Thursday, October 28, 2010

Munib Younan addressed the Roman Catholic leaders on Middle East issues

Bishop Younan Addresses Vatican Synod on the Middle East -

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:

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)

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:

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

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 -

"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 -

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 []. 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 []. 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 [].

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 []. 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:

Text of letter from President Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004:

“U.S. Believes Arab States Won’t Scuddle Mideast Talks,” Mark Landler and Ethan Bronner, The New York Times, October 8, 2010:

“ Diplomatic Memo: Risks and Advantages in U.S. Effort in the Mideast,” Marck Landler, The New York Times, October 5, 2010:

“Israeli loyalty oath bill stirs Arab-Israeli unease,” Joshua Mitnick, The Christian Science Monitor, October 7, 2010:

The Security and Cooperation Act of 2010 (S. 3847):

American Self-Defense Protection Act of 2010 (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:

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:

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 -

Find analysis and updates also on the web site of Churches for Middle East Peace -

`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 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:

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 -

“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 -

Gaza Panel report -

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem -

Boycotts and divestment -


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 -

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:

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:

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 ( or the EAPPI Communications Officer ( for permission. Thank you.

Faye and John's blog:

For more about EAPPI -

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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:

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

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Sabeel Conference Oct. 29-30 in St. Paul, Minn.

Friends of Sabeel Conference coming up Oct. 29-30 in St. Paul, Minn.

One Land, Two Peoples, Three Faiths: Time for Reconciliation and Peace
Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
October 29 & 30, 2010

Naim Ateek - Palestinian Anglican priest, founder/director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, author of Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation and A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation.

Mark Braverman - Jewish American with deep family roots in the Holy Land. Trained as a clinical psychologist, Mark now devotes himself full-time to the cause for peace in historic Palestine. In his work he focuses on the role of religious beliefs and theology in the current discourse on Israel/Palestine and the future of interfaith relations.

Don Wagner - The Rev. Donald Wagner is professor of religion and Middle Eastern studies at North Park University in Chicago. He is author of Anxious for Armageddon (1995) and Dying in the Land of Promise: Palestine and Palestinian Christianity from Pentecost to 2000 (2003).

Huwaida Arraf - Palestinian Christian who chairs the Free Gaza Movement, the organization behind the Gaza Freedom Flotillas. She is also a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement whose mission is to resist the Israeli occupation using nonviolent tactics. She is married to Adam Shapiro, another ISM co-founder, whom she met while both were working at the Jerusalem center of Seeds of Peace, an organization that seeks to foster dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian youth.

Craig and Cindy Corrie - They are the parents of Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Wash., who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza Strip, in March 2003. They have taken up their daughter's cause, making it their own through The Rachel Corrie Foundation.

Fouzi Slisli - Dr. Slisli is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. His areas of specialization include: Colonial and Imperial History; Race in Modern History; Islam and politics.

WORKSHOPS (subject to change)
Minnesota BDS Campaign, Sylvia Schwarz
The Work and Role of Christian Peacemakers, Diane Roe
US Campaign to End the Occupation, David Hosey
Gaza Today, Amal Ashour and Friends
Ecumenical Accompaniment and other Service Opportunities, Lynne Rigg
Seeds of Peace, School for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, Eric Kapenga
Getting to Know Each Other, (about Palestinian children for US children), Mary Davies

Click on a link below or paste into your browser to visit the St. Paul conference web page for updated information on speakers and workshops, keynote presentations, online registration, local hotels, and more:

Friends of Sabeel-North America -

Friends of Sabeel regional conferences are an effective tool for broadening awareness among western Christians on the issues relevant to the peoples of the Holy Land. Drawing on a rich pool of expertise in the fields of theology, biblical scholarship, church social justice teaching, regional history, international law, foreign policy and political currents, these educational events are able to attract wide participation from an ecumenical audience. Our speakers are individuals who represent the Palestinian Christian and Muslim communities as well as the Israeli Jewish community--religious leaders, scholars, writers and activists. American presenters come from all three religious traditions and from secular strands within the Sabeel movement.

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