Sunday, February 27, 2011

Naim Ateek and Afif Safieh spoke to the Sabeel Conference in Bethlehem

Here is the second news story I have released from the Sabeel Conference in Bethlehem. For more short news stories, see the Sabeel website - - under "latest news."

The story and an earlier one will be available on the website of Friends of Sabeel-North America -

27 February 2011


Bethlehem, West Bank -- “Empires have always used religion and theology to their advantage,” Naim Ateek told the Eighth International Sabeel Conference. “Israel is an integral part of American empire; in its hegemony over Palestinians it acts and governs as empire.” Ateek is the founder and director of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center based in Jerusalem.

Participants heard from Afif Safieh, who has served as Palestinian Ambassador in three world capitals: London, Washington, and until 2009, Moscow. More than 300 participants are attending the event in Bethlehem, 23-28 February, 2011.

“The United States acted as empire last week with its veto in the U.N. Security Council, overpowering the votes of 14 other nations,” Ateek said. The veto defeated a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, contrary to U.S. policy stating that settlements are illegal.”

“The establishment of Israel was a relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God. At its core is the way some secular Zionists interpreted the Holocaust,” Ateek said. “For some, the only authentic response to the Holocaust, religious or secular, Jewish or not, must be total commitment to the security and wellbeing of Israel,” he said.

Ateek told the conference that “Israel has adopted a new god, one named Betahone, meaning security. This god is nourished continually by the American empire with the most up-to-date military technology.” Israel’s export of arms is fourth in the world, he said.

“The God that I have seen in Jesus Christ not the god of armies, not the violent god found in certain biblical texts,” Ateek said. “It is the vulnerable God of love in Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross. God is not the god of empire but the nonviolent God who is found the refugee camps, suffering with the families while the Israeli army carries out its incursions,” he said.

“The power of God is not expressed in war, violence or assassination, not in oppression, checkpoints and Apartheid walls, in lies and injustice,” Ateek said.” The biblical God is full of truth and justice, love and mercy and compassion. This is not the god of `Christendom’ or `Israel-dom.’ The biblical God expresses power through forgiveness, peace and reconciliation,” he said.

“I believe God’s power could be seen in the nonviolence of the recent Egyptian revolution,” Ateek said.

“When we chose this conference theme, `Challenging Empire,’ we did not anticipate revolutions in the Middle East, people striving for justice and freedom. Our people too are hungering for freedom and respect for their human rights,” Ateek said.Sabeel welcomed Bethlehem’s local community to an evening session where Safieh told the conference that, while the Israeli lobby is still very powerful in the United States, the “battle for Washington” is winnable for Palestinians.

Safieh spoke of “an `Israeli America’ where the administration adopts the regional strategy of Israel and integrates it in their global approach.” He said, “ I believe in the power and existence and the reality of the Israeli lobby in Washington, and it is this particular lobby that has confiscated American foreign policy in the Middle East so that to us the remaining superpower looks like a sub-contractor in the Israeli strategy.”

“This is what we witnessed last week in American sabotage and torpedoing of a [U.N.] resolution that was deliberately worded with their own proclaimed position from 1967 until now, which is astounding,” Safieh said.

“We can win the battle for Washington,” Safieh said. “I believe it is winnable.”
“The Palestinians are the test for American credibility, respectability, believably, love-ability,” Safieh said. “Can you imagine the love, if America were to become the locomotive for change in Palestine? That is a sea change that unfortunately has not occurred,” he said.

Safieh said, “Is Israel still a strategic asset or is it a burden and a liability? Is there an identity of interest among Israelis and Americans or is there a bifurcation and divergence of interest? We got the message: America is committed to Israel’s existence. But is America committed to Israel’s expansion? In Israel there is a vibrant debate about the desirability of keeping the hilltops of the West Bank. What is America’s interest in Israel keeping the hilltops of the West Bank?”

He said, “Does America need or wish to be perceived to be in collusion with Israel and its Territorial appetite resulting in its being on a collision course with the Arab or Islamic world or not?”

“I believe that in leading circles of America there is this awareness that Israel has become a liability,” Safieh said. “We need to win our political battle of persuasion,” he said.

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Reporter: Ann Hafften
Sabeel Media Coordinator: Nicolas Atallah
phone: 0526822443

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sabeel International Conference in Bethlehem: Challenging Empire

It's a thrill to be writing news from the Sabeel International Conference. Loads of material, technical gliches, late nights - just like old times. This program is Wow! I'm delighted, baffled and inspired all in two days. Ann

Feb 24, 2011


Bethlehem, Occupied West Bank -- About 200 international participants have come to Bethlehem for the Eighth Sabeel International Conference. The group gathered at the Bethlehem Hotel under the theme, “Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance.” Sabeel is the ecumenical liberation theology center based in Jerusalem.

Dr. Richard Horsley told participants, “Jesus was a Palestinian under imperial rule. Just as the modern state of Israel and other states in the Middle East were the creation of Western colonialism, so the ancient temple-state in Judea” was set up by foreign powers.

Horsley described Jesus as a community organizer working to renew in village communities a commitment to the covenant laws of God. He said, “… all of the Gospels … portray Jesus as having the same basic agenda, the renewal of the people of Israel in opposition to the Jerusalem and Roman rulers of the people.” Jesus’ program “tapped into the people’s deeply rooted cultural traditions,” he said. Horsley is Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA.

Jesus’ commitment to renewal in village communities was strategic, Horsley said. It was “a key component in a strategy of resistance to the rulers, a confrontation of Empire. By restoring their mutual cooperation and solidarity, villagers could resist the further disintegration of their communities.”

Vulnerable families could be encouraged “not to succumb to the outside forces that would turn them into share-croppers or force them off their ancestral land and out of the village community,” he said. “By mobilizing people power and building community solidarity, Jesus’ renewal of the covenant also became a form of resistance to the predatory pressures of the Empire,” he said.

Horsley pointed to “a new form of Empire, global capitalism.” He said, “The transnational megacorporations that constitute this dominant imperial apparatus are far beyond any attempt at regulation (…). The U.S. still is, or has, an Empire. But it is now interlocking with the new Empire of global capitalism (…) while the US military serves as the enforcer of the New World Order which aids and abets the operation of global capitalism.”

Ambassador Hind Khoury told the group Wednesday that they could not be meeting at a more interesting moment in history, “a historical moment for us Palestinians and Arabs, for empire and for the world. While the situation in Palestine has been dramatic for too long, events are now snowballing in front of our eyes planting the seeds of change for the region and forever.” Khoury is the former ambassador to France from the Palestinian Authority. She serves on the Sabeel Board of Directors.

Khoury described “the hegemonic grip of the global American empire, with Israel constituting an integral and essential strategic partner” in the Middle East. Disregard for “the human factor” is both shocking and consistent, Khoury said.

“People and values simply do not matter, you walk over them, you crush them, you bombard them, you assassinate them, you deny them a present and a future, and all is legitimate on the altar called the security of the state of Israel,” Khoury said.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh described “the 13 percent of Bethlehem that is the concentration camp we (Palestinians) are allowed to live in,” while the remainder is either zoned restricted or is “illegally annexed.” He said, “Israel continues building its Wall, which in Bethlehem is 60-70 percent complete.”
Qumsiyeh, a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, addressed “Mapping Empire Today in Palestine and Israel.”

“Shedding fear is the most important part of people-power resistance,” Qumsiyeh said. “State power requires fear,” and it employs “unimaginable” tactics such as demolishing homes six and seven times.

As for “empire,” we have to ask who is behind all this, Qumsiyeh said. “Greed and interests of greed that cannot be ignored. We must understand the biology of the disease we are facing so that we can treat it.” Palestinians are facing world powers, not just another state, he said.

“Justice, peace, truth – these are not just words. Leaders blurt them unconsciously. I say as a Palestinian Christian, look to Jesus Christ. He was the first Palestinian martyr. He spoke Aramaic, a precursor to Arabic, and he was killed for acting, not just for saying these words,” Qumsiyeh said.

The Rev. Christopher Ferguson, United Church of Canada, said the gospel message “has been grabbed and imperialized, the message of liberation made to destroy and oppress.”

Ferguson said, “Freedom is the message of the Jesus movement. Where we stand is resisting empire with the Palestinian people. It is not an optional extra but at the core of our faith and our relationship to God.”

The Rev. Mitri Raheb preached at the Wi’am Center, located next to the Separation Wall in Bethlehem. He spoke to the familiar text from the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” saying it would more correctly be translated, “for they shall inherit the land.” Raheb is the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church and president of the Diyar Consortium in Bethlehem.

“We really think empire will last. Jesus says it will not,” Raheb said. “How wise Jesus was. No one of Jesus’ time would have imagined that Herod was not here to stay. Jesus tells us through this verse that we are released from the power of empire. Jesus speaks and empire has lost its power over us. We see it in the Arab world in these recent weeks. Young people saw that empire could be shattered. God won’t do it alone, only with us.”

The Rev. Alison Tomin and Deacon Eunice Attwood, president and vice-president respectively of the Methodist Church in Britain, discussed the process that led to adoption of an important report and resolutions on justice and peace for Palestine and Israel at last summer’s Methodist Conference in Portsmouth.

Methodist people should take seriously the deepening of their understanding of issues (here), said Attwood. “They should examine their understanding, though it will bring some discomfort into established Methodist-Jewish discussion groups. The vast majority have decided to face discomfort and face these issues, bringing the possibility for more discussion with other Christians as well as with Muslims,” she said. “Methodists are committed to listening to every voice, but particularly the poorest, the most vulnerable, the oppressed and the most needy,” Attwood said.

Thanking the Methodists, the Rev. Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel, said Wednesday, “Today if you stand for justice and truth, you will be attacked. Churches suffer from weakness of the prophetic. Israel wants you silent, then you are okay. Once you speak out, immediately you will be attacked. Then the question is: Can you stand? And I thank God for every person who does that.”

The Sabeel International Conference continues at the Bethlehem Hotel through Monday, 28 February.

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Reporter: Ann Hafften
Sabeel Media Coordinator: Nicolas Atallah
phone: 0526822443

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reports from the countryside around Hebron

An excerpt today from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) newsletter and another from Jan Miller's blog, A Pilgrim's Tales.

First from EAPPI [to go straight to the entire newsletter click this link:]

February 2011
Across the Middle East and North Africa, the year 2011 has begun in dramatic fashion. Unprecedented protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have shown the depth of peoples’ desire for justice and freedom in a region that has seen decades of political oppression and violence.

While media coverage has focused on unfolding events in Egypt, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has not been static. Israeli forces and settlers have killed several Palestinians, announced major land confiscations, and demolished dozens of Palestinian homes.

Ecumenical Accompaniers were among the first internationals to arrive in Dkaika, a village in the South Hebron Hills, on the morning of 12 January, when the Israeli army destroyed 9 residential structures and a classroom serving 15 pupils. Fifty people, including 30 children, were left homeless.

"Two policewomen stopped me when I wanted to go in to the house and take out the furniture and our things before they demolished it. They would not let me," said Hamdah Najadah, a local woman.

"They destroyed everything, even the coffee, sugar and flour. Where will we sleep? It is winter, and bad weather is coming. God be with us!"

In occupied East Jerusalem, the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel by Israeli authorities in order to build an illegal settlement on the site drew international criticism. The international community considers Israel's unilateral building of settlements in East Jerusalem illegal and a threat to a negotiated agreement over the city's future status.

In An Nu’man village near Bethlehem, Israeli bulldozers destroyed the home of a young couple, Raed and Siham. The army only gave them a few minutes to remove some of their furniture. The bulldozers actually started to tear down the house while they and their three little children were still in it - violating Israeli law. We have visited the family twice a week since the demolition. The family now lives with their neighbors who also have a pending demolition order.

For more eye-witness accounts from EAPPI, go the the home page:

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Here is Jan Miller's blog post. She is very concerned about the Meqbul family and others in Beit Ummar. Link to it:

Jan includes Jamal's email messages about his situation.

See Jan's blogs about peacemaking in Israel and Palestine:

She writes:
Today I’m writing because I have had a couple of alarming notes from Jamal, who hosted us at his home in Beit Ummar in the West Bank, just south of Bethleem. In May, Jamal invited our Compassionate Listening delegation to meet with his group—Wounded Crossing Borders. This is a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have all lost loved ones or been wounded in the conflict. They meet together to get to know one another and to build bridges of understanding. Our group sat with them in the shade on Jamal’s patio as the late afternoon sun filtered through the grapevines. The geraniums were blooming—pink, red—and the Muqbul family had prepared a feast for us, coordinated by Jamal’s wife Saddiye. As we sat eating our homemade humus, pita, chicken, rice and vegetables, we heard the story of Jamal’s 14-year-old nephew Ibrahim, who had just been arrested (he has now been cleared of all charges, with the help of the Israelis in Wounded Crossing Borders).

That warm afternoon on his patio, with Palestinians and Israelis who are seeking peace, seemed far away as I read his email on Thursday:
January 20—All time we afraid about our kids always we worry, last night the Israelis soldiers come to my family houses, they brock windows and doors then they ask about my son Zain they need him, my be they will return back in any moment, Sadiye crying all the time and she ask me to keep them in another place but where ? i call all of my group if we can do any thing, i am sure the Israelis IDF dont need me work for peace.

In a more recent post Jan writes:
More news from Beit Ummar (Ommar), between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank—this time from the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP). In the last two weeks I have written about the violence in Beit Ummar against Jamal Muqbul, whom we met in May. Yousef, the boy who was killed Friday, is a close friend of Jamal’s son Yazan. Jamal writes of their sorrow: “yes.. we are so so sad about Palistinin who killed by settler yesterday morning especially he is close friend of my child Yazan. …. now there is many soldiers in the village.” []

Take a few minutes to read about Yousef, who was involved in non-violent actions and was learning peacemaking in Beit Ommar. Read this information and more on PSP’s website:

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Monday, February 14, 2011

CMEP: Mubarak's out. Now on to the peace process?

Churches for Middle East Peace Bulletin
February 11, 2011
Mubarak's out. Now on to the peace process?
The web version of this bulletin has a load of embedded links:

Mubarak Falls
The recent political upheaval in Egypt culminated on Friday with the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who turned over authority to the Egyptian military. Headed by Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the military is now expected to oversee a process of transition until national elections are held next September.

Mubarak’s ouster was met with stark relief in Washington, which had been caught between its longtime financial and political support for Mubarak and its sympathy for the democratic aspirations of the protest movement. “This is an extraordinary moment for Egypt,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, hailing Mubarak’s departure as a “pivotal moment,” insisted that “The transition that's taking place must be an irreversible change and a negotiated path toward democracy.”

Implications for Israel and Palestine
Although it’s still too soon to know just what effect Mubarak’s fall will have regionally, one thing is clear: it will not be without consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As discussed last week, the promise of a democratic Egypt has prompted newfound concerns within Israel. In particular, many Israelis fear that if an Islamist government were elected to power, it would not only destabilize the security of Egypt’s border with Gaza, but the new government could possibly unilaterally withdraw from the Camp David Accords, the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt that has served as a lynchpin of regional peace and stability for the past 30 years.

These fears, however, are likely unfounded.

For one, as a Newsweek report details, it’s not clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would actually come to power. Even more though, a violation of the Camp David Accords would have significant ramifications for Egypt’s already struggling economy. Breaking the peace agreement would jeopardize the nearly $2 billion in aid that the U.S. gives to Egypt annually, as well as the revenue Egypt generates from Israeli-Egypt trade -- one natural gas pipeline alone produces $300 million a year in revenues for Egypt, a figure that is expected to rise to $1 billion by 2015, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Thus, even if a new Egyptian government actually wanted to withdraw from its peace treaty, it’s not clear it would be willing to bear the significant financial and economic costs of doing so.

New Revelations about the Olmert-Abbas Negotiations
Rather than hindering peace in Israel and Palestine, the upheaval in Egypt may actually help.

In a featured article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, author Bernard Avishai lays out just how close former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were to a deal in 2008.

According to Avishai, whose article is based on extensive interviews with both Olmert and Abbas, the main roadblocks to piece – the demilitarization of the Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees -- all “proved susceptible to creative thinking.”

Where the talks broke down, according to Olmert, was the lack of leadership on the part of the United States -- all that was missing was sufficient pressure from the United States to “bridge the gaps.” With the region energized by Egypt’s transformation, the United States might find those gaps even narrower than in the past.

Quartet Meeting
As the drama unfolded in Egypt, the Middle East Quartet also met in Munich this week on February 5. Following the meeting, the Quartet released a statement saying that it had taken note “of the dramatic developments in Egypt” and that it had reiterated its support for the conclusion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations by September 2011.

Moreover, the Quartet’s statement also expressed “regret” that Israel discontinued its 10-month moratorium on the construction of new housing in the settlements in the West Bank. By contrast, the statement praised President Abbas for his leadership and “continued Palestinian State-building efforts.”

Events surrounding the Quartet’s meeting were as significant as the meeting itself. On the same day that the Quartet released its statement, the Palestinian Authority, summarily rejected an economic aid package that had been proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Quartet envoy Tony Blair just before the start of meeting in Munich. “The announcement by the Israeli government and the Quartet’s special envoy is totally unacceptable,” said the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. “We don’t believe in these measures, which are aimed solely at destroying confidence between Israelis and
Palestinians. If Netanyahu wants to establish mutual trust and peace, he must stop settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem” Erakat said.

Updates from CMEP
The CMEP staff welcomes the addition of two colleagues to our office this week. Alexandra Stevens is a graduate student at George Mason University and has studied abroad in the West Bank. She is interning with CMEP because she wants to continue learning about the conflict and finding new ways to advocate for peace. We’re also glad to welcome Chris Meserole, who studied religion and the Middle East at Yale, and writes about religion and foreign affairs for the Huffington Post. His Arabic is still pretty mangled, but he's working on it. Both Chris and Alexandra are wonderful additions to CMEP’s team.

Churches for Middle East Peace -

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jeff Halper appearances in Los Angeles & Orange Counties

As part of a national ICHAD tour, the Friends of Sabeel in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, along with six other peace groups from the Muslim, Jewish and secular community, are co-sponsoring Jeff Halper's speaking engagements from in early February at venues throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Halper founded ICAHD, the Israel Coalition Against Home Demolition, a group of volunteers who protest at the site of Palestinian Homes being destroyed.

He will speak on the topic, “Isreal/Palestine: Towards Peace, Apartheid or Warehousing?"

Jeff Halper was interviewed on KPFK (90.7 FM) on Sunday February 6th at 9 AM and Monday 7th at 8 AM.

University of California, Irvine
Tuesday February 8th at 6 PM
Crystal Cove Auditorium

California State University, Long Beach
Wednesday February 9th at 2 PM
Building LA3-room 106

California State University, Fullerton
Wednesday February 9th at 7PM
Ruby Gerontology Center Auditorium

For information on appearances go to:

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Accompanier stands with Palestinians for peace

Ecumenical accompanier Susanne Nelson was featured in an article in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, "Standing with Palestinians for peace at Israel's gates." I will post links to Susanne's blog here too.

Here is the link to the Argus Leader story:

And here is an excerpt:

Standing with Palestinians for peace at Israel's gates
Ecumenical program places Sioux Falls native as mediator in global hot spot

Susanne Nelson grew up in Montana, so the sight of cattle pushing their way through a chute is familiar to her.

But it wasn't until she traveled to Palestinian territory that she saw people doing the same thing, crowded together in a small area under a sky that is hours away from being brightened by the sun.

They wait, as they do every day, to pass through a gate that will allow them to travel to their jobs in Israel or to their own farmland.
It is an anxious time because they know the gate can close abruptly, preventing them from going to work.

"Some of them get hurt just because they can't keep up with others," Nelson says, speaking via Skype. "And it's dark."

Nelson, a licensed clinical social worker from Sioux Falls, has been living in Tulkarm, a city in the north West Bank, since December.

She is halfway through a three-month commitment to be an ecumenical accompanier, someone who stands by the gates with the Palestinians as a visible presence monitoring the conduct of Israeli soldiers.

That's one of her volunteer duties. Another will occur in about three months when Nelson returns, ready to share her experiences and viewpoints."The only way anything is solved is through dialogue and understanding," she says. "I would never pretend to be an expert in the field, but when you've spent a little bit of time in the area - my organization calls us the eyes and ears on the ground, and that's a good way to put it."

The ecumenical accompanier program, offered through the World Council of Churches, gives people around the world the chance to work for peace in a troubled area.

[Read the complete article at this link:]

In this blog post Susanne writes about a Sunday trip to worship in Nablus and a visit to a Christian friend in Tulkarem:

Here Susanne describes a visit to Shufa, a village in the Tulkarem area:

Look a little deeper into Susanne's blog posts and you'll find this one about a visit to Bethlehem:

To learn more about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, see the website: www.eappi-us

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CMEP statement on proposed UNSC resolution on settlements

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has issued a statement calling on the Obama Administration not to stand in the way of the resolution regarding settlements in the UN Security Council vote.

We can reach out to President Obama by phone and email with the same call and urging him to take this opportunity to spur both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take decisive new steps toward a comprehensive peace agreement.

For more from CMEP, go to the new, redesigned website:

Here is the complete statement. Below is contact information on how to reach the White House.

February 2, 2011

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 24 national church communions and faith-based organizations advocating for robust U.S. government policies to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is deeply concerned with the lack of progress in negotiations for a comprehensive peace. Brief direct talks were suspended last September. U.S. proposals intended to reignite direct negotiations failed to bring the parties back to the table.

A United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop illegal construction of settlements in the territories over which it gained control in 1967, including East Jerusalem, has been submitted for Security Council consideration and will be discussed by the Middle East Quartet (U.S., UN, EU and Russia) later this week. The language of this resolution reflects language that the United States has historically used to describe settlement construction activity: illegal, an obstacle to peace, and not legitimate.

CMEP calls on the Obama Administration not to stand in the way of this resolution in a Security Council vote. Furthermore, in the context of the resolution’s consideration, CMEP urges the U.S. government to take this opportunity to spur both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take decisive new steps toward a comprehensive peace agreement.

With new tensions and transformations rapidly emerging in the Middle East, regional stability and security require a comprehensive peace agreement in the near future. In addition to believing the current situation to be politically unsustainable, CMEP continues to be deeply concerned about the impact of the existing stalemate on people’s daily lives. The absence of any progress toward a resolution compounds the humanitarian situation on the ground, stranding many Palestinians in a state of perpetual food insecurity and leaving most without access to adequate water resources.

Palestinians deserve self-determination and Israelis deserve the security of a comprehensive peace and recognition by their neighbors. The outlook for an agreement is not hopeless. Recent reports confirm that in 2008 both sides made significant progress in defining their positions on important final status issues, including security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. Yet little progress has been made since then. The United States must send a robust message in word and deed to both parties that delay is not an option and that new substantial steps toward a comprehensive agreement are needed immediately.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” is a call from Jesus that is today most timely and urgent. Churches for Middle East Peace offers its prayers and active support to all who are willing to take bold steps to help bring about a comprehensive peace among Israelis and Palestinians.

Warren Clark, Executive Director
Martin Shupack, Board Chair

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Contact the Administration
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United StatesThe White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

(Include your email address, if any, in mailed correspondence)

Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bishop Younan preaches on Christian unity

Bishop Munib A. Younan preached a sermon for the Week for the Prayer of Christian Unity at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. I have provided some excerpts here. For the complete sermon, please go to the link:

The wonderful resources of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are not limited to a single week but can be used anytime in prayers and vigils for peace, conferences and events, special worship services. Explore this website at the World Council of Churches:

Here are excerpts from Bishop Younan's sermon -

Jan. 25, 2011
“One. . . in the apostles’ teaching. . . .”
(Acts 2:42)

"(...) As I often say, to work for unity in Jerusalem is an art. We are in need of capable artists to produce something so beautiful. We all know the work required and the careful planning to design a Middle Eastern Carpet. It is as if each of our churches is a different color of thread (or yarn), yet woven together the carpet becomes so much more beautiful than each strand of yarn by itself.
The individual threads do not loose their identity or individual character. The beauty of their particular color remains intact. Yet coming together under the direction of an artist, the finished carpet is more beautiful than all of the individual strands. And it is none other than the Holy Spirit that guides this process of coming together to produce this beautiful ecumenical carpet. Picture with me such a beautiful carpet hanging here on the wall—a beautiful carpet, perhaps with an image of the Lord’s Supper with Jesus sitting in the middle—Imagine how beautiful this carpet would be. If ecumenism succeeds in Jerusalem, it can succeed in the whole world. And so we are called to this purpose, for we are capable artists weaving together this beautiful carpet of the holy communion. It is not a burden, nor an effort. It is simply our duty to which we have been called to answer Christ’s priestly intercession so that we maybe one as Christ and the Father are one (John 17).

"(...) This can be an example of how Christian unity can take place here in Jerusalem. Ecumenism is not built on the shoulders of others, not on finding mistakes and disagreements with others. Nor is it in concentrating on particular events in our common histories. Unity starts when we are open to live in a spirit of repentance and forgiveness, and ask our Lord to guide us. Unity is not uniformity. A carpet of all red threads is okay, or one that is all blue, or all green. But we all know that much more desirable in the market is that carpet which brings together various colors into one with a carefully designed pattern of the Holy Communion. Each of the churches brings to our ecumenical carpet special gifts that benefit us all. Those of us from the Lutheran tradition stand in appreciation of the witness that each of you give:
• To the Orthodox we say thank you for your witness of steadfastness in faith.
• To the Armenian and Coptic for your example of faith in martyrdom.
• To the Syriac for the way that you have preserved a history going back to the Aramaic roots of our faith.
• To the Latin Catholic for your example of church order and for the spirit of faithful obedience.
• To the Maronites for your ability to contextualize our faith.
• To the Greek Catholic for joining East and West together under one roof.
• To the Anglicans for your liturgical forms and hymnody
• And I hope that you would say the same for our Lutheran zeal and fervor inpreaching and especially our devotion to justification by faith and the priesthood of all believers. We stand appreciative of each of you and your witness in the faith. And now that we have worked together for some time here in Jerusalem, we can only say that we cannot imagine for one moment trying to exist without each other.

"(...) Unity in a spirit of repentance and forgiveness calls us as reconciled diversity to see Christ in the other, and to find a common witness here in Jerusalem. Why did God decide on that first Pentecost to make use of 19 different languages including Arabic? Why has God today placed us here in Jerusalem: Orthodox, Catholic, Oriental Catholic and Orthodox, Lutheran Evangelical, Anglican? Why here in Jerusalem? Why us? Why these particular different churches? One thing is certain: he called us to be in Jerusalem to be a light to the world. It is a light that emanates from Golgotha and the empty tomb. It is a light reflecting this spirit of repentance and forgiveness. It is a light that calls us to be living witness and creative diakonia together.

"(...) We must have strategies and action plans. Most of all we are called to remain steadfast in the apostles’ teaching. We all as churches are responsible to deepen the understanding of our witness and presence in the Holy Land. We are called to educate our people:
To know the Bible deeply.
To understand its message.
To emphasize the importance of Christian education.
To know why we are here in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
To show the world that we in Jerusalem continue to be both the church of Golgotha and the church of the empty tomb, the church of suffering, but also the church of resurrection.
We are called to educate our people that what unites us is Jesus.
We are called through this teaching to confess together that There is one body and one spirit, one hope in which we are called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one eucharist, one God and father of us all.
We are called through this teaching to stand together, to present a common living witness."

Learn more about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land:

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