Faith communities must show clear leadership: Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

by Rebekah Sears

“We thus make a passionate plea to the leaders of all religions, all people of good will, and all leaders of nations both with and without nuclear weapons to commit to work to eliminate these horrific devices forever,” from a statement adopted by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, November 2018, developed by Jonathan Granoff of the Global Security Institute.

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Photo courtesy of the Parliament of World’s Religions Facebook Page.

Last month I had the privilege of participating in the Parliament of the World Religions in Toronto. The Parliament is a gathering held every six years, bringing together religious leaders and organizations from around the world, with the purpose of seeking interfaith cooperation to addressing the greatest challenges and obstacles for a just peace facing our world today – challenges that transcend international borders, and that impact peoples of all ethnicities, faiths and creeds.

The theme of this year’s Parliament was: The Promise of Inclusion, the power of love: Pursuing global understanding, reconciliation and change. For seven days, thousands of people participated in plenaries and keynotes, as well as hundreds of workshops, on responding to the global forced migration and refugee crisis; protecting the rights, sovereignty and languages of Indigenous peoples; confronting violence against women and supporting greater leadership of women in faith communities; urgent, timely and coordinated action on climate change; combating social injustice, and countering hate and war; and speaking with a united voice against the looming threat of nuclear war.

Unfortunately, so often religion has been, and continues to be, used as a cover to justify political and social injustice and violence. Faith is a persuasive motivator, and regrettably has, and continues to be, used and manipulated in the pursuit of power – often as a great divider of peoples.

The message at the Parliament was aimed at countering such actions, seeking unity, in both action and conviction, calling all faith leaders to reject the use of religion to harm or oppress others, and instead applying such principles to uphold human dignity and justice.

There are so many themes, panels, workshops and keynotes that I could highlight, but one of the issues that kept coming up – from both political leaders and leaders of faith – was the looming threat of nuclear war and the call to abolish nuclear weapons.

Though only held and controlled in the hands of the few and powerful, the possible and very real and devastating threat of nuclear weapons knows no borders nor abides by international law or recognizes human dignity.

Last year, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) oversaw the final push for the adoption of a  Global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, for which ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. The nine states that currently hold nuclear weapons refused to sign the treaty, as did many of their allies, including Canada.

The position of the leadership of the Parliament of the World’s Religions on this is clear, based on a statement released just after the conference. It was a call to action for religious leaders of all faiths to lead the way and speak truth and demand justice and peace from the powerful nations of the world, regarding the very real threat of nuclear weapons.

Representatives of ICAN were also at the Parliament itself, professors and experts Dr. Emily Welty, also of the World Council of Churches, and her spouse Dr. Matthew Bolton. At a plenary session they spoke about the often-patronizing reaction they get when speaking out to states resistant to signing the treaty, both weapon-holders and others – “It’s complicated.” Yes, like most big geopolitical issues, denuclearization is a complicated process. But to throw in the towel and ignore the potential devastating realities is just not an option.

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Photo courtesy of the Parliament of World’s Religions Facebook Page.

The message of Welty and Bolton was clear. We know, through the research and investigations – the science and testimonies – the definite devastating impacts of a possible nuclear war. As we speak, nuclear testing continues to have devastating impacts on communities on Christmas Island in the South Pacific, along with a dozen other countries where there has been nuclear testing since 1945. Locals are rarely consulted and often not even warned. As people of faith we understand the call to come together on the issues that unite us and to speak up for justice and human dignity.

 

After this plenary session, Peter Noteboom, the General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, and Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares co-lead a workshop called Principles to Practices: peace and abolishing nuclear weapons. Peter and Cesar presented research, testimonies and personal stories with a call to action from a Christian faith perspective. Earlier this year the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) passed a resolution outlining their Shared Principles of Peace, for all member churches. The document outlines principles of peace as part of the vocation of the church and its members, peace as means to work for justice, peacemaking as political engagement and a response to the threats of conflict.

ican-nobelpressconference-27oct2017

Cesar Jaramillo and others at a press conference when ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize: Photo courtesy of Paula Cardenas Left to right: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) campaigners Setsuko Thurlow, Ray Acheson, and Cesar Jaramillo call on Canada to join a UN nuclear weapons ban at a press conference in Toronto on October 27, 2017. Jaramillo is the executive director of Project Ploughshares, an MCC partner.

To Peter the vocation of people of faith is clear – to be a united voice, speaking out of both practicalities and principles to demand a nuclear weapon-free world now – not after another Hiroshima…now!

Rebekah Sears is the MCC Ottawa Office Policy Analyst

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Global Compact on Migration Q&A

by Anna Vogt

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen will indicate Canada’s adoption of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) on December 10 and 11 in Marrakech, Morocco, along with the majority of the world’s states. As such, the GCM has been receiving increased attention by Canadian media and in the House of Commons. So, what exactly is the Global Compact? Why is it necessary?  And what is Canada’s role?

Here are some key quotes and information from articles and stories, published over the last few months, that can help us unpack the Global Compact on Migration.

What is the Global Compact on Migration?

“The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration provides the first international and non-legally binding cooperative framework on migration. It is the result of a comprehensive process of discussions and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations that started with the New York Declaration in 2016, unanimously adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2016.” The compact provides some guidelines on how states can respond well to migration, both by addressing the reasons why people are migrating, and providing avenues on how migration can be safer and regulated.

Source: Questions and Answers: what is the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration? 

Why now?

One out of every 30 people worldwide is a migrant. The GCM contains basic principles to guide states so they can best address migration, in a way that encourages migration that benefits receiving countries and also doesn’t harm those on the move.  “Migration is a global reality, which no country can address on its ownIt therefore requires global solutions and global responsibility sharing, based on international cooperation. The Global Compact on Migration aims to foster international cooperation by setting out guiding principles and providing for a multilateral political framework. It deals with the complex nature of international migration by addressing a wide range of migration-related aspects, such as border management, smuggling and trafficking in human beings, migrant documentation and return and readmission, as well as diasporas and remittances.”

Source: Questions and Answers: what is the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration? 

What about refugees? 

There is a separate Global Compact on Refugees.

On 19 September 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a set of commitments designed to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants… In it, governments committed to work towards the adoption of two new agreements: a Global Compact on Refugees and a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. While neither Compact is legally binding, they contain important political commitments and signal an opportunity to improve the international community’s response to refugees and migrants.

The Refugee Compact was developed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in consultation with governments and other actors; a roadmap and the Compact website detail the steps taken in the process. An initial draft of the Compact was released in January 2018 and the final draft in July 2018. It was presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2018 in the UN High Commissioner’s annual report.

Source: The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants

What about Canadian sovereignty?

The Global Compact on Migration is not legally binding. Therefore, no legal obligations arise under domestic or international law for participating States. The Global Compact on Migration is based on the principle of full respect of national sovereignty. To quote: “The Global Compact reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction, in conformity with international law. The Global Compact on migration does not entail any transfer or restriction of national sovereign rights or competences. It is not an international agreement and will therefore have no legal effect on national legal systems and neither do obligations arise from it.”

What are some of the weaknesses of the GCM?

“The compact may have some inherent weaknesses, such as not sufficiently demonstrating that it will be relevant and actionable in member states with such contrasting migration features and policy approaches. Doubts also persist on the levels of financial resources that will be allocated to implement such a nonbinding and largely aspirational policy framework.” The non-binding nature of the GCM means that it is up to each state to decide how and when they will implement the practices within the GCM. Besides internal pressure from citizens, there is no way that states can be held accountable for failing to act in accordance with the GCM.

Source: What’s to fear in the UN Global Compact for Migration?

Leona and Bekah on Hill with Kati Garrison and Abby Hershberger from UN Office (2)

Abby Hershberger, Kati Garrison, Bekah Sears, Leona Lortie on Parliament Hill, August 2018

What has been the role of civil society?

MCC’s office in New York has been involved in advocacy around the Global Compact and ensuring that civil society is well represented since the negotiation and consultation phase. The office visited MCC country programs and heard from partners. MCC staff member Kati Garisson highlights MCC’s role in working with the NGO Committee on Migration, a civil society coalition in drafting a “Now and How: Ten Acts for the Global Compact.” This document represents civil society’s attempt to re-frame the conversation on migration to emphasize human dignity, full participation in discussion and solutions (especially honouring the multiplicity of migrant voices), development for all, and a commitment to implementing both existing international human rights law and labor conventions and protocols and the actions outlined in the Global Compact for Human Mobility and Migration.

You can also read about a visit from MCC New York staff to Canada to advocate for continued Canadian support for the GCM.

Additional Information:

A Glance at the Global Compact for Migration

Migration Data Portal 

MCC UN Office on Twitter

Anna Vogt is Director of the MCC Ottawa Office

 

From despair to hope on the shepherd’s field: listening to stories of child detention

In October I joined an MCC-led learning tour travelling through Palestine and Israel to learn about the conflict and to see the realities on the ground first hand. Our schedule was composed of an interesting mix of visiting MCC partners, travelling through the region to see the differences between occupation and relative freedom, and tourist spots including the holy sites.

During one of the mornings, we made our way from Bethlehem to visit the YMCA, an MCC partner, in neighbouring Beit Sahour. The YMCA is fortunate to have offices on one of the shepherd’s fields, a site where the shepherds may have heard the angels proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth.

Photo of YMCA Beit Sahour

The front entrance of the YMCA in Beit Sahour. (Photo/Craig Neufeld)

We arrived at the YMCA office early and strolled over the shepherd’s field and briefly climbed into an old cave, which shepherds may have used for their sheep at night. While the shepherd’s field was charming, our visit to the YMCA had a very different tone: one of a hard and somber reality. The YMCA offers rehabilitation programs to former child detainees. Every year hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested by the Israeli army, detained, and often serve a prison sentence at an adult detention center or military prison.

Part of our visit to the YMCA was to meet some individuals who had gone through the rehabilitation program. As we finished our introductory session with one of the psychological counselors who works with children, youth and young adults in the program, we all looked at the doors as seven young men walked in.

In that moment I was struck by the reality of the concept of child detention. Before going on this trip, I had been working with MCC’s A Cry for Home campaign for about four months. I had read testimonies and reports, but meeting people who had experienced arrest and detention as a child humbled me. I wondered, how hard it was for them to come and talk to us about their experience and I felt myself cringing, as the first person started to share.

I listened to each heartbreaking story about arrest, mistreatment by military personnel, torture, and physical, emotional, and mental injuries. Detentions and prison sentences ranged from three to eighteen months. While each experience was different, many commonalities appeared.

Each person spoke of an emptiness, hopelessness, and the loss of seeing a future past the experience of the detention. One young man, who is now 17 years old, shared how he was in a vulnerable psychological state when he was released. When he was arrested by the Israeli military, his arm was already in a cast and during the ensuing interrogation the cast was taken off and under torture, his arm was broken for a second time. To this day, he has not regained full mobility. To make matters worse, after his three-month detention and release, military personnel continued to show up at his house, disrupting his reentry into normal life and retraumatizing him. He shared, “When I closed my eyes, I saw them coming to arrest me… I thought I would always see that.”

Another young man shared how he was arrested and detained for two days when he was thirteen years old. At fourteen he was shot in the leg right before he was arrested again. At the beginning of his eighteen-months prison sentence, he spent 6 weeks handcuffed to a hospital bed while recovering from that major injury. When he came to the YMCA, he remembered being completely disillusioned. He could not imagine a future after what he had been through.

While these young men briefly described their detention experience, some not going into much detail, they each made a point of telling us about how far they had come since then. Every-day-life seemed impossible after their release, but they now shared with pride that they were in university, employed, in a trade apprenticeship, or working toward having their own business venture.

Photo of the Young Men

A photo of the seven young men accompanied by a YMCA staff member. Identity of the persons in this picture is not shared publicly. (Photo/Craig Neufeld)

These young men underwent significant psychological counselling, and some received vocational training. The pride of accomplishment and hope for a good future was shining in their eyes. However, overcoming trauma in one way or another is not where the story ended for them. These young men are part of a leadership program, designed to allow them to give back to their communities, focusing on matters such as capacity building, communications tools, and teaching others about positive leadership.

After all of the young man had shared parts of their story, one of them raised his hand, signaling that he wished to add something. He looked around the room and said: “The children of the past are the leaders of the future!”

_________

Later, when my group debriefed about the experience at the YMCA, we reflected on the hardship of what these young men had gone through, and marveled at their resilience, positive outlook, and motivation to help others. But we also wondered what their lives would have been like without occupation, without conflict, without the trauma of arrest, interrogation and detention.

We also remembered all of the children and youth who either have not had access to psychological care, or those who have not receive help in time. Since 2000, over 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and detained by the Israeli military, 500-700 each year.

Photo of Shepherd's field

The shepherd’s field behind the YMCA building. (MCC Photo/Leona Lortie)

In this advent season, as the YMCA possibly stands on the very ground where the angels appeared to the shepherds in Beit Sahour, let us remember their message of hope and comfort, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (KJV, Luke 2:10, 14).

At this moment in time, peace with justice has not yet come to Palestine and Israel as the conflict persists, but there is hope and the young men we met at the YMCA are determined to not only be part of a better, peaceful future, but they are actively working toward it.

Let us join them.

ACT Today: Sign this petition to urge the Canadian federal government to prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children and hold Israeli authorities accountable for widespread and systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian child detainees.

 

For more information and resources on the context in Palestine and Israel, and the work of MCC’s partners, see MCC’s A Cry for Home Campaign.

 

Leona Lortie is the Public Engagement and Advocacy Coordinator for the MCC Ottawa Office.

Ottawa Office Roundup: Spotlight on Gaza

The MCC Ottawa Office blog is trying something new, with a semi-regular News Roundup! We want to take the opportunity to share news stories, reports and resources from various sources around the web, with the goal of providing more background information and context on the countries and themes where MCC and our partners are working. We also want to speak to the role and responsibilities of the Canadian government, highlight what MCC is doing, and outline how you can get involved! The articles are drawn from a variety of sources and do not necessarily reflect the position of MCC.

Globe and Mail photo

A Palestinian child plays in an impoverished area of the Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 29, 2018. MAHMUD HAMS/GETTY IMAGES

For this first Roundup we want to highlight the deteriorating situation in Gaza, primarily because our partners have reached out, speaking to the growing urgency and desperation of the situation and the people of Gaza. More than one million people in Gaza rely on humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. The blockade that Israel imposed in 2007 has devastated the economy and brought unspeakable hardship for Palestinians. Now, as recent funding cuts from UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestine, take hold—life for many is going from bad to worse.

A broad look at the everyday realities

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip, BBC, May 2018

In May 2018 the world was watching as numbers of causalities and deaths in Gaza peaked – this BBC article took the opportunity to outline the significant daily challenges within Gaza, most directly connected to the blockade, including: freedom of movement, the economy, schools on the verge of closure, insufficient access to essential medicines, food and water, and extremely limited electricity.

Israel tightens Gaza blockade, civilians bear the brunt, Oxfam, July 2018

In mid-2018, Israel tightened the blockade on Gaza even further, exacerbating the above-mentioned concerns, and it is the civilians of Gaza that are bearing the biggest brunt. In this report, Oxfam and others outline the realities and impacts for the people of Gaza, it provides a list of recommended actions for the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority, as well as the international community, of which most seek to address root causes of the situation, with a long-term view.

Long-Lasting impacts and the youth of Gaza

Gaza economy in crisis: World Bank report warns that it’s in ‘free fall’, Middle East Eye, via World Bank, September 2018

The recent report from the World Bank talks about a crippling and unsustainable economy in ‘free fall’, stifled by a more than 10-year blockade, as well as the impacts for Gaza’s youth, where the unemployment rate has risen to 70% despite high levels of post-secondary education.

Generation of children in Gaza on the brink of a mental health crisis, new research shows, Save the Children, June 2018

In Gaza, a generation of children is growing up knowing little else but conflict: a blockade, regular drone attacks and air strikes, the loss of home, or worse, the loss of family and friends. As the humanitarian situation worsens, reports like this one continue to draw attention to the long-lasting impacts of trauma and violence on children.

How to move forward: Addressing structural issues, and not just humanitarian issues

Cash-Strapped Gaza and an Economy in Collapse Put Palestinian Basic Needs at Risk, World Bank, September 2018

Although humanitarian and development support for Gaza is helping to meet urgent immediate needs, there is a need to address some of the root causes and structural factors. This report from the World Bank outlines the limits of humanitarian aid to bring real and sustainable change and growth to Gaza and outlines the push to move beyond merely sustaining life and the conditions as they exist today, to see long-lasting impacts and movement for the better.

Canada’s role and responsibilities, and moving forward

Canada pledges $50-million for vulnerable Palestinians, Globe and Mail, July 2018

In July, the Canadian government pledged $50-million to support vulnerable Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza. This announcement followed the Minister of International Development visiting the region, earlier in the month.

Canada gives $50-million to UN Palestinian refugee agency that U.S. calls flawed, Globe and Mail, October 2018

In order to help fill the urgent funding gap as a result of cuts to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which represents Palestinian refugees, Canada and other countries have pledged significant additional support for the situation. Of the $50-million pledged, $38-million will support programs in Gaza.

Why Canadian aid won’t really help Palestinian entrepreneurs, The Conversation, August 2018

As the previous section highlighted, aid is not enough. Humanitarian and development support will help sustain life, while continuing to uphold the current structures, which are stifling growth and long-term improvements in the lives and living conditions of the people of Gaza. While the increases in Canadian humanitarian aid are a positive step, they fall short of addressing the structures that sustain the humanitarian crisis.

MCC invites you to take action: Contact your Member of Parliament!

End the suffering of Gaza, MCC Ottawa Campaign, updated, Oct 2018

We, alongside our partners are calling for continued humanitarian support. But beyond this support, in order to build a peaceful and sustainable future for Gaza, we are calling for the end to the Israeli over a decade-long blockade, which is at the root of so much of the situation in Gaza. In 2018, as the blockade tightens, the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

ACT Today: Urge your MP to show compassion for Gaza! Ask him or her to:

  • Insist to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister on continued humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, but, more critically, that Canada support an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
  • Support policies in keeping with Canada’s official commitment to promote the human rights of all people, including Palestinians and Israelis.

For more information and resources on the context in Palestine and Israel, and the work on MCC’s partners, see MCC’s A Cry for Home Campaign.

Rebekah Sears is the MCC Ottawa Office’s Policy Analyst

Connecting Honduras and working for peace

By Jill Steinmetz, Digital Media Specialist with MCC’s SALT program in Honduras.

This post was originally published on MCC’s Latin America and Caribbean (LACA) blog on November 13, 2018 and is also available in Spanish.

Sweet bread and hot coffee fueled discussions of peace and justice at a faith-based Partner Gathering in Valle de Ángeles, Honduras in September of this year. Each morning between enriching sessions, the meeting organizers created space for connection over coffee – a space where meaningful conversations could emerge  between attendees coming from more than 20 different Christian organizations all over the country. The event was initiated by MCC Honduras and co-organized with Tearfund, World Renew and Resonate Global Mission. Though MCC Honduras hosts an annual partners meeting, this was the first year to also include partners from other international faith-based organizations. The 2018 Partner Gathering aimed to foster environments for exchange and support among those working for peace and justice around the country. “We believe that we are stronger when we are together. These Christian organizations enrich our MCC partners, the Mennonite perspective and the work that we do,” said Matthieu Dobler Paganoni, Co-Representative of MCC Honduras. The gathering stretched over a 4 day period and at its close on September 7, representatives left with stretched minds, new and fostered relationships and a collaborative official declaration of commitments to guide further action.

MCC LACA photo from Honduras

A small group including Cesar Flores, MCC Area Director for Central America, brainstorms ideas before coming together as a large group. (MCC Photo: Jill Steinmetz)

The topic chosen by the partners for this year was “Analysis of the Honduran Context.” In part because the extremely relevant work these organizations are doing today must be understood in relation to the recent political history of this country. The coup d’état of President Jose Manuel Zelaya in 2009 sent the country into political crisis, highlighting the till-then latent partisanship of national politics. From this new political climate, Juan Orlando Hernandez emerged as a powerful congressional leader who then won the presidency in 2013 and again in 2017. His second presidency challenged the country’s constitution, which he had a hand in amending to allow for his reelection.  A panel of supreme court justices appointed by Hernandez upheld the new law, while distrust and polarization continued to escalate. When election results were made public and declared fraudulent by international observers, protests broke out across the country for months. While the immediate causes of the protests have normalized, the situation has aggravated partisan tensions and contributed to police militarization and violence against protesters which has risen with the government’s investment in tough-on-crime and anti-corruption policies.

MCC LACA photo from Honduras

Valezca Zacapa from MCC partner Christian Action for Education of the Mennonite Church (ACEM) shares during a session on education. (MCC photo: Jill Steinmetz)

Meeting in the hills outside the capital, participants discussed how the current situation in the country relates to the work they do, brainstormed how to overcome political division and polarization, and reflected on how they could foster reconciliation as Christian organizations. “The need of the country right now is to form alliances and talk about new strategies,” said Adolfo Espinal as he reflected on the week spent in fellowship with representatives from other Christian ministries and organizations. “It was an invaluable time to meet together to find common ground, discuss strategy and share with one another – especially because we have these same day-to-day struggles working for peace and justice.”

Espinal directs the Social Development Committee (CODESO), an MCC partner of the Brethren in Christ Church in Honduras, where he also serves as pastor and denominational president. He traveled to the gathering with several co-workers from Choluteca, a department in southern Honduras. Though small, Orocuina often makes news for its active culture of political protest. Espinal described his hometown by saying that “while the rest of the population talks about the topic, Orocuina stays in the streets, protesting 2-3 times a week. The streets are packed with people.” Adolfo Espinal and many of the attendees came to the event asking what the church can do to address internal polarization and division. As the pastor of a church of about 200 families, his connections and visibility challenge him to navigate sensitive terrain that runs through family and congregation: “My cousin is running for the Liberal Party and the opposing candidate is also a member of my church congregation,” he said. “Another man in my church is running for mayor for the National Party.” Deep political and religious rifts affect daily life for Espinal and for many of MCC’s partners in Honduras. This shared reality of division brought them together in September.

The deep polarization impacting Honduras cuts across political, social and religious spheres. The merits of this meeting included the range of organizations and communities represented and the rich dialogue drawn from such diverse perspectives. Presenters shared thoughts, ideas, and research which provoked discussions among the larger group. Among the speakers were an economic expert, a social historian, and a Catholic priest. Dolores Martinez of MCC partner the Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) felt intellectually engaged by the speakers as well as inspired to actively revitalize the local church. She hopes to continue working, moving, fighting actively for justice in her community. The overall integrity of the week was boosted by having both Evangelical and Catholic participants share and find common ground. Social activities, including an evening bonfire, provided opportunities to share stories from different backgrounds while morning worship sessions brought together those from many denominations to share songs in a time of praise.

MCC LACA photo from Honduras (group)

(MCC Photo: Jill Steinmetz)

One of these songs, based on Micah 6:8, highlighted the reason behind why these passionate and committed professionals work the way they do in these challenging issues. The song’s invocation, “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” articulated a shared mission for many of these organizations. While strategies and organizational structures differed, participants found common ground and mutual support with one another this week. Marcia Gutierrez, from the Jesuit Reflection, Research and Communication Foundation (ERIC), was grateful to MCC for holding the event. During a coffee break she reflected, “I found a diverse set of people here promoting healthy dialogue. This is an important step in the construction of peace and justice in a country that needs it desperately.” Participants hope to meet again next year and extend an even broader invitation to like-minded organizations. Perhaps by working together, they can offer a concrete alternative to the religious, social and political divisions so rife in the country.

Water, the cross, and a liturgical journey

Refuse to be enemies

A sign greets visitors at the entrance of the hilltop farm of the Nassar family near Bethlehem. (MCC photo/Emily Loewen)

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in East Jerusalem, Palestine put together a workbook inviting us to walk through the stations of the cross from a Palestinian Christian perspective. Each station explains aspects of Palestinian suffering and offers reflection regarding ways in which Palestinians are bearing the cross today. Water shortages and poor water quality have contributed to the hardship of Palestinians living under occupation since 1967. Pray with us in solidarity and in the hope of peace with Sabeel and the Palestinian people:

God who called us forth from the dust…
Send your living waters upon us
Sprinkle us again with your purifying rains
Make your mountains fill with dancing streams
Your valleys swell with splashing ponds
As fertile as the River Jordan
As renewing as the waters of baptism
As overflowing as the cup of salvation.

Feed all living things with your life-sustaining water
As you fill them with your grace.

And as we gaze upon this land that so thirsts for your water
Let it remind us of all the thirsts in this world:
The thirst for justice
The thirst for peace
The thirst for opportunity
The thirst for reconciliation
The thirst for hope.

And when your blessings rain from the sky
As assuredly they will
And we kneel again at the pools and fountains
Teach us to cup our hands
And gently,
Gracefully,
in solidarity
Turn first, and share with one another.

A prayer by Edward Hoyt, Catholic Relief Services as published in Contemporary Way of the Cross: A Liturgical Journey along the Palestinian Via Dolorosa, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre.

You can find out more about the occupation of Palestinian territory by visiting our A Cry for Home campaign page.

Prayer for Peace

flowers painted on wallIn light of the chaos, disorder and violence in our wider world, it is right to clasp our hands, hearts and voices in prayer for peace. We invite you to join us in prayer for the people of Palestine and Israel.

“Then justice will dwell in the land
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust
forever.” — Isaiah 32:16–17

O God of life and love and peace,
We witness the violence and injustice in your Holy
Land
And our hearts break.

Our hearts break for all Palestinians—
For the victims of violent attacks from Israelis
For those who have endured decades of occupation
and oppression
For those whose homes and olive orchards have
been demolished
For those who languish in Israeli prisons and in the
“open air prison” of Gaza
For those without nearly enough water and electricity
and medical care
For those who are refugees, long displaced from
their homes.

Our hearts break for the Jewish people of Israel—
For the victims of violent attacks from Palestinians
For those who live with fear and insecurity
For those who re-live the trauma of the Holocaust
over and over.

Our hearts break for the wider world—
For those who are indifferent to the pain and suffering
in your Holy Land
For those who distort or turn their eyes from truth
For those who fail to see the humanity of all your
children.

Heal us all, O God.
Heal the broken and comfort the sorrowful.
Give hope to the hopeless and courage to the
fearful.
Strengthen the peacemakers and reconcilers.
Confront those who practice injustice and commit
violence.

We especially pray—
That weapons of war be laid down
That walls of separation and the machinery of occupation
be dismantled
That prisoners be released
That demonizing of “the other” cease
That political leaders seek the good of all people in
Palestine and Israel.

We pray also for ourselves—
That our eyes will be opened to the ways in which
our beliefs and actions have contributed to injustice
and to violence.

O God, whose heart breaks for the world,
May your justice dwell in the land
May your righteousness abide in fruitful fields
May the effect of righteousness be quietness and
trust forever
May the effect of justice be peace – enduring peace.

Amen

– Esther Epp-Tiessen is the former public engagement coordinator for MCC Canada’s Ottawa Office. This prayer is part of MCC’s Prayers for Peace Packet.