We want to thank everyone who participated in the Partners in Peace Lenten Events. Many of our participants requested further information to help us understand the crisis in Palestine, Gaza and Israel. We gathered as a community of Christians, Jews and the faithful of Islam to share our common humanity.
The beautiful art we share is a gift from Vicki Shuck. She calls this peace, “In the Beginning”. We’ve chosen this as a prayerful reflection that the sad situation in the Middle East will recreate itself into a new beginning for all of God’s people.
Many asked our panelists and participants to share ideas for Just Social Action responses to further peacemaking. What you will find below is our opening prayer, followed by Sister Elaine Kelley’s open sharing. You will find the 25 social Action Response suggestions provided by Mira Almukarker and finally Dr. Masoud Kheirabadi, Ph.D’ select bibliography that many have requested.
Blessings to your all and may peace fill our world.
Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence written by Sister Cecilia Ranger, SNJM Ph.D.
I bow to the sacred in all creation.
May my spirit fill the world with beauty and wonder.
May my mind seek truth with humility and openness.
May my heart forgive without limit.
May my love for friend, enemy, and outcast be without measure.
May my needs be few and my living simple.
May my actions bear witness to the suffering of others.
May my hands never harm a living being.
May my steps stay on the journey of justice.
May my tongue speak for those who are poor
without fear of the powerful.
May my prayers rise with patient discontent,
until no child is hungry.
May my life’s work be a passion for peace and nonviolence.
May my soul rejoice in the present moment.
May my imagination overcome dearth and despair
with new possibilities.
And may I risk reputation, comfort and security
to bring this hope to the children.
Dr. Sheila O’Connell-Roussell – University Ministry
We open our discussion, “ Seeking a Just Peace for Gaza, Palestine and Israel with prayer. We the children of Abraham stand together today, believing that what we hold in common is more essential than that which alienates us from one another. We are bonded by our commitment to justice and our belief that the Lord our God is One, the Same Creator of all. With St. Paul we offer that all our attempts to image and articulate God ‘fall short”(Romans 3:23). With St. Anslem we image God as that ‘which nothing greater can be thought.” In humility, we recognize with the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas, that, our “God remains beyond our intellect and thus is unknown to us in the full glory of Divinity (Aquinas, De Potentia q. 7, a. 5).
What is essential here is the new level of faith, a faith understood by the house of Israel, offered to their adoptive children of Christianity, and revealed to the faithful of Islam. This Abrahamic faith was -and is- based on the belief that the Lord is a “righteous” God (Psa 119:137) who demands ‘ justice for the oppressed (Psa 103:6).
Today, we invoke the blessings of the God of All who is unconditional mercy, ‘ fidelity, compassion, and liberating love’ articulated by Moses, the prophets, Jesus and Mohammed.
Dr. Masoud Kheirabadi, Ph.D – Marylhurst Professor
We pray in the name of Allah the Most Merciful, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Give us your grace, your mercy and show us the way to justice and peace (based on Surah 1).
Sr. Elaine Kelley, Friends of Sabeel–North America
Creator of All, give us a hunger for mercy and a thirst for justice so that all people of earth can be one.
Mr. Robert Abramovitz- Marylhurst M.Div student and Rabbi to Business
Holy One, lead us to understand the sufferings of all your people. Teach us to walk in each others shoes and irrevocably bind our own success to the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Mr. Joe Hastings- Catholic Relief Services
God of All, lead us in your ways of compassion, of mercy and justice for all. Fill us with your grace to heal the wounds of war and the courage to speak up for the peace we profess: a safe and secure home for all built on human dignity and a shared common good.
Meditation: Students Jenny Pixler, William (Billy) Perry
and Crystal Larson-Farr will offer a musical meditation and liturgical dance on Peace.
The following is the sharing offered by Sister Elaine Kelley from Friends of Sabeel Her website is http://fosna.org/content/mapcards
I lived in Bethlehem on the West Bank for four years and have seen Gaza’s squalor and misery. I work with Friends of Sabeel–North America, a grassroots movement started by Palestinian Christians working at the Sabeel peace center in Jerusalem. Sabeel is an Arabic word meaning “the way” and it refers to a path to peace through nonviolence. The People of the Way is what first-century Christians in Palestine were called. Sabeel teaches that this way must be rediscovered by Christians if we are to transform our world and that a Palestinian theology of liberation will lead us to truth and reconciliation. Sabeel believes that a just peace must be based on international law, human rights and existing United Nations resolutions that call for an end to Israel’s 41-year military occupation. Our theological, moral, and legal principles are outlined in the Jerusalem Sabeel Document, which is available at our table. In the U.S. we put on regional educational conferences featuring Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers. We also sponsor witness trips to the Holy Land. These are a combination of traditional pilgrimage and opportunities to see the separation wall, checkpoints, demolished homes, settlements, refugee camps, and other details of Israel’s military occupation.
I speak from my own personal faith experience as a Catholic Christian and from an understanding of what Jesus is asking of me and all those who would follow him–to build the kingdom here on earth, to turn from desires for earthly power and possession, to be alert to all the temptations of security, comfort and control, and materialism put before us as citizens of the most powerful empire the world has ever known. Jesus spoke to these issues consistently in the Gospel.
MAP. This illustration of Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to the present makes it clear at a glance what the problem is. Zionist forces and their supporters from outside Palestine began to invade. Historical Palestine, shown in GREEN, has now all but disappeared under Israel’s policies of expansion and Apartheid. You will never hear the word Apartheid being used in this country to describe Israeli policy because truth is filtered out in what we hear in the news. But people like Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak openly about it. This shows the bantustans where Palestinians are confined. Gaza and the West Bank are separated by Israel proper. The entire West Bank is chopped up into little impoverished enclaves. There is a wall that completely surrounds the West Bank–part of it is a 28-foot concrete wall; other parts are electrified fences covered in razor wire and monitored by the Israeli Occupation Forces. If it were a security wall Israel would have built it along the 1967 border of the West Bank; instead, it snakes deep into Palestinian land, overtaking their olive groves, cutting through towns, separating Palestinians from Palestinians. Even entire towns are walled in, like Bethlehem, with only one entrance/exit through an Israeli checkpoint. I went through that checkpoint recently in November. It’s a surreal and humiliating experience and difficult for the elderly forced to walk the distance in the cold or rain or under the brutal Middle East sun.
Palestinians can’t even travel from one of their own towns to another. They can’t travel on their own roads without going through checkpoints, or on the by-pass roads built for the 400,000 illegal Jewish settlers on the West Bank. The tiny Gaza Strip down and on the left is completely enclosed by the sea on the west, the Egyptian border on the southwest, and by Israeli military walls, barbed wire, and checkpoints all around. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace, territorial waters, and land borders. Israel controls all water supplies and electrical grids and is in complete control of 1.5 million Palestinians locked inside the tiny Gaza Strip (25 miles long by 6 miles wide)–a virtual outdoor prison of impoverished refugee camps. Israel controls transport of humanitarian aid into Gaza, which it denies regularly. The great irony is that the 1.5 million Gazans who live in the strip don’t even want to be there. They want to return to their homes. The first refugees were driven out of their homes and land along the coast of Palestine during the invasion by Zionist forces in 1948 and their population has surged in these six decades. Gaza is now the most densely populated piece of land in the world and one of the most impoverished.
Israel’s most recent barbaric war against the people of Gaza was a major news story for a while, but now it’s all but forgotten in the media. I believe as a Christian that our highest calling in life is to pursue truth and to be a witness to that truth. Truth, not only about current events on TV, but the truth about the Christian faith and the real message of Christ. Sabeel must deal with the ignorance of Christians who believe God said in the bible that the land of Israel is just for the Jewish people and that Christians are obligated to support illegal settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli military incursions, land confiscation, house demolitions and collective punishment. These people point fingers at Palestinian terrorists and their home-made bombs but not at Israel or the U.S. and their death-dealing weapons of mass destruction. Sabeel works hard to counter biblical literalism, which has been so devastating for the people of Palestine. For without the massive support from American groups like Christians United for Israel and the Christian Embassy with their ideological and economic support for Israeli aggression and their Wednesday morning prayer breakfasts at the Pentagon, without this utterly distorted version of Christianity and its powerful influence on US Middle East foreign policy–Israel could not carry out its expansionist ambitions.
We hope things are changing in Washington, but so far it’s the same on Middle East policy. It was announced this week that President Obama will not cut the 30 billion dollars in military aid promised to Israel. And the scurrilous campaign by pro-Israel lobbyists against Charles Freeman, an outspoken critic of Israeli policy and Obama’s choice to head the National Intelligence Council, is a very bad sign for Palestinians. This is the political power of empires; it is not the power of truth that we seek. We cannot continue with this politics as usual. Our violence against each other, against poor creatures and all of God’s beautiful creation has caused so much suffering and death. I believe that a serious Christian will be appalled by what passes as Christian in this world. I believe that serious Jews and Muslims and all people of good will are sickened by this as well.
We need the radical truth of the Gospel and the message of liberation first given to the Jewish people of first-century Palestine who were in the throes of heroic resistance against the brutal oppression of the Roman Empire. That radical truth was almost lost when Christianity became a part of the Roman Empire but has always been accessible to those who seek the truth. It has been rediscovered in the flowering of historical biblical scholarship and liberation theology. That radical truth is something that Palestinian Christians have always known. They are the living stones, descendants of the first Christians who were there during the time of Christ, who drank tea with the Apostles and suffered the Roman persecution for three centuries. Now they suffer the persecution of new empires.
Easter is close upon us and the story of crucifixion and resurrection will be told again throughout the world. When Palestinian Christians go to church this Palm Sunday and Good Friday and Easter they will listen to sermons very different from the watered down stories we hear. They know their own history well. They know that Christ preached a vision about the kingdom of God, “on earth as it is in heaven”, not up in the sky or postponed until death and the next life, but a kingdom Jesus preached for NOW on EARTH, a kingdom of peace and freedom and justice. They know that Jesus’ vision of kingdom was in direct conflict with the kingdom of Caesar, who was worshiped as the Son of God and had many names, like Prince of Peace and Savior of the World. According to Roman history, there were two processions in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday–(1) a procession of Caesar’s soldiers “on war horses, leather-armored with helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold” [Crossan], storming into Jerusalem to instill fear and put down the Jewish revolt that rose up every year before Passover; (2) and there was the procession from the Mount of Olives, Jesus on a little donkey, barefoot, with followers singing hosanna and waving olive branches–in a nonviolent demonstration against injustice and against Caesar’s idea of kingdom. Palestinians know that Jesus was not crucified between two thieves but between two insurgents who had much in common with Hamas and Hezbollah. Rome’s own historical documents say that crucifixion was reserved only for political criminals–for insurgents and runaway slaves–those who challenged Roman authority. A more accurate translation of the word we inherited as thieves is better read as rebels. For Christians who take the message of the Gospel seriously, the difference is enormously important.
There is hope and it is almost palpable. There’s a worldwide consciousness growing and we seem to be on the edge of something new. But we have to work for the kingdom of God and never give up on people. We have to be actively seeking the kingdom. Nation states seek power in all its forms. Christians must not take part in it. We have more important things to do. We must go back to our roots in Palestine, experience Jesus in his historical context as one who suffered under the oppression and military occupation of the Roman Empire. If we can understand that history we can understand our own times better.
What Can We Do To Bring Peace With Justice In Palestine?Gaza Massacres (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009)
“More than 1,300 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed during 22 days of Israeli shelling from sea, air and land. Palestinians in Gaza had nowhere to flee from Israel’s onslaught as the border has been closed for two years, with disastrous consequences for the 1.5 million in habitants of Gaza — the majority of them children and refugees” (http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/687.shtml).
On 27 December, Israel began its bombardment on Gaza and then on 3 January began its ground offensive. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Gaza. Five sisters in one family, four other children in another home, universities, colleges, police stations, roads, apartment buildings were all targeted. The UN Special Reporter on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian areas issued a statement that “The Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.”
Twenty-five Things to Do To Bring Peace with Justice:
1) First get the facts and then disseminate them. Here are some basic background information:
http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/the-true-story-behind-this-war The true story behind this war
http://www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/If%20Gaza%20falls.pdf If Gaza Falls
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml Gaza massacres must spur us to action
2) Contact local media. Write letters to editors (usually 100-150 words) and longer letters (usually 600-800 words) for local newspapers. But also write to news departments in print, audio, and visual media about their coverage. In the US http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/ you can find media listings in your country using search engines like Google.
3) Pass out flyers with facts and figures about Palestine and Gaza in your community (make sure also to mention its relevance to the audience).
4) Organize and join demonstrations in front of embassies or when not doable in front of your parliament, office of elected officials, and any other visible place (and do media work for it).
5) Hold a teach-in, seminar, public dialogue, documentary film viewing etc. This is straightforward: you need to decide venue, nature, if any speakers, and do some publicity (the internet helps).
6) Volunteer for NGOs in Palestine.
7) Put a Palestinian flag at your window.
8) Wear a Palestinian head scarf (Koufiya).
9) Wear Black arm bands (this helps start conversations with people).
10) Send direct aid to Gaza through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). http://www.un.org/unrwa/
11) Initiate boycotts, divestments and sanctions at all levels including asking leaders to expel the Israeli ambassadors (an ambassador of an apartheid and rogue state). See Palestinian call http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml
12) Work towards bringing Israeli leaders before war crime courts (actions along those lines in courts have stopped Israeli leaders from traveling abroad to some countries like Britain where they may face charges).
13) Calling upon all Israelis to demonstrate in front of their war ministry and to more directly challenge their government.
14) Do outreach: to neighbors and friends directly. Via Internet to a lot of others (you can join and post information to various list serves/groups).
15) Start your own activist group or join other local groups (simple search in your city with the word Palestine could identify candidate groups that have previously worked on issues of Palestine). Many have also been successful in at bringing coalitions from different constituencies in their local areas to work together (human rights group, social and civil activists, religious activists, etc).
16) Develop a campaign of sit-ins at government offices or other places where decision makers aggregate.
17) Do a group fast for peace one day and hold it in a public place.
18) Visit Palestine (e.g. with http://www.sirajcenter.org)
19) Support human rights and other groups working on the ground in Palestine.
20) Make large signs and display them at street corners and where ever people congregate.
21) Contact local churches, mosques and other houses of worship and ask them to take a moral stand and act.
22) Sign petitions for Gaza, e.g.
23) Write and call people in Gaza.
24) Work with other groups that do not share your political views (factionalism and excessive divisions within activist communities allowed those who advocate war to succeed).
25) Dedicate a certain time for activism for peace every day (1 hour) and think of more actions than what is listed above.
For support and contacts of people in Gaza or to volunteer, please contact the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People http://www.pcr.ps/
Recommended Books for Arab-Israeli Conflict
Masoud Kheirabadi, Ph.D
Dan Smith, The State of the Middle East: An Atlas of Conflict and Resolution (Paperback), University of California Press, 2008 (ISBN- 1844076296)
Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (Hardcover), Simon & Schuster (November 14, 2006) (ISBN-10: 0743285026; ISBN-13: 978-0743285025)
Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, six ed. Bedford/St.Martins, 2007 (ISBN: 13:978-0-312-43736-7
Rashid Khalidi, The War on Lebanon: A Reader, Olive Branch Press, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-1566566803)
Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East, Beacon Press, 2004 (ISBN-13: 978-0807002346)
Stephen Sniegoski, et al, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, Ihs Press, 2008 (ISBN-10: 1932528172)
Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics) (Hardcover), Princeton University Press (March 1, 2007) ISBN-10: 0691131244; ISBN-13: 978-0691131245
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-0374177720)
CBS 60 minutes on Palestinian-Israeli Relations (January 2009) http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4752349n
A lecture by Professor Mearsheimer (Department of Political Science, University of Chicago) and Professor Stephen M. Walt (John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University) on Israeli lobby and US Middle Eastern policy dynamics: http://www.palestineremembered.com/Articles/General/Story1831.html
The Promised Land at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6hCe6CBwko