From the Executive Director's Desk...
Standing in solidarity
Rev. John L. McCullough
June 5, 2008
By Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
People of faith in 17 countries are undertaking a range of inspiring activities June 4 10 to carry out an “International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel.” During this time that we remember the 60 th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, let us also lift up the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people and the world's deep desire for peace in the Holy Land.
“We give you thanks and praise for your gift to us of your only Son, Jesus -- His birth in Bethlehem, His ministry throughout the Holy Land, His death on the Cross and His Resurrection and Ascension. He came to redeem this land and the world. He came as the Prince of Peace. . .
“Send us political leaders ready to dedicate their lives to a just peace for their peoples. Make them courageous enough to sign a treaty of peace that puts an end to the occupation imposed by one people on another, granting freedom to Palestinians, giving security to Israelis and freeing us all from fear. . .
“In the land you made holy, free all of us from the sin of hatred and killing. . . We trust in you, Heavenly Father. We believe you are good and we believe that your goodness will prevail over the evils of war and hatred in our land.”
---excepted from t he Jerusalem prayer for Sunday, June 8th from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
The historical context
Sixty years ago, on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence. For many Jews this has been the occasion for celebrations wherever they live -- in Israel, and many other countries, including the United States.
Most Palestinian Arabs, however, are marking the historic occasion differently. It is a time to remember the “Nakba”, the “catastrophe”, a time of suffering. The “catastrophe” refers to the reality that during the last six months of the British mandate over Palestine, the declaration of Israel's independence, and the following Arab-Israeli war, more than 700,000 Palestinian were displaced from their homes and became refugees outside of Israel. Their homes and properties were turned over to immigrants of the newly established State. Today the situation of Palestinian Arabs is very tenuous in terms of their physical safety, ability to earn a living, spiritual and political well-being.
The current situation
Church World Service recognizes that a lasting peace requires a viable two-state solution Israel and Palestine, living in peace with their neighbors, with internationally recognized borders resembling those in 1967. Arab states must recognize Israel which must be secure from attack. The Palestinian state must be economically, politically and culturally viable and unified. This means that the West Bank and Gaza must not be divided politically and economically and the fragmentation of the West Bank by Israeli settlements, roadblocks and exclusive roads must end. East Jerusalem must be the economic center of the West Bank once again. Jerusalem must serve as the capital of both countries and be an open city for people of all faiths.
Tragically, the latest attempt at a peace process begun late last year in Annapolis seems stalled. The United States does not appear to be doing all it can to promote the initiative, and the Israeli Prime Minister is caught in a political scandal. The welfare of people in Gaza continues to deteriorate, as food and fuel are in desperately short supply, and the ability to obtain medical treatment severely compromised.
As Christians in the United States, we can play helpful roles. We can pray in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis who have suffered in the conflict. And we step up our call to our own governmental leaders to offer more than empty words and gestures and to use their power effectively as peace makers.
Actions around the world
The theme of this year's International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel is “It's Time for Palestine.” Religious leaders, organizations and congregations are using their power and creativity to show solidarity with Palestinians and urge political leaders to work for peace. While June 4-10 is a focal point, activities will take place throughout the month. Here are a few examples of what others are doing in the areas of prayer, education, advocacy and public action:
- In Bethlehem: Prayers of peace and messages from around the world will be read aloud in Manger Square on Sunday June 8 th.
- In Australia: church leaders met recently with Israel's Ambassador to their country and have asked to meet with their Foreign Minister.
- In France : church organizations have planted olive trees in 50 French cities as a sign of hope for peace.
- In Ireland : church leaders will go on TV to talk about their recent visit to Israel/Palestine.
- In the Netherlands : a joint Palestinian and Dutch symphony will perform a concert for peace.
- In the Philippines : 300 Filipino children will see films and hear stories about Palestinian children and send cards, drawings and letters to Palestinian children.
It's time for Palestine. It is time to share a just peace, to end 60 years of conflict, oppression and occupation. It is time for people living 41 years under occupation to feel a new solidarity from a watching world. It is time to honor all who have suffered -- Palestinians and Israelis, to seek forgiveness between communities, and to repair a broken land together.
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