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

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