Thursday, June 24, 2010

`The Light shines in the darkness,' writes Chris Cown

I have become acquainted with Chris Cowan, a seminary student and member of the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis. Chris recently spent some weeks teaching art at Dar al-Kalima in Bethlehem.

She wrote a terrific piece that makes up most of the spring edition of The Franciscan Times -

Please read the whole article. If the link above doesn't work for you, go to the archives and click the link to the Spring 2010 issue -

Here is a little clip I especially like:
“`The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' I got a little teary, for this is the text which is needed here and which the Church here proclaims and lives. Ministries like Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, the EAPPI volunteers in the West Bank, and many others are working to move their society toward the Light shining in the darkness. It is a long and uphill road."

Chris's article provides lots of introductions to the people of the region, good analysis and review of the situation in the West Bank, and plenty of helpful links.

Here is another sample:
Many young people have little optimism about their future in West Bank, where there are shortages of water and opportunity and employment and health care. It is a place where, daily, the people experience the oppression of occupation. For every wish, there is a corresponding “You can’t do that because…” and usually the sentence can be completed by the phrase, “you are a Palestinian” or “you are an Arab.” Because you are a Palestinian… you can’t go to Jerusalem…you can’t cross the road to check your olive trees… you can’t pass the checkpoint… you can’t have a playground… you can’t bring your produce to market… you can’t finish college… you can’t find a job… you can’t go to school…you can’t leave the house… you can’t be trusted. The Palestinian people live under a system of institutionalized denigration, humiliation, segregation, and violence. It is a system that has become “business as usual.”

And yet, in this place, I received hospitality that puts our best welcome to shame. I found people who were amazingly generous, even to strangers. I found people who found a way to go on living and hoping and dreaming and working for the good of others, even though they were living behind the apartheid wall. I found people with ready smiles even in the midst of tears of frustration. I found people with faith in the midst of turmoil. I found people committed to peace in the midst of daily challenges to their dignity and their livelihood. And I found a church that intentionally nourishes hope in the promises of a God who loves all people.

The situation in the West Bank is one of dehumanization. As Franciscans and people of peace, we can say that the injustice being done against the Palestinian people dehumanizes both Palestinians and Israelis. It dehumanizes the Palestinians who, living behind the separation barrier (Apartheid Wall), continually suffer obstacles as they seek to live out their human lives, their vocations and relationships. The Wall creates violence and all sorts of poverty. But the perpetrators also suffer dehumanization, because they are led to believe that some people are of less value than others, and to fear their neighbors on the basis of race. Moreover, fear is self-perpetuating, and is ultimately the father of violence.

Chris has a blog, from pen and paintbrush, at this link -

For more about Dar al-Kalima, click this link -

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Budrus: Palestinian Village and Documentary Film

Budrus: A Palestinian Village and Documentary Film

Budrus: A Palestinian Village and Documentary Film

If your NPR radio station airs The Diane Rehm Show, tune in tomorrow (Thurs.) to hear about Budrus. One of the filmmakers, Ronit Avni, presented a workshop at the recent Churches for Middle East Peace advocacy conference.

The story a Palestinian community organizer who united Fatah, Hamas and Israelis in an unarmed movement to save his village from destruction by the Israeli security barrier.

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MIFTA report: Barriers, Borders, and Blockades

"MIFTAH seeks to promote the principles of democracy and good governance within various components of Palestinian society; it further seeks to engage local and international public opinion and official circles on the Palestinian cause." -

Writing for MIFTA, Leah Hunt-Hendrix posits that physical and informational controls exerted by Israel are working against the possibility of peace, and creating barriers between Palestine and the rest of the world.

Barriers, Borders, and Blockades:
Policing Movement and Controlling Information

By Leah Hunt-Hendrix for MIFTAH
June 23, 2010

To keep some out. To fence others in. To police movement, instill fear, uncertainty, and instability. Palestine is a land cross-hashed with separation barriers, walls, fences and checkpoints. For many people, these structures make one either an exile or a prisoner, barred from returning or unable to leave. But in addition to the policing of movement, these mechanisms correspond to a policing of information, a control of what truths are able to travel beyond the borders of these territories, to reach the world outside.

Crossing borders always leads to new experiences. But one of the first things I noticed upon arriving in the West Bank is the very particular and peculiar transition that takes place when the border one is traversing is Israeli. Before I passed through Allenby Bridge, which provides entrance from Jordan into Israel, I thought I had an idea of the situation here. But until you come face to face with a machine gun-carrying-19-year old, the frightening nature and intense stranglehold of the occupation is hard to imagine. Without the experience, it is hard to understand how, despite complete innocence, one can be made to feel like a criminal, what it feels like to be interrogated, held for hours, and finally cast outside in the darkness of the night. And the experience of a foreigner is nothing compared to the harassment of those with Palestinian documents.

Once you are finally able to cross that border, however, something odd begins to happen. The reality of the situation becomes so obvious, that it is suddenly difficult to remember that there was ever a time when one didn’t grasp the severity of the occupation. It becomes hard to believe that others might not be fully aware of what goes on within Israel’s borders, under its control of Gaza the West Bank and east Jerusalem. But this creates a dilemma, a kind of information gap. For those on the outside, it is almost impossible to wrap one’s head around the fact that this level of oppression can still exist in the modern world. Meanwhile, those on the inside are perplexed at how others don’t seem to understand.

In a world as technologically advanced and information-saturated as ours seems to be, the lack of accurate representations of the conflict in Israel and Palestine in mainstream western media is astounding. As much as the borders and walls around Palestinians lands hinder people’s movement, they also seem to hinder the spread of reliable information. The blockade of goods into Gaza mirrors a kind of blockade on the speech and perspective of Palestinians, a silencing of their voices. Unless one knows where to look and actively seeks out the right websites and news sources, one is otherwise barraged with faulty information and mischaracterizations, which shape public opinion internationally, and become yet further mechanisms of domination.

A recent poll, commissioned by the Israel Project, shows that 56% of Americans think the American government should support Israel, and only 7% think it should support Palestine. This is related to the fact that most Americans think Palestinians are the ones stalling the peace process. At a ration of 2 to 1, Americans think that Palestinian “incitement” is a worse obstacle to peace than settlement-building in Jerusalem.

The claim that Palestinians are engaging in incitement through their media and school curricula, however, is itself, in large part, an Israeli media creation – yet another warping of the perspective that makes it into the public arena.

Palestinian Media Watch is an organization that aims to expose the use of extremist language in Palestinian media, which glorifies terrorism and creates a culture of hostility towards Israel. The organization claims to work in the interest of peace, and its materials are cited by a wide variety of institutions. It is a central informational link on the website of the Israeli foreign ministry and its founder, Itamar Marcus, has testified before the American congress and participated in a conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While PMW is received as an objective and unbiased resource, however, what goes unnoticed is that it is actually connected to right-wing Israeli funders, and Marcus himself lives in a West Bank settlement. This is highly ironic. For while PMW spreads the message globally that Palestinians are engaging in vicious incitement, the almost unanimous opinion within the borders of the West Bank is that the main obstacle to the peace process is precisely the issue of settlements, like the one in which Marcus resides. Despite the fact that the Middle East Peace Quartet and the international community have declared the building of settlements illegal, Israel persists in the establishment of these communities.

Continued construction of settlements not only undermines trust. It is also, day by day, destroying the possibility of a two-state solution. This is another fact that seems to be inadequately captured in international media. Many abroad see the situation here as the same as ever, just another year in a never-ending struggle. But for a large number of people on the ground, there is a sense of real urgency. With each new settlement, more Palestinian land is illegally claimed, land which may never be returned.

As the walls and fences enclose Palestinian villages and cut them off from their land, they sever the world from the critical voices and perspectives that must be heard. For a moment, it seemed like the Turkish Freedom Flotilla fiasco might penetrate the blockade on public opinion. But as Al Jazeera reported, information was once again confiscated and altered, with only two minutes of film released out of hours of footage, and the world largely buying into the incredible Israeli story of fanatic humanitarians. Like the contrived arguments of PMW, the physical and informational controls that Israel exerts are working against the possibility of peace, and creating barriers between Palestine and the rest of the world that must be rejected.

In the past, the international community rose up and challenged regimes of apartheid. It is unconscionable that in the present, through its inaction and unwillingness to demand accountability from Israel, the international community (in the shadow of the United States) is implicitly supporting the system of separation and segregation here, and is complicit with an ongoing system of apartheid. At some point, the walls will fall, and the barriers will be broken through. The question is whether or not the US and international community can shake off their blindness and be a part of a peaceful solution before it is too late.

Leah Hunt-Hendrix is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at



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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Samia Khoury on Intimidation

In this brief reflection Samia Khoury writes about intimidation.

June 16, 2010
Samia Khoury

Intimidation is a common phenomenon all over the world. We watch bullies in the form of landlords intimidating their tenants; employers intimidating their employees, and even teachers intimidating students or parents intimidating their children. In general, the victims of intimidation are those who are weak and helpless, and those who do not have the guts to stand up for their rights or principles to avoid trouble. We have a saying in Arabic that goes like this: “stay away from evil and sing away.” Very often you share a story with your friends about the loss of your rights in work, or in your property, and nobody dares support you because of fear of the bully who was behind your loss. So people continue to be afraid, and shy away from confrontation.

This past month we saw a strange man in the neighborhood putting a fence around the plot near our home, when we asked him what he was doing, he claimed that he owned the land and that he had bought it from its owners. We called the owners who had bought the land at the same time we did in 1960 and she assured us that her husband who had passed away never sold the land. When she appointed a lawyer to defend her case, a bully entered into the lawyer’s office and stabbed him. Luckily he survived the stabbing but he was intimidated into abandoning the case had it not been for the encouragement of his colleagues, who vouched to support him and stand by his side.

On the other hand, after a travel agent in Jerusalem had bought extra space for his offices, some bullies who had coveted the same space intimidated him in a way that made him relinquish the sale and decide to “stay away from evil.” When lawlessness prevails after forty three years of occupation, nothing is surprising any more.

Political intimidation is just as much of a phenomenon which we are too familiar with in the Middle East. Under the guise of the so called imaginary “peace process” so much is allowed and politicians and leaders cave in and relinquish their demands, so as not to hinder that process. Even churches are being intimidated for taking moral stands. But in their case it is not the peace process but the “interfaith dialogue” that is the target of the intimidation. Ironically however, all faiths promote justice and peace in their scriptures, so there is no contradiction in the basic message, and there is no reason that those inter-faith groups should not be utilized positively against the evil of intimidation. Yet I wonder how many will have the courage of the persistent widow who kept taking her case to a mean judge. “But finally the judge said to himself, Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice.” Luke 18:4-5.

If the churches are not going to live up to the mission of Jesus Christ who was sent “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind and to release the oppressed,” Luke 4:18, then for sure bullies will continue to intimidate the meek, the poor and the oppressed, and lawlessness will eventually be the norm, without hope for justice or peace to prevail.

However, we do have positive examples of the persistent widow who refuse to be intimidated. The weekly demonstrations of both Israelis and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah against confiscation of homes, the weekly demonstrations against the wall in Ni’lin and Bi’lin, and against the confiscation of land in Beit Jala, as well as the rage that we watched all over the world against the flotilla attack are all signs of hope that assure us that we all can stand up against the evil of intimidation and the mean judge will eventually give in and grant us justice.

Samia Nasir Khoury served for 17 years as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur, a coeducational elementary school for the lower income community in East Jerusalem. She serves on the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem and on the board of trustees of Birzeit University in Birzeit, Palestine. Samia writes about justice, truth, and peace for the Palestinian people, the relationships between people and the land, the context of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relationships in the Holy Land, concerns for children in conflict, and gender issues.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bay Area congregations help fund Dar al-Kalima college

Seeds for the Parish, the bi-monthly resource newsletter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, features a story on Bethlehem's Dar al-Kalima College in its May-June edition. Find it on page 4 -

For more about Dar al-Kalima, see the website:

[From Seeds for the Parish]
Bay Area Lutheran congregations fund college in Bethlehem
What is happening this year in the little town of Bethlehem? Construction of a music room at Dar al-Kalima College. This music room is now fully funded, thanks to eight San Francisco Bay Area Lutheran congregations. These congre gations raised over $55,000 for Dar al-Kalima from a Middle Eastern dinner and auction. The funding of a music room was chosen because of the strong musical tradition of Lutheran congregations and colleges.

The Palestinian-theme gala, which was held on Sunday, November 8, 2009, featured authentic Middle Eastern music by the Georges Lammam Ensemble, and Palestinian food was provided by Dishdash Restaurant, whose proprietor grew up in a village only ten minutes from Bethlehem. The Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem and founder of Dar al-Kalima College, was featured in a video message that was specially prepared for this event. The Rev. Herb Schmidt, former campus pastor of University Lutheran Church at Stanford, was the emcee and featured speaker, who drew upon his experience from having visited Palestine five times.

Why did this happen in the San Francisco Bay Area? Many former Palestinian families now live in the Bay Area, among them the Nijim family that worships at Grace Lutheran Church in Palo Alto. As a matter of fact, Fuad Nijim was a childhood schoolmate and friend of Rev. Raheb. Fuad was instrumental in bringing Rev. Raheb to preach and teach at Grace and other Lutheran churches in the Bay Area. Fuad, as president of the Association of Arab and Middle East Lutherans, serves on the board of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s (ELCA’s) Multicultural Ministries unit and the ELCA Church Council. Nader Ayad, a Palestinian by birth, is a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fremont. Through these relationships, Bay Area Lutherans have become aware of the harsh conditions in occupied Palestine and wanted to do something positive to offer hope to their Christian sisters and brothers there and all of the people of Palestine.

What offers more hope than educating the young? (57 percent of Palestinians are under the age of 19.) Dar al-Kalima College enrolls young people of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths. At a time when Palestine’s youth lack real options for a better future, this college enables the next generation to realize its potential through educational excellence. Dar al-Kalima is the first college in the Middle East to offer advanced training in the arts, multimedia, communications and tourism-related studies. The college also provides a vital accredited resource for higher education in non-traditional disciplines.

Like a city on the mountain, the college on Mt. Murair is visible from every point in Bethlehem, serving as a beacon of hope and a promise of a brighter future for Palestine. View the capital campaign video at

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Naim Ateek: The Israeli Occupation and Theological Thinking

Cornerstone, the newletter of Sabeel, dedicated its Spring 2010 edition to the Kairos Palestine theme: "A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering."

Here's a link to the newsletter in pdf form:

I want to provide in its entirety the cover article by the Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel. This post is longer that my usual bulletins in order to give you Ateek's article, since I can't link directly to his text.

The Israeli Occupation and Theological Thinking
by Naim Ateek

The political and religious background
The conflict over Palestine can be described as a Greek tragedy composed of two Acts. The first Act happened in 1948 when over three quarters of the land was lost and over 750,000 Palestinians (Muslim and Christian) were ethnically cleansed. In fact, 60% of the Christian community was displaced. They were scattered throughout the Middle East and to the different corners of the globe. The second Act took place in 1967 when the rest of Palestine was occupied by the Israeli army and several hundred thousand Palestinians were dislocated (both Muslim and Christian).

By the time the second Act was over the catastrophe of Palestine had become complete.

In this article I am focusing briefly on the effect of the Israeli occupation on the Christian community and the response of Palestinian Christians. The loss of Palestine and the dispersion of the Palestinian Christian community throughout the world created a physical and a spiritual tragedy. In fact the spiritual impact has been no less traumatic than the physical uprooting of the Palestinians. For Muslims and Christians, the loss of Palestine in 1948 was the result of the interplay of world politics among the western powers, the victorious allies of WW2. Although by then Zionism had been in existence for over 50 years and the British Government was already conditioned and influenced by the ideology of Zionism, it was the impact of the holocaust that facilitated and accelerated the creation of the “Jewish” state.

The religious background and dilemma

From the perspective of most Palestinians who were totally unaware of some western Christian thinking, the loss of Palestine seemed an immoral and unjust act that was inspired and guided by a colonial spirit and western political interests. At the same time, the perspective of some western fundamentalist Christians regarding what ensued was believed to be a divine act inspired and guided by God. For these Christians, the creation of Israel was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. God was active through their political leaders to bring into fruition his purposes for the Jewish people in order to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ and the End of the world. Put sarcastically, such a momentous event was of greater significance to God than worrying about the rights and interests of 1.3 million Palestinians who were the indigenous people of the land.

I must emphasize that most Palestinians did not have the vaguest idea about any religious significance of the Jewish return. Some might have been rudimentarily aware of the suffering of European Jews under the Nazis, but such knowledge had no relevance to their everyday life. The simple logic for the average Palestinian stated that British colonialism was being replaced by a Jewish form of colonialism. From one angle, there was nothing new in all of this. After all, Palestine has been occupied and governed by foreign powers for thousands of years. It was not directly related to religion. It simply had to do with politics, military power, and political interest.

As for Palestinian Christians with their simple honest faith, they continued to trust God and to pray for God’s mercy and protection. They prayed for justice that would allow them to return to their homes and businesses. They simply waited on God in hope. Others, especially younger men, wanted to do something about it. They joined resistance groups that were anxious to reverse the injustice and retrieve Palestine from its captors.

For those Christians who knew their Bible well, it was the most confusing time. They were shocked at what happened. Religious and theological questions proliferated. These were the recurring old questions that have been repeated millions of times by oppressed people throughout the centuries. The new situation in Palestine, now largely Israel, raised questions and demanded answers. In fact it demanded a new theology, because the old theology for Palestinian Christians did not work anymore. In light of the establishment of the new state, the word “Israel” itself needed a new definition. Is the new Israel an extension of biblical Israel? Is the new state really the fulfillment
of biblical prophecy? Does the Bible have anything to say about what was happening in the country? Where was God in all of this? Did God condone what happened? How can one reconcile what was happening with the justice and goodness of God? Many questions were asked but the answers were few and unsatisfying.

After the 1967 occupation of the rest of Palestine, some of these logical questions were compounded. As the Israeli army clamped down with an iron fist and as the occupation became more entrenched, the confiscation of Palestinian land spread, the illegal settlements multiplied, the settlers became unruly and fierce, the oppression of the Palestinians became noticeably clear, the situation became helpless and desperate, and the international community including the United States was unable to pressure the Israeli government to respect and implement international law. Again the questions were plentiful.

How does God see the oppression of the Palestinians? Since religion has been hijacked by the extremists, what can one do? Are we witnessing not only the corruption of religious faith, but perhaps the end of religious faith as we know it? And what about Christian Zionism that seems to be totally blind to what the government of Israel and its settler population are doing? Have they too become totally absorbed by an Old Testament war-ethic that has lost the spirit, love, and peace which Jesus Christ stood for?

The voice of the church during most of this period was faint. Indeed, there were individual voices against the injustice and the oppression but the collective voice was weak. Onenotices that most of the churches ofthe land seemed to be satisfied with thecelebration of their liturgies and masseson Sundays. However, the sermons that were preached, most of the time, had no relevance to people’s daily life. The Bible studies that took place, generally, emphasized the private spiritual faith of the individual but there was seldom any discussion about issues of justice and peace. There was no word about what it meant to be a peacemaker today, or what the church could do to resist the violence of the occupation and take a stronger stand against the injustice. Indeed, the church’s rituals and ceremonies continue as usual but is the prophetic word missing? Have we neglected the “weightier matters of the law” as Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day, “justice and mercy and faith?”

The years have been rolling by, the occupation is more entrenched, and the church is hiding behind its liturgy and remains lethargically silent. The above analysis has described the church’s situation for most of the previous years. It is, however, important to state that since the first intifada three important developments have taken place within the Christian community of the land:

The rise of Palestinian liberation theology. This phenomenon took on different shapes. Palestinian clergy from Israel and the West Bank -- Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant -- began to articulate contextual theologies that addressed the political, social, and religious situation in the country from their position of faith. These theologians emphasized the justice of God as well as God’s inclusive love for all people. They condemned the Israeli occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people. They condemned both the violence of the occupation as well as the violence of extremist Palestinian groups. At the same time, they emphasized the importance of nonviolence in resisting the illegal occupation.

Through their books and publications, these theologians have been able to influence the thinking and theology of many people in the world regarding the predicament of the Palestinians. Moreover, through their exegeses of biblical texts from both the Old as well as the New Testament, they have been able to critique the exclusive ideology and theology of the government of Israel and its religious settler population as well as that of Christian Zionism.

These theologians continue to lift up a vision of peace and reconciliation that is based on a faith in the God who loves all people equally and who wills that all the people of the land live together in peace and harmony.

There was a voice for peace and justice that was heard intermittently in the country that came from a few bishops. It was not, however, the concerted voice of all the patriarchs and bishops. Neither the Christians in the land nor the Israeli government heard a concerted, loud, and clear voice about the oppression of the Palestinians and the need to stop it. For various reasons, rightly or wrongly, the church leaders failed to speak unanimously against the injustice and the oppression of the Palestinians. When they spoke, it was never candid or forthright.

Recently, another voice is being heard from the Christian community of the land. It is the voice of the Kairos Palestine Document. In the midst of the oppressive situation, the Christian community was able to produce a document boldly called, “A Moment of Truth.” It is a document that speaks primarily to the Christian community of the land. It also speaks to Christians and churches abroad. At the same time, it addresses people of other faiths as well as the political situation in the country and more specifically the Israeli government. The document considers the occupation a sin and calls for the use of nonviolent methods to resist it. In fact, this issue of Cornerstone is intended to introduce people to this new important document.

One of the significances of this document is its ecumenical nature since those who worked on it belonged in their church membership to the various churches of the land. So it is a Palestinian Christian voice that seeks to speak truth to power and to witness to the possibility of peace with justice.

Looking back at the last 62 years since the creation of the state of Israel one can say that the Christian community was slow to address the pertinent questions that had arisen from the aftershock of the loss of Palestine. But many of us are thankful to God that in spite of the sluggish beginning, the faith and resilience of the Christians have prompted them to raise their voice and to bear an important testimony before the whole world. Through this document they lift the banner of peace and reconciliation, and willingly accept Christ’s call to be peacemakers and commit themselves to witness to the love and justice of God.

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Find the full edition of Cornerstone at this link:

Other articles include Theology and the Unfolding Tragedy of the Palestinians, by Mary Grey, and Reflections on the Palestinian Kairos Document, by Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah.

Sabeel is the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem:

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Creative Resistance to the Occupation and the Occupiers

Thanks to Kimmy Meinecke, an American accompanier in Bethlehem through EAPPI [], for this inspiring post. You can read more of Kimmy's reflections at her blog, "Peace, Salaam, Shalom" -

Creative Resistance to the Occupation and the Occupiers

Near Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem (and therefore, near the Wall), the Sumud story house, run by Pax Christi International, gathers together Palestinian women and children for stories, conversation, encouragement, spiritual growth and laughter. Ranja, the manager and host of the house, welcomes you into the main room which is decorated as though it were the inside of a traditional bedouin tent.

Lining the tent room are sign boards with stories of creative resistance to the occupation of Palestine and to the occupiers from Israel. Here is one of those stories:

As happened more than once during the time of the (first) Intifada, Israeli soldiers were beating up a man in a crowded street. From all sides people rushed to the scene. Suddenly a woman with a baby came forward to the man and shouted: “Why is it always you who makes problems and goes to demonstrations! I am fed up! Take this baby of yours! I don’t want to see you ever again.” She laid the baby in the hands of the man, and ran away. The soldiers left the scene in confusion. When quiet came, the man returned the baby to the woman. They had never seen each other before. Described by Mounir Fasheh (1998).

You are invited to follow this link to read other stories from Sumud story house:

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I like this story from the same site:

Tax Revolt in Beit Sahour

During the Intifada the inhabitants of Beit Sahour refused to pay taxes to the occupation authorities. They did not want to help the occupation financially while not receiving adequate services. “No taxation without representation” was their slogan. In many cases the army entered the houses to take away the belongings of those who refused to pay. One woman saw all her furniture and household equipments carried away. At last she stood alone in the house. When the room was almost empty and the soldiers on the verge of leaving, she called them back: “Please don’t go away. You forgot something. Take my curtains too!”

See: Mitri Raheb, I Am a Palestinian Christian , Augsburg Fortress Publishers 1995 -

For more about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, a project of the World Council of Churches, see this link:

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Sabeel urges, Take a stand for justice in Gaza

Friends of Sabeel-North America has issued a news release regarding the Sabeel statement on the Gaza blockade. Find the news release and the entire statement at Religion News Service:

Thursday, June 10, 2010
Friends of Sabeel—North America


Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, called upon ordinary people to "take a stand for justice" when political and religious leaders fail to do so. Sabeel's June 3, 2010, statement was issued after Israel's commando attack on the relief flotilla that intended to pass through Israel's blockade of Gaza. "We believe the dawn of justice is near," the statement said.

"Western government leaders are clearly unwilling to implement the requirements of international law and give the Palestinians their just rights. The mantle is now on the shoulders of grassroots people who, increasingly, the world over, are pushing for a nonviolent solution to the conflict over Palestine," said Sabeel's statement, "Gaza—The Conscience of the World."

Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action. Sabeel, founded by the Rev. Naim Ateek, strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities.

"Palestine has become the litmus test for truth and justice and Gaza has become the conscience of the world," the Sabeel statement said. "The freedom flotilla has shamed heads of state and church leaders in its determination to break the unjust and oppressive siege of the Gaza Strip. In world public opinion, Israel is becoming a pariah; its lies and deceptions are increasingly exposed and threadbare."

Sabeel quotes both Jesus and Isaiah in its Gaza statement. "Jesus said (Mark 9:28), 'such an evil spirit cannot be cast out except with prayer and with fasting.' We will continue to pray and fast in order to drive out the evil spirit of occupation and oppression," it said

"The great prophet Isaiah cried out that the fast God chooses, is ' loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?' (Isaiah 58:6) This is what we have been witnessing through the challenge of the flotilla. We believe that the spirit of God is working through true peace activists, who practice their prayers in direct nonviolent actions for peace and whose fast is the doing of justice," Sabeel said.

Sabeel urged "men and women—young and old, religious and secular—to use every nonviolent means available to end the siege of Gaza, remove the yoke of occupation and work for the freedom and liberation of Palestine and all its people."

[The complete statement is at the website of Friends of Sabeel-North America: ]

Contact:Sister Elaine Kelley
Friends of Sabeel—North America
PO Box 9186Portland, OR 97207
(503) 653-6625;

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bishop Younan and other Jerusalem leaders: religion must have 'prophetic' role

This article from Ecumenical News International
Faith leaders in Jerusalem say religion must have 'prophetic' role

I am especially pleased with Bishop Munib Younan's comment on peace education. I am not sure how a meeting on religious leadership could have failed to consider the KAIROS Palestine document, issued by Christian leaders last winter. [] - Ann

Faith leaders in Jerusalem say religion must have 'prophetic' role

by Judith Sudilovsky
Jerusalem (ENI).

Religion must take on a more positive role in peacemaking efforts in the Middle East, especially in light of the deteriorating situation there, faith leaders have said.

"Religion must be part of the solution," said Jerusalem Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan at a 2 June meeting sponsored by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Instead of allowing itself to be misused by Jewish, Christian and Muslim extremist groups, religion must be prophetic, a catalyst of reconciliation, and offer peace education, said Younan, who is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

The meeting was organized before the latest tensions in the region caused after Israeli forces intercepted a flotilla of ships en route for Gaza. Nine people died in the incident.

Younan warned religious leaders against becoming "mini-politicians", and stressed the need to be critical of one's own political leaders.

"Are we ready as religious leaders to do that? That is the challenge," he said.

"Religion is already in politics," said Younan. "When religion tries to interfere in politics, then it becomes a difficult part of the problem rather than a solution. It becomes dangerous when religion is interpreted as an agenda, and made into scenarios of a holy book."

He added that religious leaders must bring their followers back to the basic tenets of religion: "To love God and to love your neighbour."

At the same time, "religion must speak truth to power, and promote justice whenever faced with injustice," said the bishop.

Others at the meeting included Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament; Mohammed S. Dajani, the founding director of the Wasatia Islamic Movement Palestine; and Deborah Weissman, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews.

"We must strive to employ within each of our cultures those aspects [of our religious faiths] which promote openness," said Weissman, noting that there is a clash within religions between the forces of extremism and those of moderation and tolerance.

Praising the late Pope John Paul II's apology for past persecution of the Jews, Bishop Younan said Israeli and Palestinian political and religious leaders must also stand up and make confessions about their past actions.

"If we use religion to say 'Sorry', there can be new life but if we use the Bible to deny that, religion becomes counterproductive," said Younan, who is a vice-president of the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation. "We must have religious, prophetic change to ground us to say we are sorry. Then, we are ready for a new beginning."

Younan described peace education as crucial if religion is to play a role and help instil values of genuine tolerance in children and young people. "Tolerance is not simply the absence of hatred but ... [the creation] of shared hope and values for the future," he said.

The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information - - that organized the meeting describes itself as a joint institution of Israelis and Palestinians dedicated to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a "two states for two peoples" solution. It also says it is, "the only joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think-tank in the world".

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An accompanier writes about Qalandiya Checkpoint

Kathy Preuss, an accompanier through EAPPI writes her blog, "Witness4peacetoday" at this link:"

EAPPI is the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, a project of the World Council of Churches -

Recently Kathy spent the day around Qalandiya checkpoint and wrote for her blog. Here is her afternoon report.

"Qalandiya Checkpoint PM" -

It’s 4pm, and I’m back again.

A Muslim woman, who speaks only Arabic, approaches me. A kind man offers to translate between us. She presents medical papers regarding her daughter who is inpatient in a Tel Aviv hospital. The mother is in the West Bank attempting to obtain the proper paperwork to enter Israel to see her daughter. She started this journey at 10am, waited in lines to be told she needed to be in different lines and finally ended up at Qalandiya. Once at Qalandiya, she learns the permit line was closed. She pauses and then starts crying.

I tell her I’m going to make calls. The mission is clear: help this woman get her permit to see her daughter in Tel Aviv. We move to the side, and my first call is to the humanitarian hotline. After being disconnected several times, I’m ultimately transferred to the Deputy Commanding Officer, the head guy, of Qalandiya. To my utter amazement, he was polite and even-tempered. He listened and advised me what needed to happen next, which was send her to another location (the next town over) to pick up the permit. Strangely enough he didn’t have the phone or address of this new place.

Plan B: call my boss, Pauline.

Pauline is amazing! Within 5 minutes, Pauline learned the permit was ready. I pass the phone back to the mother, and as she listens to Pauline, I see her whole body relax. Pauline was also able to provide the address and phone number to the mother. The mother gives the phone back to me, and in perfect English says “Thank you.” At the risk of breaking cultural norms, I give her a hug. She held me so tight. Language didn’t matter at that moment. Since arriving here in Palestine, there have been several occasions where I’ve felt completely helpless and ineffective. But in a short 45 minutes, I like to think my efforts made a difference.

So I tell you this story for several reasons.

*This is why EA’s go to checkpoints

*All this mother wanted to do was see her daughter in the hospital, and she hit many obstacles.

*If you really think about it, why is there a humanitarian hotline? (I view it as an admittance of a flawed system.)

*Imagine yourself in this mother’s place. How would you feel?

*This woman’s experience is common.

The next day I asked someone from the main office to follow up with the mother. It was learned the mother in fact did get the permit. Unfortunately the permit is for three days only, and her daughter is in the hospital for 14 days. And the mother asks, “What to do?”

Here’s what I can do! I can tell her story, share her humanness with the world. Because when you think about it, she’s just like you and me. This story will be part of my advocacy when I return to the States. This is what I can do!

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sabeel’s Litany for Gaza

Sabeel’s Litany for Gaza - available at the website:

From Sabeel's "Waves of Prayer" weekly prayer concern comes this litany for Gaza.

In the early morning, on May 31, 2010, Israeli forces intercepted a flotilla of 6 ships bound for the Gaza Strip, carrying nearly 700 people and a cargo of medical supplies, pre-fabricated homes, building supplies, and educational materials. The ships were attempting to break the internationally condemned Israeli blockade that, since June 2007, has prevented virtually all people and goods from entering or exiting the Gaza Strip (with the exception of insufficient humanitarian supplies and some aid workers). As the Israeli forces boarded the ships, at least 9 flotilla participants were killed while nearly 60 participants and 10 soldiers were injured. Eventually, all the ships were rerouted and the flotilla participants were arrested or deported. The siege of Gaza continues.

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem will hold a day of fasting and prayer on Monday, June 7, for the members of the flotilla, the people of Gaza, and for peace in Palestine and Israel. This litany is offered as a resource for individuals and congregations to use, in part or in whole. It can be adapted and read by 2 or 3 voices. We encourage pastors to use the litany in their Sunday services. []

Litany for Gaza

Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord. [Jeremiah 9:23-24]

Eternal God, arbiter of justice and champion of peace, reach into the deep pit of violence, despair, and ruthlessness that shapes the lives of so many in Palestine and Israel. The nations are in an uproar, kingdoms totter, people cry out.

You, O God, are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. [Matthew 5:9]

Grant, O God, healing to the men and women injured during the Israeli military assault. Bring grace and consolation to those who mourn the dead.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. [Hebrews 13:3]

God who has proclaimed release to the captives and freedom to the oppressed, may all who have been taken prisoner for their involvement in the flotilla return safely home. We remember these and others who are unjustly detained.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, who has sent me to proclaim release to the captives…and to let the oppressed go free.

Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” [Psalm 46:10]

Lord of all, make known to all in Palestine and Israel that your love extends to all people, that might is not right, that fear begets fear, that love conquers all. Give hope to the many who, in love, speak and act boldly for justice.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. [Jeremiah 6:13-14]

God of Justice, we pray that the nations of the world will no longer stand idly by, but uphold the rights of the oppressed in Gaza, the West Bank, and around the globe . We, the peoples of many lands, “reaffirm [our] faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” [UN Charter: Preamble]

Your judgements are just, O Lord, you will hold all nations accountable for what they have done, and also for what they have left undone.

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of justice will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. [Isaiah 32:16-18]

God who offers life in abundance, break the chains of injustice that shackle the people of Gaza. May the blockade that limits food and medicine, toys and cement, culture and trade, friendships and families be swiftly ended. May the people of Gaza and of the West Bank be brought together in unity.

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. For like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. [Isaiah 65]

“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." [Matthew 7:12]

God of equity, who knows no distinction between race or creed or colour, help us to be ever impatient in our encounter with injustice and abuse. As ambassadors for Christ, do not allow our hearts to be hardened, but let us live your message of justice, peace and reconciliation.

God, in your grace, transform the world.

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ELCA's Bishop Mark Hanson Responds to Gaza Ship Convoy Incident

ELCA Bishop Hanson Responds to Gaza Ship Convoy Incident

"Expressing regret for the deaths and injuries that resulted when Israeli military forces intercepted a ship convoy seeking to deliver humanitarian goods to Gaza, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), called for "a full, international and independent investigation into the matter," in a June 1 public statement."

See the full statement at this link:

Hanson spoke on behalf of the ELCA and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which he serves as president. He noted that "this tragic incident occurred on the first day of the World Council of Churches' World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel." []

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