Towards Living Wages and Decent Work

by Greg deGroot-Maggetti

“We need to create a parade that politicians want to get in front of.”

That is how one participant at a forum on the living wage and public sector employers put it.

At the heart of decent work is fair pay – the ability to earn a living wage. Not a poverty wage. But enough to meet your needs and fully participate in the life of your community.

But the growth of low-wage and precarious employment has become one of the defining labour market challenges in our time and one of the root causes of growing income inequality.

In 2017, the Government of Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review found that 30% to 32% of workers in Ontario were in low wage jobs with few if any benefits. Many people in standard jobs, “work for very low pay and do not have a private pension.” (An Agenda for Workplace Rights, p. 45)

How does one change that reality?

One approach is to advocate for change in government policy. Groups like the Workers’ Action Centre and the Fight for $15 and Fairness Campaign have been doing just that in Ontario. And in 2017, their efforts began to bear fruit. Indeed, the very fact that the Changing Workplaces Review took place is a testament to the effectiveness of that advocacy. And although the review was not tasked with reviewing the minimum wage — which happened a few years earlier — when the Government led by Kathleen Wynne announced policy changes based on the Changing Workplaces Review they included a plan to raise the Ontario minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2019 alongside a number of improvements to employment standards.

Policy change can be characterized as an exercise in taking two steps forward and one step back. That is just what happened in Ontario. In June 2018 a new government was elected. One of the first things the new premier, Doug Ford, did was to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour and roll back many of the employment standards changes that the Wynne government had brought in.

Advocates have also taken another approach to create change alongside the direct engagement with government. This approach has been directed at employers, encouraging them to voluntarily pay a living wage to all of their employees – full-time, part-time and contracted services, like custodial, security or food services. The living wage differs from the minimum wage in a couple ways. First, the minimum wage is government mandated and applies to most employees across the province. The living wage is a policy voluntarily adopted by employers. Second, the minimum wage tends to be arbitrarily set, usually bearing no relation to the actual cost of living. The living wage is independently calculated based on the actual cost of living in communities. In Ontario, living wage rates calculated for close to two dozen communities are all above the $15 an hour target for the minimum wage. The living wage rates in these communities vary from $21.75 in Toronto, Canada’s largest city to $16.05 in Thunder Bay.

The Ontario Living Wage Network came together in 2014. Nearly 200 employers have enrolled in the Living Wage Employer Program. Hundreds of employees have seen a pay raise as a result.

But the impact is greater than the number of employees directly affected.

In 2017, the Government of Ontario held hearings about upgrading employment standards. Typically in such situations, workers’ organizations and anti-poverty advocates speak in favour of raising the minimum wage, providing fair scheduling, paid sick days, etc. In the other corner are business groups – chambers of commerce, industry associations and the like – who caution about the presumed negative economic effect of making such changes. Into that mix, a group of living wage employers helped launch a new initiative – the Better Way Alliance. Members of the Better Way Alliance talked from their own experience about why paying a living wage and implementing positive employment practices makes good business sense.

The government of the day listened. They brought in many of those changes. But political times change. And the new government began to unwind many of those changes.

Living wage employers are helping create a new understanding and a new culture around employment practices. They note that the living wage is a practical tool helping employers who want to know they are paying their employees enough to make ends meet and participate in community.

Being able to attract qualified employees, seeing better staff retention, saving money on hiring and training as a result, reaping the benefits of higher productivity and better service from a stable workforce, seeing better morale among employees, are just examples of the many benefits of paying a living wage. Living wage employers are speaking up about them.

A few organizations have become leaders in a movement to counter poverty and encourage wage equity. The Ontario Living Wage Network is one among a number of movements promoting decent work. The Ontario Non-Profit Network has made decent work a focus. They have created a Decent Work Checklist  and a pension program for Non-Profit Organizations. The United Way of Greater Toronto has provided a toolkit for businesses to transform precarious jobs into stable employment. The B Corporation movement is demonstrating how sustainable environmental, social and employment practices can be integral to long-term business success.

Each of these initiatives helps demonstrate how old assumptions about trade offs between decent wages or sustainable environmental practices and profitability are false. As these initiatives expand, they create the political space for public policies grounded in proven employment, social and environmental practices of employers of all sorts. They form the “parade that politicians can get in front of.”

 

Greg deGroot-Maggetti serves as MCC Ontario’s Walking with People in Poverty Program Coordinator and is co-chair of the Ontario Living Wage Network. MCC Ontario is a certified Living Wage Employer.

 

Caption for the photo:
Living Wage Employers in Waterloo Region received Living Wage Certificates during living wage week celebrations the first week in November.

Credit: Ontario Living Wage Network

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Peacebuilding for Gender Equality: Supporting a Girl’s Right to Education

by Candacia Greeman

At the tender age of 17, Susan* stands tall – strong and resilient against threats of forced marriage. During a recent term break, she was informed that she was to be married upon her arrival home. In her absence, her uncles had accepted 90 heads of cattle, as her bride price. With her dream of becoming a doctor and her drive to pursue her secondary education, Susan* resisted for one week. During this time, she was beaten repeatedly.

An MCC partner, the Loreto Girls Secondary School in Rumbek in South Sudan, supports girls like Susan* through a school feeding project and a peace-building project. The Loreto Peace Club consists of 24 Loreto students who are supervised by two teachers. Every year, the Peace Club undertakes several outreach activities to provide trauma healing and peace-building resources for the girls at Loreto, and the community at large.

During the academic year, a trained counselor, who is a former Loreto teacher and well acquainted with challenges facing the girls, visits the school for one month to provide individual and group counseling sessions as needed. The counselor has noted that many students show significant signs of despair due to threats of forced marriage.

In the local culture, the bride price for a bride is paid by the brothers of her betrothed. When the couple’s first daughter is born, her life is held ransom as her future bride price will be used to repay the investment made by her uncles.

The tension between a girl’s desire for education, to choose when and who she should marry, and her uncles’ desire to recoup their investment, is the source of a lot of conflict for girls at Loreto and their families. In some cases, the conflict can become generational. The Peace Club provides girls with tools in conflict resolution to help them handle this conflict in a healthy manner.

“Being in the Peace Club has helped me a lot to deal with my own peace problems. When I lost my mother, a conflict broke out between by father’s family and that of my mother, that my father had not paid her bride price. It became a big problem until my father stopped talking to my grandfather. This disturbed me. One time I shared it during our peace club activities. From these [activities], I got new ideas on how to solve the problem and I have been talking to dad and my grandfather about it. Now the problem is being solved.”

-Elizabeth*

            For many girls, it is very important to have a safe space to talk about these issues and to discuss their feelings. The Loreto Peace Club facilitates this by offering Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) sessions for students. HROC is an approach initially developed in Rwanda to help communities to heal from trauma. In a recent HROC session at Loreto, Susan* and other girls facing threats of forced marriage were able to learn skills to heal from their trauma, and to build their resilience.

During HROC training sessions, I have learnt about things that other people see in me and things that I don’t see. I have also learnt about types of traumas and their cause. [I have learnt] how to heal [from] trauma and [to] live happily again. I have learnt that good listening can help overcome situation before it becomes worse. Above all I have also leant how to overcome loss, grief and mourning that is common in our society since people are blinded by hatred and revenge. Sharing our problem with few trusted ones is also another thing that I learnt. It is important to share things that troubled us because not everyone gets to know what we are going through unless we are willing to share it with them. This training has helped me a lot and I intend to teach others who haven’t had the chance to learn.

– Anna*

After graduating, more than half of Loreto’s students enroll in post-secondary education (52%), or work for NGOs and local ministries (31%). In recent years, graduates have enrolled in an internship program at Loreto where they receive two years of work experience as trainee teachers and nurses, and as assistants in the finance, administrative, logistics and development offices. Upon completion of the internships, they receive scholarships for training as nurses, doctors, teachers and lawyers. Internship placements are especially reserved for girls facing threats of forced marriage since they live on the Loreto compound and are protected from these threats during their internships.

While they face many challenges, girls at Loreto receive comprehensive support throughout and after their secondary education. This allows them to develop into young women empowered to promote peace and positive change in their society.

 

*Names were changed to protect the privacy of the girls interviewed.

Candacia Greeman is a MCC service worker serving as an education specialist at the Loreto Girls Secondary School in Rumbek, South Sudan.


This week is International Development Week and Canadians are celebrating the difference Canadian aid has made around the world. This year’s theme is Together for Gender Equality.

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Persistent faithfulness as an approach to community transformation

by Christopher Lortie

Many people begin the New Year by making resolutions, a decision to remove something or to incorporate something new in one’s life. I have to admit that I did not make any “official” resolutions this year, although I have recently made an effort to include more fitness activities in my life. I write ‘effort’ because ‘commitment’ may be too strong of a word. This is often the case with New Year’s resolutions. For many of us, it doesn’t take too long until they are forgotten.

Looking back, I often find that my New Year’s resolution goals were too big and unrealistic. The process usually ends in disappointment when I have to accept that I am not meeting my goals.

A similar feeling comes to mind when I consider the state of peace and justice in the world. Currently, I don’t think I need to argue too forcefully that reading or watching the news can create a feeling of despair when wondering about the lack of peace and justice in the world.

Like personal resolutions, promises made by governments toward large scale domestic or international initiatives seem to fade away soon after commitments are made. News headlines can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to imagine any measurable impact our actions could make – or even where to start.

I recently preached a sermon looking at 1 Peter, which I believe provides us with some direction and hope when feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world. In this context, the New Testament church was facing the reality that Jesus’s return wasn’t happening as quickly as they expected and the realization that they would have to settle into everyday life. Peter presents a way forward for the church, responding to how members of the church are to engage with the world around them, as well as how the church should engage with each other in community life.

Peter argues that those who make up the church should do what is “good” or “right” in the places they find themselves (e.g., 1 Peter 2:15, 20; 3:16; 4:19). They should embody Christ in all situations. This is why Peter uses language from Isaiah 53 – what is often called the suffering servant song – extensively in 1 Peter 2 describing how to take on the role of the suffering servant as Christ did, modeling Christ’s actions, especially in vulnerable situations. This might not sound like a very satisfying option for those who are presently experiencing forms of severe oppression; however, Peter believes that persistent faithfulness would be transformative in the context of the New Testament church.

In the context of community, Peter suggests a response which focuses on love and hospitality where each individual contributes their gifts and talents. He emphasizes that each person should excel with the gifts and opportunities they have been given. Each person has something to contribute, and Peter invites them to do well in their area of giftedness.

First Peter 4:8–11 reads, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” (NRSV).

When working for peace and justice, let us start by using our gifts in the places that we find ourselves. We all have unique talents and a sphere of influence, and with these gifts and in these places, we have a solid foundation.

More than a few times in my life, I have made the New Year’s resolution to start running. The problem is, I really don’t like running. The concept of persistent faithfulness reminds me of a time when as a teenager I had to participate in running exercises as part of a training routine for my hockey team. At first, I put almost no effort into this training, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to complete the run.

A change happened when I realized that since I had to do it, I might as well do it to the best of my abilities. As I ran, I would set small goals that allowed me to focus on accomplishments. I would pick a sign or landmark that was fairly close and simply focus on making that goal, and then I would pick another and another. My running time reduced significantly, and I actually began to enjoy the experience.

Rather than giving in to that despairing feeling about the state of our world today, we can apply Peter’s message to the church. We can set small goals or find a sign or landmark that we can run to and not be discouraged by the great overall distance we have ahead of us – one step at a time.

For example, we might not be able to solve the global migration crisis, but we can extend hospitality to newcomers who are in need of friendship and care. Our next goal might be to start informing ourselves about relevant conversations in our community, then our province and our country relating to Canada’s immigration policies. The more we learn and the more we get involved, the more opportunity we will see to use our gifts within our current and potential future sphere of influence.

Solving the great problems of the world can be overwhelming and seem impossible, but when we use our gifts through the concept of persistent faithfulness to be a positive influence, we might find ourselves empowered to do more than we thought was possible.

Christopher Lortie is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Providence University College in Otterburne, MB.

Photo credit: MCC Photo/Colin Vandenberg

Peace is not simply words

by Anna Vogt

In November, the Ottawa Office was pleased to host Syrian peacemaker S. Laham, (full name withheld for security purposes) formerly with MCC partner Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), for meetings with Canadian policymakers about Syria. Director Anna Vogt spoke with Laham about MECC’s work and his message for Canada. Here is a condensed and edited version of Laham’s reflections.   

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(MCC Photo/Anna Vogt)

The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) has been involved in humanitarian work since its establishment in 1974 as a communion of churches in the Middle East. MECC started by supporting Palestinian refugees, then those impacted by civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as aiding refugees from Somalia, Sudan, and then again Iraqis fleeing invasions in 2003. MECC currently supports Syrian IDPs and Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East. When local churches have strength and capacity to respond where they are, we can maintain the sustainability of this work and the witness of the church in the context it serves.

We believe that all refugees should enjoy a dignified and safe return to their countries, wherever applicable. To live in dignity means that we must care about the wellbeing of every single person, regardless of background. Each person should enjoy equal life, opportunities, and social and economic justice. MECC works to enable each person to retain their resiliency.

My wish for the Canadian government is that it would look at the reality of the entirety of Syria and the many stories present in the region. Canada must play a role in peacebuilding and stability in the region, instead of involvement in military action. Military interests will not generate peace. Rather, this will generate more conflict. It will generate more sensitivities, more hatred and increased destruction of the social fabric. This will not help in the rebuilding of the social fabric or lead to civil governments.

When Canadians look at Syria, they need to see the whole reality of the story. The media may only be reflecting one perspective, but there are lots of different sides of the story. There are many people who are working and serving in a very courageous way, who don’t have the media means to share their work. We have witnessed a lot of fragmentation and destruction in our history – we need to come together again to show that Christians, whose mission and vision is based on love, can really translate that mission and vision into practice by working together.

Peace is not simply words. Peace within the Christian context is first to live in peace with God, because we understand peace from the context of our faith and theology. Peace cannot be achieved if we do not live in love. Peace goes beyond providing food and shelter rather by living according to God’s will. When we love our neighbours, especially those who are different from us, we are reflecting the peace of God.

It is also important for us to live out peace with each other as members of different churches. There are many theological differences among us and we have inherited historical differences. We should be more aware and mature, to put differences aside and work to overcome historical difficulties. We are living as minorities within an Islamic context. By living in peace and love with each other, we can give a lesson. This is how our Lord taught us, by his example, that the entire world may see that we belong to Christ, that we are disciples of Christ.

Hospitality is not a privilege that we are providing for others. We must recognize that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity. We are all created in the image of God and we are all living under the hospitality and generosity of God. If I am not a refugee today, I may be one tomorrow. Many people who provided service, hosting refugees in Syria, have become displaced. Jesus Christ was a refugee in Egypt. He was also hosted by welcoming communities who provided him with security and peace at that time.

It is the duty of the church to advocate and educate our people on how to practice our faith and turn it into action. How do we develop the concept of sharing? To what extent can we become unselfish, opening our pockets to give to others, even if we are also in need?

In the book of Acts, we read the stories of how, among the early church, everything was shared.  What we have is not our own, it is a gift of God. If we have resources, they are not for ourselves but to be shared with others. It is very important for us to train ourselves to share, not just what we don’t need, but also the precious things that we have, with others.

When beautiful comforters from MCC arrive in Syria, they are high quality. We believe that anything that is given to people should be high quality. We must respect the people whom we serve. We should support people in the way we want to live. If I want to feed someone, I should feed that person with the same quality of food I eat. If I want to clothe someone, I should clothe them with the same quality of clothes that I buy.”

 We’re thankful to Laham for sharing his work and a fuller understanding of Syria with us. To learn more about MCC’s work in the Middle East and see how you can join in, visit the MCC website.

Anna Vogt is Director of the MCC Ottawa Office

Embracing the ‘Spirit’ in Bethlehem

I was never the most spirited person when it came to Christmas. Come New Years, Passover, Mother’s Day, Halloween, literally any other holiday, I’ll be making plans, creating surprises, planning parties and decorations. But during the Christmas season, I am the family’s Grinch. I never understood why the acclaimed “Christmas Spirit” – the niceness, kindness, care for others – should be only expressed during this particular time of the year.

Back when I lived with my parents, I enjoyed the Christmas dinner because we had such good food – my great aunts would get together and cook every favourite dessert for their 16 great nephews and nieces. It is impossible to not love that dinner.

In August I started an MCC assignment based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can imagine how ironic it felt when I finally rented an apartment in the place that arguably most represents Christmas. When I was moving in, I realized that at the beginning of my street there were some Christmas decorations and I rolled my eyes at it. I truly believed that God enjoyed a good old chuckle at my expense in that moment.

However, in the months that followed, I couldn’t focus so much on the relationship between Bethlehem and Christmas. This past year brought a lot of changes to my life. Moving to Palestine meant dealing with an international move, trying to understand cultural differences, learning new languages, figuring out a new job and context, making new friends and discovering new tastes and colours. Oh and all this while developing a self-care plan. I didn’t have time to stop and think about what Bethlehem represents.

Another reason why I was not thinking about the holidays, was the realization that this region – Palestine and Israel – as beautiful as it is, is so restless, always on the verge of war. There is so much suffering, so many walls and barriers between the people, that honestly, I sometimes forget that it is the “Holy Land.” The first months here felt like anything but that. I felt powerless and asked God many difficult questions. I was struck with the reality and complexity of the conflict in such a way that it seemed unreal to me to think that this is where Jesus was born, where he walked, preached, and gave His life so we could have salvation. I believe this land needs salvation – in many different ways. Amidst all of that, I barely had time to breathe properly or to notice that the months were passing me by.

On a chilly Friday afternoon in November, I was returning from Aida Camp, desperately looking for an open coffee shop, when I suddenly saw some workers decorating Manger Square in the heart of Bethlehem for Christmas. I thought to myself “Not this again.” It was the last Friday of November, and later that day a very excited friend informed me that the lightning of the Christmas tree would be the next day. In that moment I decided to not go anywhere near the Church of the Nativity or the Christmas tree until this was all over.

I realized soon that I was naïve to think that I could avoid Christmas in Bethlehem – it is all around. All of my friends wanted to go see the lights, see the church, visit the Christmas market, and despite my best efforts to avoid all of that, my curiosity got the best of me. When I left my house, with my best Grinch face on, I was sure that there isn’t such a thing as a Christmas Spirit, not even where Jesus was born.

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As I walked to the Church of the Nativity, trying not get run over by cars on my way, I noticed the stars on ‘Star Street’. My little grinchy heart started to soften. Bethlehem is a beautiful city, and truth be told, it looks even more fantastic with the lights all around. The lights made me happy. I kept walking, mulling over my new-found love for Christmas lights, until I finally reached the church and saw the gigantic golden Christmas tree in the square in front of me.

In that moment, my heart calmed down. I did not feel an increased urge to help others, I did not feel overwhelmed by joy, or the necessity to sing any Christmas songs. However, in that moment, while I stood with so many people from many diverse backgrounds, where He was born, after 2000 years, I felt in peace. I felt as if He was right there taking care of my anxious heart. My heart, which missed home and family, felt powerless and restless, and on most days does not know where it belongs. The beating of it slowed down, and I was struck by a ferocious sense of gratitude.

1030db4e-9751-43ac-bbec-944a54891755And there, in front of that enormous tree, around the red and green lights, surrounded by mostly tourists, God took a little bit of my stubbornness away and I remembered once again what we celebrate in this time of the year. Yes, we can celebrate and live it more often, but I finally stopped and thought about the world-changing impact that the birth of that baby had in this world and in my life. Still broken, fallen and failed, but now, because of that birth that happened in this small little town, we received salvation. Then I felt the Spirit, not the Christmas one, but the Holy one.

The author’s name is omitted at their request.

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.

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.