IRAN: Group of Christian leaders back Iran deal

from Politico

NOTE: Sr. Patty Chappell, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, and Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International, have signed onto the letter referenced in this article.

Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Congress-570x320More than 50 Christian leaders have signed on to a letter urging members of Congress to “remember the wisdom of Jesus” and approve the nuclear deal with Iran, the latest in a growing lobbying push by religious groups favoring the agreement.

The signatories, who represent denominations and organizations ranging from Catholic to Quaker to Pentecostal, praise the deal’s technical provisions while also arguing its merits on moral grounds.

“As faith leaders from the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, we have a particular responsibility to speak boldly when opportunities arise that lead to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at home and around the world,” the 53 faith leaders write. “This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The letter, which was sent to lawmakers Tuesday, goes on: “This is a moment to remember the wisdom of Jesus who proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). … There is no question we are all better off with this deal than without it.”…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Read the letter by clicking here.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Thirty-five aid organizations & 150,000 people launch public call to end the Gaza blockade

revisedfinalhealth

Reconstruction of Gaza could take 17 years with just 5% of building materials allowed in one year

NOTE: Pax Christi International is an endorser of this effort.

More than 150,000 people from around have today joined 35 aid, faith, development and human rights organisations in backing an unprecedented joint call urging world leaders to press the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza and remove the restrictions on basic building materials needed to reconstruct the coastal strip.

With the number of people supporting the call increasing by the hour, this has quickly become the largest ever global public push to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip, with international organizations and the public petitioning world leaders to uphold promises made to rebuild Gaza one year ago.

On the anniversary of the end of the conflict between the government of Israel and Palestinian armed groups, the organisations are calling for construction materials like wood, steel bars and cement to be allowed into Gaza to end so that hospitals, schools and homes can be urgently rebuilt.

Last year’s conflict saw over 19,000 homes destroyed, and left 100,000 people homeless. Donor governments have pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild Gaza, but a year on, Israeli restrictions on building materials continue to cause delays. Reconstruction has started on just over 2,000 of the 19,000 homes destroyed last year, and not a single home has been fully rebuilt.

Speaking in support of the campaign, Fadi Quran, Senior Campaigner of Avaaz said:

“It’s outrageous that a year on from the last Gaza war, not one home has been totally rebuilt and the world has left families in the rubble. Governments are allowing Israel to violate the most basic humanitarian laws and since the start of the blockade there have been three wars with hundreds of children killed. This massive public outcry shows people everywhere want their governments to act now to end this illegal, inhumane and dangerous blockade.”

The campaign launched by the global citizens movement Avaaz and the organisations says: “By placing restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the blockade is punishing innocent civilians for acts for which they bear no responsibility. There can never be a justification for leaving families without a home and the sick without a hospital.”

Speaking from inside Gaza, Ibrahem El Shatali of Gaza City said:

“Many of my friends and family members have been homeless for months now — how can we live like this, surrounded by rubble with no hope, no future and no prospect of things getting better? All we need are basic building materials and a fresh start.”

According to research carried out in a recent joint international NGO report, the illegal Israeli blockade has obstructed reconstruction efforts, worsening the humanitarian crisis inside the Gaza Strip:

  • Only 5% of the urgently needed 6.7 million tons of reconstruction materials needed to repair what was destroyed last summer in Gaza have been allowed in one year since the ceasefire. At this rate, reconstruction could take 17 years.
  • 559,000 students have been denied a quality education, as 11 schools and universities were totally destroyed and an additional 253 were severely damaged during the war.
  • 120,000 people still do not have access to the water and sewage network, with slow repairs to the 35,000 meters of pipelines damaged or destroyed. The sewage situation in parts of Gaza is appalling, with overflowing lagoons and untreated waste running through the streets.
  • 81 hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed by the conflict. Despite allocated funds to rebuild some of these facilities, needed construction material has not been allowed in.

Tony Laurance, CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians said:

“What Gaza needs more than anything is reconstruction, yet the government of Israel restricts the entry of even the most basic building materials. These severe restrictions prevent the rebuilding of even the most vital infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals and clinics. People across the globe are now saying ‘enough is enough,’ and are urging global leaders to push Israel to end the blockade now.”

The government of Israel holds the primary responsibility to lift the blockade, although agencies signing on to the campaign also recognize that reconstruction is hindered by the failure of Palestinian political parties to reconcile and prioritize reconstruction, and by Egypt’s closure of its border with Gaza.

The government of Israel justifies the restrictions on security grounds. However, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have repeatedly asserted that the blockade is a violation of international law. Indeed, there can never be justification for collective punishment of an entire population and leaving tens of thousands of families homeless and hundreds of thousands of children without a school or health centers.

William Bell, Christian Aid’s Policy and Advocacy Officer for Israel and the Palestinians said:

“With sewage spewing onto pavements, electricity and water supplies still severely limited and schools that look more like bomb-sites than places children get an education, hope is dwindling and Gaza’s future looks bleak.  The blockade has helped to create some of the highest unemployment and aid dependency levels in the world, making the lives of 1.8 million civilians miserable, and needs to end now.”

The full petition text supported by the organizations can be seen here and calls on the leaders of the US and EU, amongst others, to push for an end to the blockade and desperately needed building materials, including wood, aggregate, steel bar, and cement.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Tell Congress to end the Gaza blockade and promote a lasting peace

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 August. My apologies for posting it a week late. The action is still warranted. 

3rd Thurs graphic

One year after last summer’s devastating war, the situation in Gaza is dire. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

  • The 2014 unemployment rate in Gaza averaged 43%.
  • Nearly 80% of Gaza’s population receives some form of international aid, mostly food assistance.
  • Many basic construction materials and other items are defined by Israel as “dual use” (i.e. they could be used for both civilian and military purposes), and their import is restricted.
  • Less than 1% of the construction materials needed for rebuilding homes and ongoing housing needs have entered Gaza.
  • Gaza’s economy is undermined by access restrictions imposed by Israel, including restrictions on exports to the West Bank and Israel, imports to Gaza, and access to farming land in Gaza and fishing waters off its coast. Although recently some of these restrictions have been lifted, “the basic constraints remain in place, preventing a significant improvement in the economy.”
  • The movement of people is also restricted by Israel – an average of only 449 permit holders per day were allowed to exit via the Erez crossing into Israel during the first five months of 2015. The problem of isolation is increased by restrictions imposed by Egypt along its border with Gaza.

This situation must not continue, and the cycle of violence must not be allowed to repeat itself.  Call on Congress today to end the Gaza blockade and promote a lasting peace.  Ask your members of Congress to:

  • Call for a lifting of the Gaza blockade and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
  • Demand accountability for loss of civilian lives and infrastructure last summer by insisting that possible human rights violations by all parties be investigated. Impunity paves the way for future violations.
  • Recognize that U.S. diplomatic and financial support enables the occupation. The U.S. provides over $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel.
  • Condition military aid to Israel on its compliance with U.S. law and policy. Questions must be raised about how U.S. military aid to Israel is used –including during the war last summer —to ensure that it is not enabling human rights violations or being used in ways that contradict U.S. policy.

To prevent more bloodshed and to build peace for Israelis and Palestinians, use this link, provided by our partners at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, to contact your representative and senators today.

Sample email/phone script/letter:

Dear Senator/Representative,

I write to you today as a person of faith who is deeply concerned about the dire situation in Gaza one year after the devastating war between Israel and Hamas.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

  • The 2014 unemployment rate in Gaza averaged 43% – the highest in the world.
  • Nearly 80% of Gaza’s population receives some form of international aid, mostly food assistance.
  • Many basic construction materials and other items are defined by Israel as “dual use” (i.e. they could be used for both civilian and military purposes), and their import is restricted.
  • Less than 1% of the construction materials needed for rebuilding homes and ongoing housing needs have entered Gaza.
  • Gaza’s economy is undermined by access restrictions imposed by Israel, including restrictions on exports to the West Bank and Israel, imports to Gaza, and access to farming land in Gaza and fishing waters off its coast. Although recently some of these restrictions have been lifted, “the basic constraints remain in place, preventing a significant improvement in the economy.”
  • The movement of people is also restricted by Israel – an average of only 449 permit holders per day were allowed to exit via the Erez crossing into Israel during the first five months of 2015. The problem of isolation is increased by restrictions imposed by Egypt along its border with Gaza.

I am concerned that if these issues are not addressed, the people of Gaza will continue to suffer and the cycle of violence may well repeat itself to the detriment of both Palestinians and Israelis.  For the security and welfare of both peoples, I therefore ask you to:

  • Call for a lifting of the Gaza blockade and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
  • Demand accountability for loss of civilian lives and infrastructure last summer by insisting that possible human rights violations by all parties be investigated. Impunity paves the way for future violations.
  • Recognize that U.S. diplomatic and financial support enables the occupation. The U.S. provides over $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel.
  • Condition military aid to Israel on its compliance with U.S. law and policy. Questions must be raised about how U.S. military aid to Israel is used –including during the war last summer —to ensure that it is not enabling human rights violations or being used in ways that contradict U.S. policy.

Thank you for your attention and for your service.

IRAN: Pax Christi New Jersey’s Official Statement on Senator Menendez’s rejection of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

from Pax Christi New Jersey

Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Congress-570x320Yesterday (August 18) during what was called a “major policy speech” Senator Menendez announced that he would not only vote against the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran he would also vote in favor of any veto override. While we are not surprised by Senator Menendez’s announcement, we are disappointed.

The leadership and the membership of Pax Christi New Jersey would like to respond to the senator that his past opposition to the war in Iraq is not a justification of his current rejection of diplomacy with Iran and the opportunity to build on a nuclear-free Middle East.

We agree with the Vatican and its 2014 statement on nuclear weapons entitled Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition, which stated “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.”  We believe that this agreement will set us on a path to not only curb Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon but also serve as an important step toward nuclear non-proliferation and ultimately nuclear abolition.

Pax Christi New Jersey sides with Pope Francis, the Vatican, the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and numerous other Catholic clergy, women religious and lay leaders in its belief that this agreement will foster greater dialogue and help create a more peaceful world.

In this month in which we marked the 70th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons in war in the bombing of Hiroshima we all the more moved to action and we will continue, along with our members and allies, to lobby our legislators to support this historic deal with Iran.

REFLECTION: Let it shine

by Kathy Kelly, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Photo credit:  Maya Evans

Photo credit:  Maya Evans

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Imagine children lustily singing the above lines which eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlightens us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, #Enough! They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists, we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill brown and black people within the U.S.

Walking through small cities and towns in Wisconsin, participants distributed leaflets and held teach-ins encouraging people to demand accountability from local police, and an end to the “Shadow Drone” program operated by the U.S. Air National Guard out of Wisconsin’s own Volk Field. Our friend Maya Evans traveled the furthest to join the walk: she coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence in the UK. Alice Gerard, from Grand Isle, NY, is our most consistent long-distance traveler, on her sixth antiwar walk with VCNV.

Brian Terrell noted what mothers speaking to Code Pink, as part of the Mothers Against Police Brutality campaign, had also noted: that surprisingly many of the officers charged with killing their children were veterans of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He recalled past national events, such as the NATO summit in Chicago, in 2012, whose organizers tried to recruit temporary security officers from amongst U.S. veterans. Former soldiers, already traumatized by war, need support, healthcare and vocational training but instead are offered temp jobs to aim weapons at other people in predictably tense settings.

The walk was instructive. Salek Khalid, a friend of Voices, shared “Creating a Hell on Earth: U.S. Drone Strikes Abroad,” his own in-depth presentation about the development of drone warfare. Tyler Sheafer, joining us from the Progressive Alliance near Independence, MO, stressed the independence of living simply, off the grid and consuming crops grown only within a 150 mile radius of one’s home, while hosts in Mauston, WI welcomed Joe Kruse to talk about fracking and our collective need to change patterns of energy consumption. The ability to withhold our money and our labor is an important way to compel governments to restrain their violent domestic and international power.

We weren’t alone. We walked in solidarity with villagers in Gangjeong, South Korea, who’d welcomed many of us to join in their campaign to stop militarization of their beautiful Jeju Island. Seeking inter-island solidarity and recognizing how closely they share the plight of Afghans burdened by the U.S. “Asia Pivot,” our friends in Okinawa, Japan will host a walk from the north to the south of the island, protesting construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko. Rather than provoke a new cold war, we want to shine light on our common cares and concerns, finding security in extended hands of friendship.

On August 26th, some of the walkers will commit nonviolent civil resistance at Volk Field, carrying the messages about drone warfare and racial profiling into courts of law and public opinion.

Too often we imagine that a life swaddled in everyday comforts and routines is the only life possible, while half a world away, to provide those comforts to us, helpless others are made to shiver with inescapable cold or fear. It’s been instructive on these walks to uncoddle ourselves a little, and see how our light shines, unhidden, on the road through neighboring towns, singing words we’ve heard from children learning to be as adult as they can be; attempting to learn that same lesson. The lyric goes “I’m not going to make it shine: I’m just going to _let_ it shine. We hope that by releasing the truth that’s already in us we can encourage others to live theirs, shining a more humane light on the violent abuses, both at home and abroad, of dark systems that perpetuate violence. On walks like this we’ve been fortunate to imagine a better life, sharing moments of purpose and sanity with the many we’ve met along the road.

This article first appeared on ZMag.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence  www.vcnv.orgKathy is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Action and prayer suggestions to protest destruction in Palestinian communities

from Jose Henriquez, Pax Christi International Secretary-General and Pax Christi UK

apartheid wallIsraeli authorities are undertaking new destruction in Palestinian communities in the Cremisan Valley and in Bedouin refugee communities near East Jerusalem. The reason? The continuation of the separation wall and more settlements! We have been posting news on our international website, but on behalf of Pax Christi UK, I want to share with you the materials below, asking you to invite your members to send messages to the Israeli embassy in your country. Advocacy for a just solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict has received special attention in our movement for many years and our World Assembly this year was an expression of this.

Thank you for your attention and for your local action. Let’s hope that common initiatives (the communities in Palestine are already demonstrating nonviolently) will stop this.

____________

From Pax Christi UK

In recent days we have heard that bulldozers, supported by the Israeli military, have started to clear olive trees and enter private lands in the Cremisan valley. The law, passed in the spring, to prevent the building of the Separation Wall has been overturned… New legal challenges are being made, but meanwhile the destruction goes on.

Please see here the action/prayer ideas we have put together and do what you can:

IRAN: National Day of Action to Stop War with Iran, Wednesday, August 26

irannucleardealDiplomacy or war. That’s the choice facing Congress when it comes to the nuclear deal with Iran.

But unfortunately, too many members of Congress want to block this historic deal—and put on us on a path to another senseless war. President Obama is standing strong, and we need to make sure Congress stands with him.

That’s why on Wednesday, August 26, members of MoveOn, WinWithoutWar, Democracy for America, Credo, and many others will gather outside of Congressional offices across the country in support of diplomacy over war. It’s critical to show members of Congress that Americans support diplomacy with Iran, and that we conside a vote against the deal a vote for war. Host your own No War with Iran action or sign up for an event near you to join this historic day of action.

Host your own “No War with Iran” action or click here to sign up for an event near you.