Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas, Hebron, and a calendar for the new year

Christmas peace and joy to all my readers!

See Loren McGrail's blog for a wealth of resources for Christmas and beyond.  Loren served as an accompanier through the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Loren writes a wonderful reflection, these are just blips from her introduction. Please read the whole piece.
"On an ordinary starry night, a birth happened in a cave for animals. On an ordinary night, our holy and reconciling God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to be born as one of us, to become flesh and live among us, to illuminate our humanity so that we may find it shining forth in others and ourselves.
"Like John the Baptist then, we are called to testify to this light too, a light that shines both in us, through us, and around us. This light shines in the darkness and is not overcome by it. We are not the light but we are called to be light bearers. We are called to live into Christmas, to testify. (,,,)
"When I left Palestine in May, I was told that we would always be ecumenical accompaniers, that we had entered into a life long relationship and that our real work would begin when we returned to tell our story of what we saw, what we heard, what we witnessed. I am not sure what is more real but I do know that the work of remembering and telling, showing and describing is important and ongoing and that I can never return to not knowing or caring. The light has been turned on and I must go and tell it on the mountains, everywhere. The darkness of occupation too has been illuminated and must not be covered up or silenced."
See Loren's meditation at her blog, A Garment of Destiny.

Another Ecumenical Accompanier, Maria Santtos from Finland, provides just about the best thumbnail sketch of the Hebron situation on her blog, West of the Bank.

The yearly fundraising calendar for Gaza artists “Colors from Palestine” is ready. Support art in Palestine by ordering your calendars today. To view and order your copy of the 2012 “Colors from Palestine ” calendar click on the link below:
All proceeds from the sales of “Colors from Palestine ” 2012 Calendar will be donated to "The Young Artists forum" in Gaza.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bethlehem and Washington, D.C., joining for Prayer Service

Christ is Born, Glorify Him!
Save the Date!
Join friends in Bethlehem and Washington, D.C., for the fifth Annual Bethlehem Prayer Service

Saturday, December 17, 2011
10 AM  EST
Christ is Born, Glorify Him!
It's a joint simulcast service with the people of Bethlehem at the National Cathedral in Washington, Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW, Washington, DC.

Are you in the DC area?  Then you are invited to join worshipers in the National Cathedral. If you are anywhere else, we encourage to you gather with others in your community to watch the service live at on the internet. -
In Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians continue to bear witness to their faith this Christmas as they have done for generations.  Once again, let us join our voices with theirs in seeking and offering hope for a better future.

Beginning with music from the Wartburg College Choir at 8:45am CST: simulcast from Washington National Cathedral with Palestinian participants: Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan (sermon); Pr. Mitri Raheb of Christmas Lutheran; Bishop Suheil Dawani, Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. Via internet, you may join service live at

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternate between Washington, DC and Bethlehem via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
PDF Flyer available HERE.

Please post and distribute widely!


Here's a beautiful Advent prayer:

A Coming for All People
O God, I pray for peace and justice for all people.
O God, I pray for love and joy for all people.
O God, I pray for all children, women and men of the Holy Land.
Through my words and actions this day help me live as an instrument of
Your peace and justice.
Through my words and actions this day help me live as an instrument of
Your love and joy.
Let my expectations of God with us, of You with us, include all people.
Help me to be like Christ this and every season. Amen.

    —Doris Warrell (Churches for Middle East Peace)

Thank you, Doris.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent resources from Peace Not Walls

The ELCA's Peace Not Walls campaign provides a number of good links to Advent resources. I especially love the Advent calendar put forth by the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land - Look at it here.

And the Peace Not Walls home page features a video with the Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor at Christmas Lutheran Church and director of DIYAR Consortium in Bethlehem, giving his "Keys to Understanding" the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. 

Advent Resources

On the way to celebrate what happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, let us not forget the people who yearn for peace with justice now in Bethlehem and all over the Holy Land.  Here are some Advent reflections by various people and organizations to help us remember:

Churches for Middle East Peace Advent Reflections

Jan Miller: A Pilgrim’s Tale – Advent Reflections

Loren McGrail:  Returned Ecumenical Accompanier – Advent One Bulletin Insert

Church of Sweden and ELCJHL Advent Calendar 2010

All Peace Not Walls resources are at the home page for ELCA Peace Not Walls.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Family to be Evicted from East Jerusalem Home

An advocacy alert from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). This information comes from Peace Now.

Family of 12 to be Forcibly Evicted from their East Jerusalem Home

Nov 24, 2011 6:13 AM

The 12-member, Palestinian, Sumarin family received a court order to vacate its home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan by Monday, 28 November 2011 or the Israeli Police will forcibly evict them. 

The Sumarin family has been living for decades in their home. Yet, the Israeli government under the Absentee Property Law confiscated the family’s home, and then gave it to the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which leased the home through its subsidiary, Himnuta to Elad.

Elad an organization engaged in settling Jews in East Jerusalem; it also runs the nearby City of David national park. Elad built the visitors center of the “City of David” tourism site next to the Sumarin family’s house. Therefore, the house is a strategic site for settlers, as it would give them a large contiguous area at the entrance of Silwan.

The immoral and irresponsible acts of the JNF, its subsidiary, Himnuta, and Elad are only possible with the direct complicity of the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Government of Israel, and directly threaten the two-state solution and the possibility of realizing a just peace.

The prospect of being cut off again horrifies Ahmed Sumarin.

"I don't know what to do if they come with force. This is our home. My grandfather still lives here. Where will we go? If they take your home away, you can only go onto the street." 

Click here for more information from Peace Now

Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory and the international community has never recognized Israel’s annexation of the area in question. Consequently, Israel is vested only with temporary powers of administration, cannot impose domestic Israeli law, and perhaps most significantly, cannot transfer its own population to such an area. As discussed above, the cases of displacement in Silwan have been adjudicated in domestic Israeli courts contrary to international law and as a result of the evictions, Jewish Israelis have moved into occupied territory.

We encourage you to:
·       Forward this email to your networks
·       Inform your representative in parliament about what is happening in Imneizil
·       Contact the following officials and call on them to allow Palestinians in Area C to have free access to electricity, water and sewage infrastructure without the threat of demolitions:
o   Your Ambassador and/or Consul General in Israel
o   The Israeli Ambassador in your country   


Nader Hanna
Advocacy Officer
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine & Israel (EAPPI)
P.O. Box 741
Jerusalem 91000
Tel: +972 2 628 9402
Fax: +972 2 627 4499
Mobile: +972 54 815 7652

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Coming up in Chicago: Ingathering of the Faithful in Solidarity with Palestine

Chicago area friends, please share information about this good event and plan to participate yourself!
Interfaith Service
Nov. 29, 2011, 7:00 PM
Reception following the service will enable networking for future action

Wellington United Church of Christ
615 West Wellington
Chicago, Ill.

Here is a link to a flyer...

On the 29th of November, 1947, the United Nations adopted RESOLUTION 181, which stated that the British mandate of Palestine was to be partitioned. In what had been largely Arab territory, there were now to be two states, with 55 percent of the land given to the quickly expanding Jewish minority. 

International Solidarity Day was declared by the United Nations in 1977 to encourage Israel to honor UN RESOLUTION 181 and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. 

Come, let us gather and offer each other spiritual support to continue working for a just peace. Come, also to learn about new ways to act faithfully in our continued advocacy to end militarism, promote steadfast nonviolence, and challenge unjust US policies.

Ad hoc planning/working group:
American Friends Service Committee,
American Muslims for Palestine,
Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy,
Christian Peacemaker Teams — Chicago
Jewish Voice for Peace
MiddleEast Task Force of the Chicago Presbytery, and
Wellington Ave United Church of Christ

Contact Rev. Loren McGrail for more information
Contact for information on transportation and parking

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Russell Siler: Challenge the distorted, one-sided narratives heard in our churches and communities

Readers,  Correction: It was not the Silers I saw in Jerusalem but other good friends.

Russ Siler has revived his series of email comments. While this post is a little long for sharing in church newsletters, it is very worthwhile reading. I encourage you to find ways to share Russ Siler's message.

Russ writes:

What I have heard, seen, read, and watched in recent months has moved me to resume writing my occasional posts regarding the situation in Israel-Palestine. (...) If you do not wish to receive future posts, just let me know. If you have received this message from someone else and wish to be added to the e-list, again just let me know.
For Peace with Justice,
Russ Siler 

Home From Jerusalem # 1
27 October 2011

History tells us that some people can be good teachers in areas where they have no practical experience. Priests and other celibate ministers and practitioners can be excellent marriage counselors. Many athletic head coaches have excelled at their craft without having been players at a high level--or even players at all. We can receive valuable advice and guidance about extricating ourselves from deep financial difficulties from those who have never known financial adversity. However, I have reached the conclusion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and occupation is so overwhelmingly complex, nuanced, and oppressive that very, very few people can grasp the depth of its inhumanity without having witnessed firsthand the daily physical articulation of its brutality and the steady erosion of freedom and dignity which it engenders.

Certainly commentators can grasp the history and the politics of this tragic drama. They can recite the chronology of the battles and the lists of primary figures and the litany of conferences, accords, and agreements. They can propose one path to peace or jumpstart to justice after another. But if they have not lived in the bleak shadows of humiliation and bondage, they will know neither the sense of urgency nor the despair which are the constant companions of those who live in the land we in the West call “Holy.”

This conviction forced its way into my consciousness as an unwelcome thought some months ago. I have always tried to suppress the feeling that some can understand the pain and suffering better than others. I can no longer do so in good conscience. Israelis and Palestinians who walk in daily fear and hopelessness know better than anyone else. You and I can never say we know what they are going through. We can never know as they do. But it is my firm contention that those who have lived among the people there--watching through tears as their friends and neighbors, co-workers and colleagues, sisters and brothers struggle with the growing realization that the rest of the world does not care enough to demand justice--are far better equipped to comprehend what the headlines report to the world.

Time after time in these past months I have seen headlines and heard stories about how the Israelis “want peace” or are willing to “negotiate terms of peace” or are ready to make “painful concessions,” but the Palestinians just “refuse to come to the table.” While there may be a grain of truth to some of these stories, it is virtually impossible for most observers in this country to discern such a meager morsel buried within the layers of misperception, misdirection, and media mouthing of a narrative that is anything but accurate or neutral. However, when one has lived in the heart of the matter, the realities become much more obvious. There is one of these realities which transcends all the others--when seen up close without the dimming distortion of distance: Israel is doing all it can to delay actual negotiations with the Palestinians on territory, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem until it has taken as much land as the rest of the world will allow. While the world hears of peace processes, pre-conditions, demands, and time lines, the Israeli settlement enterprise moves inexorably forward. There is a clear pattern, now more than a generation old. The government announces that it will build 1100 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, or somewhere else in occupied territory; various government officials in other countries issue statements of displeasure and concern; the Israeli Prime Minister’s office offers an innocuous explanation; the 1100 disappear from headlines; and the building continues as announced.  Soon the public conversation about “facts on the ground” will include these new houses which are illegal according to international law. This is nothing new; it has been going on for decades. Small wonder the people living there long ago learned that justice is what nations of the world demand for themselves, only not for others.

The people who live in Israel-Palestine--except those who choose to cover their eyes and block their ears to avoid the truth--know well this pattern. They also know full well that those whose actions support the pattern are handled gently by the authorities. Thus, militant settlers who openly violate even Israeli laws by building what are euphemistically termed “outposts” are often given years of grace before their ramshackle dwellings on expropriated Palestinian land are finally removed. Elected officials such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman can openly advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and still maintain his high office. Most people in this country have never heard of Lieberman, because he never comes here to represent Israel. If he did, America would hear his racist rant. But to Israelis and Palestinians and, indeed, to all who live there his hatred is constantly apparent.

Now this lack of knowledge is largely understandable. It is extremely difficult to grasp even the obvious nuances of the circumstances across thousands of miles. In my opinion it is essential to listen to a variety of voices and perspectives, but it is vital to hear the viewpoints of those who have lived there. Based on such an opinion, there are then two groups of people for whom I have a great deal of concern. First, I am deeply troubled, even embarrassed, by those who seem to listen only to individuals and groups who have an absolute bias in one direction or another. Those who believe the Palestinians have a monopoly on truth and integrity are wrong, but at least their views do little, at the present, to further support the occupation of the Palestinian people. Their Israeli-supporting counterparts, on the other hand, do strengthen immeasurably our American government’s one-sided, unquestioning partnership with Israel, while simultaneously undermining the efforts of my church...and yours. 

Second, I am literally ashamed of the Congress of the United States, with the exception of those Senators and Representatives who steadfastly seek a balanced truth. In contrast to ordinary citizens who must rely on the witness and testimony of others, Members of Congress have long known the truth about conditions in the Holy Land. They are well aware that the “conflict” is not a conflict. It is an occupation in which Israel is in complete control. Furthermore, Members of Congress know explicitly that the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise may be the single greatest impediment to peace that now exists. Some months ago when a joint session of Congress gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not only the opportunity to speak to them, but also a standing ovation, I fear that oppressed peoples the world over felt the hope of freedom diminish palpably. The day after Netanyahu’s appearance I struggled mightily to avoid thinking that Congress had sold their positions as arbiters of fairness and justice for a boost in their re-election chances. My struggle failed; I could not avoid that realization.

Hope is not lost. It seems to me that--no matter the outcome of the Palestinians’ actions in the United Nations--so many, many more people will be moved to take a closer look at what is going on and, possibly, will begin to question the assumptions they have always taken for granted. You and I can help immeasurably by challenging the distorted, one-sided narratives we hear in our churches and communities. We can support those religious and secular organizations and movements who demand an honest rendering of the realities; that, in and of itself, will go a long way toward peace with justice. We can stand with Israeli and Jewish groups like J-Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions as they courageously attest to the need for all people in Historic Palestine to live with security and freedom. Finally, we can communicate with our nations’ decision-makers the truth that there are two peoples, not one, who live in that land. Both are in need of justice.

Russell O. Siler

Russell Siler
412 William St. NW
Leesburg, VA 20176

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shepherd's Scouts of Beit Sahour Organize "Freedom Marathon"

Here's an uplifting story from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).

Shepherd's Scouts of Beit Sahour Organize "Freedom Marathon"

JERUSALEM, 30 October 2011 – Earlier this month the Shepherd’s Scout group of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour invited their community to come out, come together, and run, bringing back to life a long-standing tradition of ‘town marathons’—races that traverse the streets (and hills) of the small West Bank community of Beit Sahour.

Generations of Beit Sahourians have grown up watching and participating in races like this, but due to lack of funding, town races had not occurred for the last few years.
And so, the young leaders of the Shepherd’s Scout group decided to take on this year’s planning, preparation, and execution themselves.  “We are capable of organizing such an event,” the youth said, “and we will prove it to the community.”

The youth decided to call their race the “Freedom Marathon” to inspire the community to continue along the long path toward peace, justice, security, and freedom for Palestine and Israel.

The enthusiasm of the youth was so infectious that soon the Beit Sahour municipality, many local organizations, and the community at large were eager to support and to be a part of the upcoming event.

More than four months of preparation and countless hours of work later, it was a joy for these young leaders to see 380 participants line up to run and countless more community members turn out to cheer on the runners and join in the festivities.

See the complete story are this link.

Visit the website of the ELCJHL to read about other recent events, to browse photos, or learn about the mission and ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Faith leaders urge action at the White House

Dear friends,

Excellent post from the ELCA's Peace Not Walls team...

Bishop Hanson and other faith leaders visit White House officials to urge action on Israel and Palestine peace

12 Nov 2011
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, and other ecumenical faith leaders met with White House officials to express urgency and encourage action on the situation in Israel and Palestine.   According to Hanson, continued meetings with the Obama administration are “a priority because of our commitment to our companions in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. It is also carried out in the commitment we have made in the ELCA’s Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.

“As we began our conversation with Mr. Ross, I expressed disappointment. We hear our Christian partners in the region question the United States’ commitment. They wonder why the U.S. has not been more vocal about the increased settlement construction. I told Mr. Ross that we repeatedly hear Palestinian churches say they see this as a moment of abdication by the U.S. administration.”

Hanson said afterwards that, “More progress must be made toward the goal of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Since our meeting a year ago, the prospects for peace seem to have diminished with the expansion of settlements and the absence of face-to-face negotiations.”

According to a Nov. 10 news release from Churches for Middle East Peace, the church leaders who attended the Nov. 8 meeting said they are disappointed with developments since their 2010 meeting at the White House.

“The position of the Palestinian Christian community is precarious,” stated the release. “There are constant problems of obtaining visas for clergy who must travel outside Jerusalem and the West Bank. Restriction on movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is a problem that undermines Christian life. Church leaders are humiliated at check points.”

Ecumenical leaders at this year’s White House meeting included Hanson; Katharine Jefferts Shori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church; Denis James Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman-elect of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Neil Irons, executive secretary of the Methodist Council of Bishops; and Sara Lisherness, director of compassion, peace and justice for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
The meeting was arranged by Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of 24 national church denominations and organizations working to encourage U.S. government policies that promote a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Read full ELCA story.

Not just my morning bus driver
12 Nov 2011

As a YAGM (Young Adult in Global Mission) serving at the Dar Al-Kalima School (DAK) in Bethlehem, but living in Beit Sahour, I am privileged with the opportunity of riding the school bus with the kids everyday to and from school (I have to admit that I really do find this as a great privilege since I was “denied” such privilege growing up as a child).  While the kids are pretty fun on the bus, quiet in the morning and crazy loud in the afternoon with lots of singing and sometimes even a impromptu ice-cream stop, it is the morning bus driver that I would like to post about.  To be honest, I don’t even know his name.  He picks me up every morning with one of the biggest grins on his face, we exchange polite sabah ilher’s (good morning) and kif halak’s (how are you) and then start on the morning route to pick up the rest of the kids.  Now, the buses aren’t like buses in America.  1) They aren’t yellow  and 2) they are the same buses that also run from Beit Sahour to Bethlehem everyday so it is more like DAK rents the bus every morning and afternoon, but when school is not in session the bus drivers are the same bus drivers who drive the other routes throughout town.  The typical bus pick up is at the main village intersection where one would also go to catch a taxi, go to the supermarket, or even buy fresh produce.  As I visit this intersection quite often for one reason or another, without fail every time my morning school bus driver sees me he rushes over to check to see where I am going, what I want, or if I need anything.  Most the time, I am really just buying some veggies, but it is always reassuring when I am trying to catch a taxi that he stops me, asks where I am going, and tells the taxi driver to make sure I get there.  1)He makes sure that I get a fair price on taxis (which sometimes can be hard when you don’t always know what a fair taxi price is and you look like a tourist) and 2) he just makes the whole process a lot more comfortable (as I actually get intimidated trying to get from one place or another).  I don’t always know what he is saying (he doesn’t really speak any English and well, my Arabic is also quite limited), but he continues to put a smile on my face and I know if I ever needed anything I could always run down to the intersection and if he was there he would help me with anything.
I guess I am telling this story, not just to tell you about my bus driver, but to illustrate how friendly people are here in Palestine.  The people you meet here, even briefly, even if you don’t know their names, become those who you can rely on in any situation.  People here go out of their way to say hello to you if you past them in the street or invite you over for coffee even if you met them only briefly going to the market.  I think, or I guess I know, that there are many misconceptions regarding Palestinians, but to be honest I feel safer, more welcomed, and more at peace here, when I am among Palestinians than I did back home.  Despite what might be read in the news or what is going on at the negotiation tables, my morning bus driver, the English teacher at my school, those I work with at the Lajee Center in Aida refugee camp, the taxi driver who tells me about his love for America are the true peacemakers here and I can only pray that others of the region, others of the world, can learn the true meaning of peace from them.
-Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, YAGM, J/WB 2011-2012

--- --- ---
To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

US Churches and Palestine's bid for UN membership

From the World Council of Churches' Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum

US Christian leaders say yes to Palestine UN membership

1 Nov. 2011

Dear friends,

We write to you to share with you a statement from four denominations in the USA on the question of the Palestinian Authority’s bid for membership in the United Nations.

The statement was signed by Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Geoffrey Black of the United Church of Christ, Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Jim Winkler of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

Their endorsement argues that United Nations membership is not only deserved on the basis of international law as well as basic fairness but essential to be able to “preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians”.

The leaders state that they “stand united in prayer for peace and reconciliation among Jews, Christians, and Muslims”. They strongly assert their conviction that regardless of the outcome of the UN vote, there is so substitute for “two-party, two-state negotiations” through which outstanding issues would be resolved. They hope that the Obama Administration would not veto Palestinian membership in the United Nations, and caution that such a move “would put further pressure on Palestinian Christians and Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East”.

They also see as unwise and counter-productive “moves in Congress to cut development aid to the Palestinian Authority to punish it for seeking UN membership”. This would “erode the quality-of-life improvements that have been achieved in the West Bank”.

The statement reiterates the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security and further argues that “UN membership for Palestine would be a step in that direction”. They also invite those who might be at variance with their stated views to “to visit Palestine and Israel, to go through the walls surrounding Bethlehem and Gaza, to understand the economic chokehold of the occupation”.

This invitation echoes the call from Kairos Palestine, and groups such as Alternative Tourism group who are promoting pilgrimages for transformation to ‘Come and See’ the “truth of our reality” and at the same time to “say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land”.

In a recent statement the World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit had urged strong action by the UN on behalf of Palestine. He referred to the Palestinian membership bid as “a unique opportunity for the UN to take important decisions to fulfil its role and mandate according to the UN Charter”. Tveit called for “different initiatives to build stability in the region” to go hand in hand. Negotiations were not to be seen as an alternative to the Palestinian quest for UN membership.

The Palestine-Israel Ecumenical forum (PIEF) reiterates its call and urges PIEF constituents world-wide to initiate actions that inform and influence public opinion in favour of UN action, and keep up pressure through active lobbying with their governments to vote for the full membership of Palestine at the United Nations.

-- -- --

For more about the United Nations and Palestine, see these links:

UN News Center - Breaking news from the UN News Center

The Question of Palestine - The United Nations page dedicated to the overview and issues related to Palestine.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Naim Ateek will speak in Milwaukee, Atlanta

Friends, I point your attention to two opportunities to hear the Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel.  The first is at Milwaukee, Wis., where Ateek is a presentor at the Nov. 4-6 Call to Action--National Conference.  

Please tell all your contacts in the Milwaukee area about this event. On Nov. 4, Naim Ateek will be speaking on "Palestine/Israel: The Struggle for a Just Peace." Call to Action's conference is called the largest annual gathering of progressive justice-seeking Catholics. 

Now the main event: I urge you to take part in the Nov. 10-12 Sabeel Conference in Atlanta this month. If you are not in the Atlanta area or able to travel there, please share this information widely with your congregation and networks.  This conference is of special interest as it draws upon the heritage of the American civil rights movement.

Find the details at the FOSNA website, or read below.

Sabeel Conference
Atlanta - Nov. 10 - 12, 2011

From Birmingham to Bethlehem:
The Power of Nonviolence in the US and Palestine-Israel

Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3003 Howell Mill Road NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30327

For more information call: 404-842-2198

Full Conference: $75 per person
Includes: Thursday presentation, Friday lunch, dinner and presentations, Saturday breakfast, lunch and presentations

Daily rate: $45 for one day;  $30 for students

  • The Rev. Naim Ateek: Founder and leader of Sabeel.  
  • Anna Baltzer: Award winning lecturer, author, and Jewish-American activist, National Organizer for the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation and author of Witness in Palestine.  
  • Dr. Jesse Benjamin: : Associate Professor of Sociology, Kennesaw State University, his teaching and research interests include: the “Middle East”, race, nationalism, multiculturalism, and forced Bedouin resettlement in Israel.  
  • Dr. Mark Braverman: Jewish-American activist devoted to the Israel/Palestine conflict and author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land.  
  • Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall: Founding director of the Women’s Resource and Research Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College.  
  • Dr. Maia Hallward: Assistant Professor of Political Science, Kennesaw State University, author of Struggling for a Just Peace: Israeli and Palestinian Activisim in the Second Intifadah; lived and worked in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan for four years.  
  • The Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette: Original Freedom Rider, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and Distinguished Senior Scholar in Residence, Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  
  • Manal Tamimi: Palestinian representative from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, where community members are using non-violent action to challenge the Israeli Government who are taking over village land for a nearby settlement.
Click this link to see the full conference schedule.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dear friends, I am on a little time-out as I visit friends following meetings in Jerusalem related to my work with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.

I noticed this article from Christian Peacemaker Teams.  Last week I made a day trip to Hebron and Yatta and other parts of the south Hebron hills, and I saw the devastating effects of draught and lack of access to water - so Reinhard Kober's article struck me.

Al Khalil (Hebron): Water shortage - a daily Palestinian experience
by Reinhard Kober

Abu Jamal is head of a well known family in Halhul, to the north of Al Khalil. It is a beautiful town, on top of a hill, surrounded by fields and lovely gardens. Like other cities in the Palestinian controlled area A it’s population has grown from some 3.000 in the sixties to 30.000 now. Because of this, the infrastructure must expand greatly. Every year there is a need to open a new school.

Living east of the green line border Abu Jamal and his sons, as many other people, lost the possibility to work in Israel. Developing their own business, they invested in greenhouses, cultivated eggplants and tomatoes and were generally successful, at least at first. But that has changed . When asked him how farming is going, he shrugs his shoulders, and his face shows immediately, that things are becoming worse. “We don’t have the water we need. Just three hours of water access per week is not enough. Buying water in tanks is too expensive. We can’t do anything.”

Listening him I am reminded of my last walk to the vegetable market in Al Khalil / Hebron. When the Israel army shut down the old market next to the Avraham Avenu settlement, which violats the Sharm-Al-Sheikh agreement between Israel and Palestine, the entire city suffered. Reading piles of boxes with Hebrew labels, you get an idea of how Israeli companies make much profit by taking advantage of the inadequate water resources. According OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and an Amnesty International report Palestinians are denied next to their own water aquifer, which is under their own land. On average Israelis use 300 liters of water per day, Palestinians only 60 liters. Palestinians are not even allowed to dig their own wells. The situation in area C, which is controlled by Israeli forces is worse. Cisterns, which collect rainwater, are often destroyed by the Israeli army, to make life in this area more difficult. An official said: “It’s easy to make the fields bloom in dry areas (in Israel) when you deny others the use of their own water. “

For Abu Jamal it is important that his children get good education. He wants them to study in Abu Dis University, which is very expensive. That’s why he is risking a lot, sneaking across the border to earn money with an illegal job in Israel and sleeping without a shelter. On the one hand he finished his report, saying again: “What we can do?” On the other hand I am still thinking, he is still hoping for a better future for his growing family – not giving up.

-- --

These issues of water deprivation, loss of economic opportunity and injustice do not get much attention in the conventional media. Please do more reading on this and encourage others to be informed.  See the most recent OCHA Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (it's a pdf file).

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to the website and subscribe:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Urge members of Congress to unfreeze aid to Palestinians

This important action alert from Churches for Middle East Peace

Urge your members of Congress to unfreeze U.S. aid to Palestinians
U.S. Aid is helping lay the foundation for Peace

Last week we found out that members of Congress have placed a hold on about $340 million of U.S. aid to Palestinians in response to the Palestinian application for statehood recognition in the United Nations. This hold impacts the aid funds already allocated for the 2011 fiscal year that ended on September 30.

Your Representative and/or Senator serves on a key committee that is responsible for blocking these funds. Therefore you can have a very real impact on this detrimental policy by writing your elected official today. Let your Representative or Senator know that you oppose this freezing of U.S. aid funds. 

Call or write now to urge your members of Congress to move past punitive measures and continue the funding that is helping to lay the groundwork for a future peace.

The freezing of these funds, which was actually put in place in August, has already impacted some of USAID’s projects on the ground in the Palestinian Territories. Municipal infrastructure projects such as road and building construction have stopped and there is a distinct chance the cut-off in funds could harm health care projects in the region that are seeking to train medical workers and rehabilitate hospitals. Funds have also been frozen that directly impact the Palestinian Security Forces that keep order in the West Bank and therefore the Palestinian Authority as well.

Write to your member of Congress today.  Tell them that the current hold on funding is detrimental to long-term peace efforts.

Many experts and analysts have voiced opposition to this move to cut off funding to Palestinians because it could destabilize the region and damage prospects for future peace. Officials from the Obama Administration, State Department, and development agencies are in negotiations with key members of Congress to unblock the aid.

But your members of Congress are key in changing this policy. Because of their positions on the congressional committees that control these funds, it is vital that they hear from you that you oppose the block on aid to Palestinians. Tell your elected officials in Washington that it is time to move past punitive measures and provide the funding that is vital for U.S., Palestinian, and Israeli interests alike. 

-- -- 

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizationsincluding Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region. | 202-543-1222
110 Maryland Avenue NE | Suite 311 | Washington, DC 20002

--- --- --- 

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to the website and subscribe:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

North Park College to host Naim Ateek

Friends in the Chicago area, see this notice regarding an Oct. 16 opportunity to hear Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, the liberation theology center in Jerusalem. 

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Amy Kienzle: Life lessons from the people of Palestine

Pastor Amy Kienzle served as an ecumenical accompanier in Hebron and introduces us to the community there in her excellent feature story, "Life lessons from the people of Palestine," published in The Epistle, the magazine of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Here is a sample:
"In May, I returned from three months in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestineand Israel. My placement was in the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank. Our work was to live with and accompany Palestinians and Israelis working for peace and an end to occupation. This included monitoring checkpoints every day as children went to and from school, being a protective presence in places where there has been tension with Israeli army and settlers, visiting with people in their homes and listening to their stories, and documenting and reporting human rights violations.

"This work has profoundly changed me in ways that I can’t articulate or even discern yet. It will be through sharing the stories of the people and my own experiences that I will begin to understand what it all means for my life and work. I would like to share a few of the things I learned in Hebron and from the Palestinians, who so generously welcomed us into their lives.

"Dignity and hospitality are inextricably linked
The village of Amniyr in the South Hebron Hills was demolished three times while we were there. On March 29 we went to see the damage done that morning, when the Israeli army bulldozed the tents that the Red Cross had given the people to live in the last time their homes were destroyed. We walked from family to family, offering our sympathy for their loss. At every demolished home site were small fires with kettles atop them. The people offered us tea and invited us to drink with them around the rubble of their homes. Even though they had lost so much, still they gave what little they had. Their dignity remained intact. They didn’t need houses to provide welcome and hospitality to a stranger."

Please read Amy's full article at this web link: 
Go to pages 10-11 to find Amy Kienzle's story, "Life lessons from the people of Palestine."

Amy concludes:
"Although my work as an Ecumenical Accompanier is done (at least for now), I now begin the work of being an Ecumenical Advocate. I will speak on behalf of the people I met in Palestine, whose voices are often lost when we talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is work to which everyone who cares about justice is called.

"If you are one of those people, you can help bring peace by telling our Congress that we support real negotiations for peace and we do not want our tax dollars spent on home demolitions and checkpoints that keep people from having the freedom God promises to all people. It is the work of God’s kingdom, to bring peace with justice to people everywhere. Wouldn’t it be a sign of God’s promise if this could be a reality in the Holy Land! Insha’allah (God willing).

"To learn more about the situation you can check out the links on my blog at or the Peace not Walls website of the ELCA ( There is a new blog there that keeps people informed of the issues and what we can do to help bring peace with justice to the Holy Land."

Read Amy's entire story on pages 10-11 of The Epistle, Summer 2011 edition.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lutheran news: new and old

I missed a news story from the ELCA news service last week.  Scroll down past recent news for a story from last spring.

September 23, 2011
ELCA Bishop extends support for Lutherans In Jordan, Holy Land

CHICAGO (ELCA) - The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Mark S. Hanson, sent a letter on Sept.  22 to Bishop Munib Younan and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), expressing the support of this church for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

             Hanson drafted the letter in response to growing tensions in the Middle East as Palestine submitted a formal proposal for full membership in the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council is expected to consider the request next week.

      “As leaders of government debate Palestinian membership in the United Nations, we want you to know of our continued commitment to accompany you on the road to a just two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hanson wrote. He noted the ELCA’s commitment runs deeper than national interest and reflects “active engagement in Palestine and Israel as it is articulated in the ELCA Peace Not Walls Campaign.”

      Earlier in the week Hanson wrote to President Barack Obama, asking the United States not to block an initiative to admit Palestine as a member state of the United Nations. Such a move, the bishop observed, would be acting not only in the best interests of the United States, but of all people in the region.

      Outbreaks of violence have been escalating in the region, especially around security checkpoints, which have raised concerns about the 14 ELCA church workers currently supporting the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Robert O. Smith, area program director for the Middle East and North Africa, and coordinator of the Peace Not Walls campaign, reported that the ELCA has been involved in security and contingency planning for several weeks.

      “We are concerned not only for the safety and security of our ELCA church workers, but for the well-being of our companions in the ELCJHL and all persons who may be caught in potentially dangerous situations,” Smith said. “Our Young Adults in Global Mission are especially concerned for the safety and security of the Muslim and Christian children they accompany every day in the schools.”

      Of the 14 ELCA church workers serving in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, five have long-term assignments, six are Young Adults in Global Mission and three are with The Lutheran World Federation program in Jerusalem.

      The ELCJHL and the ELCA are members of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion with 145 member churches in 79 countries representing over 70 million Lutherans.

      “At such a time it is important to reach out to sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land,” said Hanson. “For the unity we share in Christ is stronger than all the forces that might divide us. That unity calls for our public witness as we join with other Christians, Jews and Muslims advocating for a lasting and just two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. It compels us to reject violence by any party to the conflict.”

      The presiding bishop said, “It is my hope that ELCA members are praying for peace even as they deepen their awareness of the issues and advocate for a peaceful and just resolution. We join with Muslims, Jews and other Christians trusting it is God's will to hold heaven and earth in a single peace.”
ELCA Peace Not Walls -

ELCA Israel and Palestine advocacy -

--  --

And, looking for resources on another subject I came across this great article in last May's edition of The Lutheran magazine:

Green is a color for hope
Lutheran center grows environmental awareness among Palestinians

Riad Abu Saadah holds a small yellow-green bird in his hand. Sitting in a circle around him, schoolchildren from around Beit Jala, Palestine, crane their necks to see it.

A bird is never just a bird; "there is a name for every bird," he said, gently cradling the green finch. "This is a sifri."

The children have come to the Evangelical Lutheran Church Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala to learn about Palestinian natural heritage. Situated on the rolling green hills of the Talitha Kumi Lutheran School, the center is an oasis of green. Its pine trees and local plants are a welcome respite from what most of the children encounter daily — a crowded urban environment of cement, asphalt, roadside pollution and checkpoints.

(...) Launched in 1986 under a different name (Education for Awareness and Involvement), the center began as a joint effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and Birzeit University to include care for creation in the Lutheran school curriculum.

Read the whole article at this link.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Archbishop Chacour: We are not condemned, rather we are privileged to live together

Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Melkite Catholic Church shared some thoughts in a recent letter to Pilgrims of Ibillin, supporters of the Mar Elias schools program in the Galilee area.

Among his comments I want to share this portion, and I encourage you to meditate on  and discuss Father Chacour's ideas:
"For long we have stopped thinking that we in the Holy Land are condemned to live together, despite all the suffering, the disappointments and the disillusionment. Instead, we opt for a new approach: we are not condemned to live together, we are rather privileged to live together, to accept each other and to become a sign of hope for our local people, for the Middle East and for all those thousands who visit the Holy Places.

"Despite what appears on the political news we remain hopeful and are encouraged to see more and more officials on the Palestinian side seeking the implementation of their ancestors' rights, without any denial of any similar rights on the Jewish side. Charity and peace can start only when there is a genuine mutual recognition of each other.

"You have been extremely important with your solidarity to encourage us all, teachers and students, to persevere in our search for God in the face of our neighbors. The present difficult time of the stiffening of positions shows a real, deep fear that was planted and nurtured over the last 63 years since the creation of the State of Israel.

"I call on you, dear brothers and sisters, to continue believing that you personally can make a difference for the better..."

For more about Archbishop Chour, please see this link.

For information about Archbishop Chacour's books and the work of Mar Elias, check this book list.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bishop Mark Hanson urges the president not to block Palestinian statehood

Here is a message from ELCA Peace Not Walls...
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 08:30 AM PDT
In a letter today, the Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, urged President Obama not to block the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. US officials have vowed to use the US veto power to block the Palestinian initiative asking for full member status at the UN. In preparation for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a settlement freeze, one of the Palestinian demands for renewing negotiations, would not happen. The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem recently issued a statement calling for two states having justice, peace and security, a shared Jerusalem and renewed negotiations to those ends. They also urged restraint on both sides in anticipated protests after the bid is introduced.

Read Haaretz Article | See more resources at Churches for Middle East Peace website
BBC Q and A about Palestinian statehood 
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 08:27 AM PDT
The most recent CMEP bulletin from September 16 focuses on the events leading up the Palestinian request for statehood and full inclusion at the UN. It gives some background of the different positions and statements made by leaders in the weeks prior to this historic event.

It also includes reports on the current situation on the ground concerning the forceable relocation of bedouins and the most recent “price tag” events carried out by Israeli settlers in response to outposts being demolished by the Israeli government.
You can read the newsletter here.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ELCA Action Alert: Say Yes to Peace, Say Yes to Palestine

Take Action

Tell the President: Say Yes to Peace, Say Yes to Palestine
September 23, 2011
For all who care about peace in the Middle East, the spotlight now is on the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Anticipating a Palestinian bid for UN membership, leader after leader have taken to the stage to address the question. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the Assembly today. This morning, President Abbas submitted an application to the UN for Palestine to be recognized as a full member state. The prospect of a bid for UN membership has provoked a recent stream of threats to Palestinian aid from Congress.

Earlier this week, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson sent a letter to President Obama urging support for Palestinian self-determination. He wrote, "It is my hope the U.S. will act in its own best interest as well as the interest of all people in the region by not blocking the initiative to admit Palestine as a Member State of the United Nations."
He stressed the importance of our accompaniment of our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers, saying, "Our Church's relationship with our Christian companions in the region provides me with a constant and troubling awareness of the daily suffering that persists because of the failure to resolve the conflict."

Take action now: Tell the President that as a Christian who cares about a just peace for all, you want the U.S. to support the Palestinians' quest for self-determination. Tell him you believe this is a legitimate way to pursue a just and lasting peace for the benefit of Palestinians and Israelis.

Send your message also to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice at the UN: The Honorable Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, VIA FAX: (212) 415-4443; PHONE: (212) 415-4000.


Bishop Hanson said in his letter to the President, "The objective of the initiative at the United Nations is to achieve a two-state solution, an objective we share with your administration. We agree with your statement to the UN last year that those who seek such a solution, '...should reach for what's best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.'"

You can also read more about the issue in the recent ELCA news release.


TAKE ACTION TODAY: Tell the President the time is now for an independent Palestine to be recognized alongside Israel. Tell him you support the non-violent approach of turning to the international forum of the UN to pursue this goal.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jerusalem Heads of Churches Statement Concerning Palestine and the UN

Heads of Churches in Jerusalem Release Statement Concerning Upcoming Palestinian UN Statehood Bid

Find the Statement here and share it with your networks and the media.

Looking toward the upcoming Palestinian UN Statehood Bid, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem released a statement last week. 

We invite you to read the statement below: 

Looking ahead to the upcoming General Assembly of the United Nations in this September 2011 and the bid for Palestinian statehood, the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem feel the need to intensify the prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, see this as the most appropriate time for such an opportunity, and thus wish to reiterate the following principles upon which we agree:

  • A two-state solution serves the cause of peace and justice.
  • Israelis and Palestinians must live each in their own independent states with peace, security and justice, respecting human rights, according to international law.
  • Negotiations are the best way to resolve all outstanding problems between the two sides.
  • Palestinians and Israelis should exercise restraint, whatever the outcome of the vote at the United Nations.
  • Jerusalem is a Holy City to the followers of all three Abrahamic faiths, in which all people should be able to live in peace and tranquility, a city to be shared by the two peoples and the three faiths.   
Thus, we call upon decision makers and people of good will, to do their utmost to achieve the long awaited justice, peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians so that the prophecy of Prophet David is lived again:

"Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Ps. 85: 10)

12 September 2011

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From Sabeel, two statements on Palestine and the UN and the Wave of Prayer

Two Sabeel Statements and the Wave of Prayer from Sabeel

The UN: Problem or Solution is a short statement from Sabeel to help friends understand what might happen in the UN after September 20, 2011.

Dilemmas and Opportunities Facing the Palestinian People is a much longer version offering our friends a more detailed background material about the pros and cons of what might transpire.

Every Thursday in Jerusalem friends of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center, gather for prayer. Here's the focus:

The 21st of September is the day the UN General Assembly starts its new session for 2011. Let us keep this date in our thoughts and prayers, especially that the Palestinian Leadership will be submitting its bid for the recognition of Palestine as a member state.  We pray that all UN decisions will be made on the basis of Justice, and that the powerful will refrain from applying double-standards that discriminate against the weaker states.

Israeli settlers on the West-Bank have accelerated their aggression in the past two weeks.  They set fire to three mosques in villages around the city of Nablus. They also painted graffiti abusive to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad on the walls of the mosques.  In the West-Bank town of Bir-Zeit, settlers sprawled abusive graffiti on the walls of Bir-Zeit University and one of the mosques in town.  Israeli settlers also physically attacked a Bethlehem University lecturer and a female student on their way to University.  We pray that the Government of Israel will take measures to put an end to such attacks, and that the settlers would realize that they cannot continue to occupy another people's land forever.

The Human Rights organization, B'tselem, draws the attention to the way the Israeli army, violently, deals with peaceful demonstrations on the West-Bank, especially most recently, in the West-bank village of Nabi-Saleh near Ramallah. B'tselem fears that this is an indication of the way the Israeli army plans to deal with further peaceful demonstrations the Palestinians may hold to express the affirmation of their rights to statehood and self-determination.  We pray that the Israeli government will itself recognize Palestinian rights and the right of people to demonstrate peacefully.

Sabeel's founder Rev. Naim Ateek took part in a conference in the Netherlands last week, organized by the Netherlands Kairos Palestine Group. The event was to discuss, promote and spread the "Kairos Palestine- Document "A Moment of Truth." We pray for all those who attended the conference - speakers and participants - that they will speak a word of truth for the glory of God, and for the sake of peace in Palestine and Israel.

Click this link for a short video with Naim Ateek and Stephen Sizer in the Netherlands.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

CMEP Resources on Palestinian Initiative at the UN

The 2011 session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on September 13 in New York City. During this gathering of the global community, the Palestinian Authority is expected to request statehood recognition at the United Nations. There is little clarity and much speculation on what form this request will take and what impact it will have.

CMEP has put together a collection of materials from trusted sources on the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations. These resources offer a combination of legal details, facts, and analysis of the possible Palestinian actions at the UN and potential results and consequences of those actions. Click this link for Resources on the Palestinian Initiative at the United Nations.

An example is Al-Haq’s Questions & Answers on Palestine’s September Initiatives at
the United Nations. Al-Haq is a Palestinian human rights organization.

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Join in worldwide prayers on International Day of Prayer for Peace

This is a much-abbreviated clip of a bulletin distributed by the World Council of Churches.

Prayers and signs of commitment will be offered for the International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 Sept. Observances in parishes and on Facebook grow out of a May World Council of Churches peace convocation in Jamaica.

"The Palestinian Coalition of Christian Organizations, with Palestinian Moslem brothers and internationals, will celebrate at the YMCA Shepherds' Field in Beit Sahour with much commitment and dedication to work for peace and human dignity,“ writes Nidal Abuzuluf, in Palestine.

Click this link for resources and much more about International Day of Prayer for Peace.

--- --- --- 

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Friday, September 16, 2011

ELCA concern intensifies for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

ELCA Peace Not Walls Newsletter -  14 Sept. 2011

Recent acts of violence and the potential for violence against civilians intensify concerns for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In recent weeks, there have been several reports of violence against civilians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as nearby countries in the Middle East region. These reports point toward an increasingly disturbing trend that may lead to more violence against civilian populations in the near future. This increased violence takes place within the contexts of 1) the ongoing series of revolutions in the Middle East known as the 'Arab Spring,' and 2) increased international diplomatic efforts for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state. The ELCA has important resources for reflecting on the trend toward violence in the region.

As noted in a recent Security Council briefing by Lynn Pascoe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs,
"On 1 August, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) shot and killed two Palestinians during a search-and-arrest operation in the Qalandiya refugee camp. Five Israeli soldiers were injured in that operation.... On 2 August, the IDF issued restraining orders against 12 settlers from a village south of Nablus who were suspected of so-called 'price tag activities' against Palestinians. The Secretary-General has consistently called for perpetrators of such incidents to be brought to justice."

Pascoe also reported that terrorists of unclear origins targeted several civilian vehicles and one military vehicle on August 18 in southern Israel.
"The coordinated attacks resulted in the death of eight Israelis, including two soldiers and six civilians. Egyptian security forces cooperated with the (IDF) on their side of the border to counter the attacks. However, five Egyptian security personnel died in the operation."

"Citing intelligence attributing the attacks to a Palestinian group based in Gaza, Israel conducted 45 air strikes on Gaza that killed 19 Palestinians, including three civilians. Thirty Palestinians, including at least 10 militants, were also injured. The IDF also conducted search operations in Hebron in the West Bank, reportedly arresting about 120 Hamas members and injuring 55 Palestinians. Gaza militants indiscriminately fired more than 100 rockets and projectiles into Israel, killing one Israeli civilian and injuring 27. The Secretary-General and the Quartet strongly condemned the terror attacks."

On August 29, eight people were wounded near a Tel Aviv nightclub by a suspect from Nablus who stole a taxi and crashed it into a group of border guards. He then attacked the guards and two others near the nightclub before being subdued and detained.

In Syria, long-standing grievances against the government of President Bashar al-Assad and that of his father, Hafez al-Assad, surfaced in March when protests over a lack of political and economic reforms began in Dar'a and quickly spread to other parts of the country. Based on reports of arbitrary arrests and detention, initially of youths and children, armed attacks on demonstrators and funeral processions, shut-offs of water and electricity supplies to towns, and denial of access to medical equipment, among other abuses, the United Nations Human Rights Council authorized a fact-finding mission in late April to investigate these and other reports.

The mission issued its report in mid-August and discussed it at a special session of the Council on August 22. At that meeting, Ms. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the report which covered the period from mid-March to mid-July "found a pattern of widespread or systematic human rights violations by Syrian security and military forces, including murder, enforced disappearances, torture, deprivation of liberty, and persecution," and, she added, "there are indications that the pattern of violations continues to this day." The report said that the demonstrations were largely peaceful but that military and security forces attacked demonstrators, bystanders, and those who came to the aid of the injured. These constituted wide-spread acts against unarmed civilian populations.

In late August, media reports surfaced about plans by the Israeli Defense Forces to train and equip settlers in the West Bank with potentially lethal means to deal with Palestinian demonstrations. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (PA) had earlier called for demonstrations later in September at the time when the PA has announced it will petition the United Nations to admit Palestine as a UN Member State. He has repeatedly urged that any such demonstrations remain peaceful and that the participants be unarmed. Nonetheless, Ha'aretz, which broke this news, said that
"The army [the IDF] is establishing two virtual lines for each of the settlements that are near a Palestinian village. The first line, if crossed by Palestinian demonstrators, will be met with tear gas and other means for dispersing crowds."

"The second line is a 'red line,' and if this one is crossed, the soldiers will be allowed to open fire at the legs of the demonstrators, as is also standard practice if the northern border is crossed."

The IDF has declined to comment on the operational aspects of their preparations. However, a number of observers have expressed concerns about what the arrangements may portend. The Guardian reported:
"Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights said there were already 'serious questions and problems' with settlement security officials acting outside their designated boundaries. 'We're very concerned that [the IDF move] will not reduce conflict but increase it,' he said."

The trend toward more violence and the potential for violence against civilians should prompt members of the ELCA to reflect further upon the 1995 social statement, "For Peace in God's World", and the counsel it offers (under "Tasks") concerning peaceful conflict resolution:

Strengthen the will and ability to resolve conflicts peacefully. Disagreements, conflicts, and competition among nations, groups, and individuals are inevitable, but wars are not. One essential ingredient for reducing the likelihood of war is the steady resolve and intense effort of the parties involved to settle conflict nonviolently. Another essential ingredient is the ability to explore all avenues for common interests, to compromise interests, to conciliate differences, and to prevent, moderate, or isolate destructive conflicts. These ingredients are as vital for resolving conflict in international diplomacy as they are in families and communities.
Strengthen international cooperation. Belief in a common humanity, increasing global integration, and national self-interest all compel this task. In the Charter of the United Nations and in other international agreements, nations have stated how they believe their relations should be ordered. Normally nations comply with these principles. States pledge to respect the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of other states and not to intervene in their internal affairs, and to honor the self-determination of peoples. They also pledge to fulfill international obligations, to cooperate with other states, and to settle disputes peacefully. While states have the right of self-defense and may resist aggression, they are otherwise to abstain from the threat or use of military force. At present, such principles offer the best framework for a just ordering of international relations. Citizens have responsibility to hold governments accountable to these principles.

The ELCA's Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine is also quite clear about these matters. Among the political and humanitarian outcomes it says the ELCA has committed itself, especially relevant is:
An end to terrorism and violence by individuals, groups, and states.

This principle is one the church should continue to uphold and advocate, especially against the current trends in the region.

Dennis W. Frado
Director, Lutheran Office for World Community,
Congregational & Synodical Mission Program Unit

--- --- ---

To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at my blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace: