Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Episcopal bishop and St. Olaf college students concerned about justice and peace

Episcopal presiding bishop writes to Obama on Israeli-Palestinian peace process

This news courtesy of the ENS staff. For the complete story and the full text of Bishop Jefferts Schori's letter, go to this link: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_126599_ENG_HTM.htm

January 18, 2011

[Episcopal News Service] Stressing the urgency of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori last weekend wrote to President Barack Obama urging United States leadership to "reignite a negotiations process that can produce immediate and sustainable steps toward a just, comprehensive and lasting peace."

The Jan. 16 letter also cautioned against U.S. use of its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block a possible resolution on Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories. Use of the veto "would send the wrong signal to both parties, as it would be interpreted by many as a break from past U.S. positions against settlement building," the presiding bishop wrote.

Stalled peace talks
The presiding bishop's letter comes at a moment when U.S. efforts to broker direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are stalled. The parties briefly came to the table in September in direct negotiations orchestrated and mediated by Obama, but those talks faltered when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a temporary freze on the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian negotiators have maintained that a full settlement freeze is a condition of their participation in peace talks.

[Full story and complete text of the bishop's letter at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_126599_ENG_HTM.htm]

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St. Olaf College students get a view from the Holy Land

This news courtesy of St. Olaf College News. For the full story, go to this link: http://www.stolaf.edu/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=NewsShorts#5019

JANUARY 18, 2011

St. Olaf students participating in the Interim program in Israel and the Palestinian territories received a tour of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem last week from Rev. Mark Brown '78, the organization’s regional director.

The students, led by Associate Professor of Religion Jim Hanson ‘83, are taking a course titled Historical Geography and the Bible in the Holy Land. It’s the first St. Olaf group to visit Israel in more than 11 years. In addition to touring the Lutheran World Federation compound that is located on the Mount of Olives, the group has toured an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, a Palestinian refugee camp, and many sites pertaining to Biblical history.

[For the complete news brief and photo, go to: http://www.stolaf.edu/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=NewsShorts#5019]

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, look to Jerusalem

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity draws attention to Jerusalem
20 January 2011

Shortly after the beginning of each year, Christians around the world pray for church unity. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, traditionally celebrated from 18-25 January, draws on resources sponsored jointly by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church. The materials for January 2011 have been prepared in partnership with the churches of Jerusalem.

"In a present-day context of despair and suffering, the churches of Jerusalem show determination and witness together with the global church for a just peace in the city of peace," said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in a sermon at Geneva's Ecumenical Centre during a service of prayer organized by the city's churches. The service on Wednesday evening, 19 January, included traditional music from the Middle East and was led by local church leaders. It was attended by more than 200 people.

Tveit observed that the New Testament portrayal of the Jerusalem church "describes the original oneness of those early believers in Jesus. Being one means being together, breaking bread, praising God, but also giving and sharing, according to who is in need." He described the image of sharing around the table as a striking image that "gives great spiritual energy" to ecumenical endeavours.

He continued, "The table is also a place and space that demands that we think about justice and the way food and access to power are shared in the world, especially at a time when speculation with food prices will mean that the poorest will become poorer, and go hungry."

Tveit noted that "there is still sadly one table where we as Christians do not yet eat together," referring to differences among churches that mean all Christians cannot share together in the eucharist. "Yet here too the witness of Christians in Jerusalem, the mother church of us all, can help us. They show us that it is possible to work together despite divisions, to carry forward prophetic calls for justice and peace, and try to be one in action together."

In the Geneva service, Father Mikhail Megally of the Coptic Orthodox congregation thanked other local churches for their support in the wake of recent violence perpetrated against the Coptic community in Egypt. He told the gathering, “Copts are children of the Middle East. They belong to this region and are part of its development and identity. We cannot imagine either Egypt or the Middle East without their Christians.”

Full text of the sermon by the WCC general secretary: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/sermons/week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-2011.html

The general secretary mentioned the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, "... created in 2002 in response to a call from the churches in Jerusalem – individual accompaniers from member churches live alongside Palestinians and Israelis and see what life is like. Afterwards they return to their own contexts and tell the story of what they have experienced."

Full text of the introductory remarks by Father Mikhail Megally (pdf) - http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/wcc-main/2011pdfs/WOPCU2011_FrMegally.pdf

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Action Alert: Support UN SC resolution condemning settlements

This Action Alert just in from the ELCA Middle East Network and Peace Not Walls. Click the link for the complete alert, plus links to more resources:

Tell the President: Support a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements.

Click the link above, then click the "Call Now" box for helpful talking points. In case you don't get that far, here is the phone number:
Washington office of President Barack Obama, 202.456.1313.

Tell the President to join the international community in reaffirming that Israeli settlements are illegal, are a major obstacle to peace, and should be halted immediately and completely.

Call the President today in support of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The UN Security Council may soon be considering a resolution

  • reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements in Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967,

  • naming settlements as a major obstacle to peace,

  • demanding that Israel cease all settlement activity including in East Jerusalem,

  • calling on both parties to act on the basis of international law and previous agreements,

  • calling on all parties to continue negotiations on final status issues, and

  • urging intensified efforts to invigorate the peace process.

U.S. leaders have said each of these things before. Our support for this resolution encourages the Obama administration to reaffirm these positions.

Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, wrote in Foreign Policy online magazine on January 5 that "the U.S. should rejoin the virtual international consensus on these issues, stand up for its own declared interests, and vote for the proposed Security Council resolution."

This resolution comes at a critical juncture when negotiations have lapsed specifically over the settlement issue. The U.S. administration has repeatedly called for a settlement freeze and has criticized settlement activity including in East Jerusalem. A UN resolution now, reaffirming previous UN resolutions and stating clearly the international consensus on settlements, could serve as a catalyst to get negotiations back on track to finally achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

Contact the president today.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

New book: Palestine sixty years later

Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU) has published Palestine sixty years later, by Thomas Suarez. Because this book is so photo-driven, I recommend it for gifts and church libraries.

While the website might change, right now you can see samples of the beautiful pages at this link: http://palestine.org.il/

AMEU: http://www.ameu.org

Palestine sixty years later combines 171 photographs and commentary into a vivid glimpse of modern-day Palestine. An Introduction summarizes the origins of partition, compares the methods of Zionist expropriation used in 1948 to those employed today, and analyzes how Israel has exploited Judaism and the collective Western subconscious. The main part of the book is divided into three section: Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Although its focus, inevitably, is on the realities of life under siege and Occupation, the author depicts side-by-side the "other" Palestine, people living their own lives as best they can under that reality, refusing to be defined by it. A concluding commentary addresses the reasons the conflict has remained unresolved, and argues for immediate action to end the injustice.

A violinist, Thomas Suarez has written about Palestine both online and in print, and is the author of three major works on the history of cartography, and a novella. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of Gaza Mental Health Foundation.

Palestine sixty years later
Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank 2008-2009
Photographs & Observations
Thomas Suárez
Price $18
112 Pages. Softcover. 8.5 x 9.5 inches. Published by Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU), 475 Riverside Drive, Room 245, New York, NY, 10115-0245. Photographs and text © 2010 by Thomas Suárez. ISBN 978-0-578-051

From Middle East Books Reads - http://www.middleeastreads.com/?p=255 -
"Palestine: Sixty Years Later [is] a full bore assault against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, rejecting assumptions of symmetry between Israel and Palestine or presumptions that Israel acts in self-defense.

"Suarez’s... photographs of contemporary Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank are incontestable. They offer an unnerving portrait of a people and a land under an inconsolable occupation... The value of this photo essay lay in its capability to remind its readers that Palestinians are people like themselves,wishing the best for their families, but living under extremely harsh conditions... Suarez’s narrative accompanying the photos provides a powerful indictment against Israel’s practices and ultimategoal of erasing the Palestinian presence."

"A beautiful, evocative book. Suarez’s marvellous photographs capture more eloquently than any words the essence of what it means to live under Israeli occupation. The accompanying text is authoritative and to the point. An aesthetic and educational experience not to be missed." — Ghada Karmi, author of Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine

"[This] extraordinary book of photos and text ... should be read by every American citizen."— U.S. Senator James G. Abourezk

"A moving, fact-filled and insightful portrait of a people under relentless siege."— Norman Finkelstein, author of Beyond Chutzpah and "This Time We Went Too Far"

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Kairos Palestine study launched by Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network

On the first anniversary of the launching of Kairos Palestine - A Moment of Truth, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has released a 24-page booklet that includes the Kairos document and a three-week congregational study plan.

Info at this link: http://israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/index.php/component/content/article/140-kairos-palestine

Kairos Palestine is the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" of our time, according to the Network. "This Confession of Faith, written in 2009 by a broad spectrum of Palestinian Christian leaders, is addressed to Palestinians, Israelis, the international community--as well as all the churches of the world. It lifts up the classical theological virtues of faith, hope, and love that lie at the heart of the Christian Gospel, and affirms that resistance to injustice and oppression is firmly grounded in these principles. It is both an anguished cry in a dark hour and a profound testament to unquenchable hope."

The study plan includes informative background material on the Israel-Palestine conflict including three maps in color. This material provides essential historical, political, and theological context for the Kairos Palestine statement. The booklet is an excellent guide for readers undertaking an individual study of the document. Church-based groups will benefit from the detailed lesson plans for a three-week congregational study, inclulding a list of thought-provoking questions to stimulate reflection and discussion.

Cost and ordering info: $2.00 each for 1-19 copies $1.50 each for 20+ copies
Order: http://store.pcusa.org/ or 800-524-2612 PDS No. 2646610001

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To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, sign up at the blog A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace: http://www.voicesforpeace.blogspot.com/