ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Tell Congress to advocate for Palestinian children

from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy

NOTE: Pax Christi USA is a member of the Faith Forum. This is their “Third Thursday for Israel-Palestine” action for May. 

3rd Thurs graphicTell Congress to advocate for Palestinian children

The detention of Palestinian minors by Israel raises serious concerns about lack of due process and ill-treatment. These concerns serve as a call to action for those who feel a responsibility to care for the most weak and vulnerable members of society.

According to the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, as of the end of March 2015, 184 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli custody. Furthermore, as B’Tselem notes, “the military law applied in the West Bank…denies them the protections accorded to minors under both international and Israeli law.” A 2013 UNICEF report states, “Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” While noting positive progress on some fronts, a UNICEF update this year states, “The data demonstrates the need for further actions to improve the protection of children in military detention, as reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014.”

Contact your Members of Congress today: Ask them to attend an important Congressional briefing to learn more about this issue and to advocate for ending the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in detention.   Entitled, “International Juvenile Justice Reform: Children in Israeli Military Detention,” the briefing will take place Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 9:30 AM in the Capitol Visitors Center, Congressional Meeting Room North.

The briefing will discuss the legal and structural components of the military court system, and situate the detention of Palestinian children within the larger context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Opening remarks will be provided by Congressman Keith Ellison and featured speakers include Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian-American who will provide a firsthand account from a child’s perspective and examine the effects of detention.

Use this link to see a sample letter/email/phone script and send your message today. This link is provided by our partners at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

For info on the just concluded Pax Christi International World Assembly & the PCI delegation currently in Israel-Palestine, click here.

PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL: The Bethlehem Commitment – Bringing the Future into Focus

from Pax Christi International

The below declaration is the outcome of the Pax Christi International 2015 World Assembly held in Bethlehem, Palestine, on 13-17 May 2015.

Where we began and where we are now…

pcilogonewForged in the broken relationships of a brutal war, Pax Christi began its journey 70 years ago with a vision based on the gospel – love your enemies – and rooted in a deep belief that reconciliation was possible. Shaped over the years by people of faith struggling to make peace in the midst of injustice and war, violence and repression, our movement brings to this moment in history a renewed commitment to make real in our lives and in our work for peace the values we claim to hold.

From the beginning we have accompanied those who are on the margins and we continue to connect with grassroots communities, listening with care to their stories and learning from their experience about possible, practical routes to enduring peace and, at the same time, developing insights into other pathways to peace.

At a time when poverty, exclusion, hopelessness and a lack of future possibilities pervade the lives of many young people making extremist ideologies attractive, we recognise the legacy of colonialism and systemic injustice, the power of active nonviolence, the importance of diversity and the urgency of inclusion.

At a time when fear is both real and orchestrated, we build bridges to hope, celebrating an abundance of difference among us; of age and culture, ethnicity and religion, sex and gender, experience and worldview.

With deep roots in the Catholic tradition and encouraged by the vision and witness of Pope Francis, we claim the richness of Catholic social teaching as we Christians strengthen existing ecumenical and interfaith cooperation.

On this journey we have learned that just relationships are essential for sustainable peace – that we humans are part of an earth community that must be healthy if we are to survive. We have come to see the interconnections between war and preparations for war, environmental damage, climate change and scarcity of essential resources. We are deepening our understanding of sustainability.

We also have learned that just relationships are essential to just peace – that Catholic hierarchy and local communities, ordained and lay, women and men bring equal gifts to the work for peace.

While war, preparations for war, the proliferation of arms and violent conflict seem to be omnipresent, we promote nonviolence, nurture community and work for a world where human rights and international law are consistently respected…

Click here to read the entire commitment.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition supporting the Inclusive Prosperity Act

The following petition was begun by Pax Christi USA member Jack Gilroy.

inclusive

Funds raised by the Inclusive Prosperity Act could be used to strengthen American families, community and economy as well as be used to support a Global Marshall Plan to fight both our own poverty and world poverty.

About 30 nations have a financial transaction tax as we had for over 50 years in the 20th century. Like the financial transaction tax of the UK, ours would be a tiny percent of 1%. Existing computerized financial transactions would make it easy to collect. Billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates strongly approve of such a fair tax.

Please contact members of the US House of Representatives and ask them to sign onto HR 1462, the Inclusive Prosperity Act.

Click here to sign the petition.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE DELEGATION: Grasping for peace in the Holy Land

by Judy Coode
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Separation Wall in the West Bank

The Separation Wall in the West Bank

Our first week in the Holy Land has whooshed by. We’ve talked with Palestinians (and a couple Israelis); processed along the separation wall; visited a hilltop of resistance (Tent of Nations) and a hilltop of community (Neve Shalom); prayed at the sites of Jesus’ birth, miracles, passion and death; and eaten a lifetime’s worth of hummus. We spent four days with friends and colleagues from Pax Christi sections around the world, learning about and discussing creative ways to fortify our shared work for peace.

Today (Monday, May 18) was spent almost entirely in Jerusalem, just across the separation wall from Bethlehem. We visited Jerusalem yesterday too, going to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. This morning, unlike yesterday, we had a long wait at the checkpoint in order to leave the Occupied Territories; both times, however, two heavily armed Israeli soldiers entered our tour bus and did a swift assessment down the aisle.

Yacoub, our tour guide, had encouraged an early rise in order to get in line to enter the Temple Mount compound before the crowds. After arriving at the site, we passed through a strict security check and crossed over a wooden bridge to enter the space sacred to Jews and Muslims.

The Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holy sites, is located at the spot where Jews believe Solomon’s temple stood; it’s one of several places where it’s believed Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed. Solomon’s temple (where Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables) was destroyed in the year 66 AD; only the western retaining wall (“Wailing Wall”) remains, where Jews pray 24 hours a day. Past the western wall, on the Temple Mount, the Dome of Rock was built in the seventh century; the al-Aqsa mosque sits nearby.

The amount of sacred spaces, historical sites and famous landmarks that we have seen in the past week is almost overwhelming. The mind races – the gospels are alive. To know that this is exactly where Jesus and the disciples and all the holy women and men who we’ve read about all our lives walked and laughed and ate fills the heart.

What breaks the heart is that Jesus’ message of peace is still so hard to grasp in this space where he walked and preached. During our time at Temple Mount, a small group of Jews were walking around – which technically they’re not supposed to do, as they believe that the area is where the holy of holies resides and only the high priest can enter – and a swarm of Muslim men, women and children, circled them, shouting loudly while they shook their fists, “Allah akbar!” Israeli soldiers strolled next to the crowd.

This was just one of the small moments of tension, at a bit of a distance, which we have experienced this past week.

Today we also were able to see the pools of Bethesda, where, on the Sabbath, Jesus cured the lame man who picked up his mat and walked. The compound leading to the pools are filled with a beautiful garden and St. Anne’s church, which legend holds is the site of Mary’s birth.

At the ancient pools, Yacoub assured us, “This is an authentic site, guys, authentic site.” (He’s only said this about the Garden of Gethsemane and the Bethesda pools.) A Christian Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem, Yacoub (and our bus driver) has moved us around the West Bank and Jerusalem with ease; he’s read selected bible passages to enrich our understanding of what we are observing. Shepherding a group of almost 30 adults at different levels of physical endurance (with some who veer off into shopping at inopportune moments) is a taxing job, and he’s done it with humor.

After the pools, we walked up the Via Dolorosa, which is pretty strenuous even without carrying a cross, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the site of Jesus’ death) and then enjoyed lunch in the Armenian section of the old city.

After seeing the ancient sites, we met with Ruth, a young activist with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. She gave us a fervent talk on the ongoing human rights abuses committed by the state of Israel against its Arab/Palestinian residents and strongly encouraged support of the BDS (boycott-divestment-sanctions) campaign. (Even though the U.S. “has the worst foreign policy,” she told us, she’d love to live in the U.S. “It’s really 50 different countries, isn’t it?” she said. “No one ever explains that.”)

Our visit with Ruth was followed by one last meeting, with Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann with Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR). Founded in 1988, RHR attempts to educate the Israeli public about human rights violations committed by the state and “gives expression to the traditional Jewish responsibility for the safety and welfare of the stranger, the different and the weak, the convert, the widow and the orphan.” Rabbi Grenimann spoke with us for over an hour, explaining his personal zionism (“Small z, not big”) and his hope that the country he loves can live up to the democracy that it claims to promote.

To be honest, this week has been exhausting. We’ve seen more than we imagined, heard more information than we can process, and walked for miles. But it’s been a tremendous blessing to be present in this land, in this space, and we know the spirit has accompanied us.

Click here to see more information on the delegation, including photos, additional posts, background info, etc.

REFLECTION: Sister Bowman’s presence, energy recalled 25 years after her death

from Catholic News Service

bowmanCANTON, Miss. — There is no doubt that Sister Thea Bowman possessed a presence. Many of those who knew her well speak of how she enveloped those around her with love, encouragement and positive energy, no matter if they were a lifelong friend or someone she just met.

March 30 marked 25 years since she died in the Canton home where she grew up.

A Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, she was a trailblazer in almost every role — first African-American religious sister from Canton, first to head an office of intercultural awareness, first African-American woman to address the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but to those who grew up under her tutelage in Canton, she was a singular inspiration.

“Calling her an encourager — that’s not even a strong enough word,” said Cornelia Johnson, a student of Sister Bowman. “She was that person who went beyond seeing the good in every person. She helped that good come out more,” Johnson added.

Prior to the anniversary of her death, the editors at the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Jackson Diocese, asked some who knew her to reflect on her legacy and her call to evangelization…

Click here to read the entire article.

PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL: Pax Christi International deplores refusal of entry of Secretary General José Henríquez into Palestine/Israel

Issued by the Pax Christi International Board

Pax Christi International Secretary General José Henríquez addresses the world assembly via Skype from Amman, Jordan after being denied entry into Israel.

Pax Christi International Secretary General José Henríquez addresses the world assembly via Skype from Amman, Jordan after being denied entry into Israel.

Pax Christi International deeply regrets that José Henríquez, our Secretary General, is not with us in Bethlehem for our World Assembly and 70th Anniversary Celebrations.

Refused entry into Palestine/Israel by the Israeli authorities, José’s absence is a great sadness to us. We fully support our Secretary General. Knowing him to be a man of integrity, we can think of no reason why he should be refused entry.

Speaking from Amman, José expressed his strong disagreement with the decision of the Israeli border officials and added: “I am living this experience in deep solidarity with the Palestinian people. This is only a small part of what they have to experience when they are denied access to East Jerusalem for medical care, family reunions and even for religious celebrations.”

One-hundred and fifty Pax Christi members, from all over the world have gathered in the birthplace of Jesus, a special place of peace and good will to all, a place of deep religious significance for us and for peace in the world. Here, we will renew our commitment to Justice and Forgiveness, Peace and Justice for all.