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Is the Church Committed to Middle East Peace?
An Open Letter to United Methodist Leaders
by Rev. Alex Awad
....It seemed in those days that the Church not only had our backs, but through direct action was also quite proactive in defending the injustices faced by Palestinians. For example, in the past, the Methodist Church focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the Schools of Christian Missions. In addition, before the turn of the century, the Church sent delegations of Bishops to Israel and to Palestine to study the political turmoil, reflecting the Church’s concern over this issue. Regrettably, today church leaders seem to be satisfied with making mild statements and saying public prayers without any muscle behind them.
As the years rolled by, and as Brenda and I attended and participated in several General Conferences and shared our witness at several annual conferences, it has become clear to us that the leadership of the United Methodist Church, bishops in particular, has gradually become much less willing to speak to this issue prophetically. This has had an impact on our denomination’s ability to commit time, funds and energy to the cause of peace and justice in the Holy Land. This is not true of all bishops, and not all leaders, but most.
I can’t say that I know or understand all the reasons why the chosen leaders of mainline denominations are reluctant to make strong public commitments to pursuing peace in the birthplace of our faith. I hope this letter will generate debate around that question, and if you consider my assertions unwarranted, I hope you challenge my understanding. Palestinian Christians have literally been pleading for the Church universal to actively engage with them amid their oppression. They are asking for your help in waging a non-violent campaign to stop the killing and repression. What could be more Christlike?
The Best Conference in Many Years
by M. Theresa Basile
The Rosemary Redford Reuther Conference on Justice and Peace for Palestine/Israel was organized and presented on October 7th, 2017 at Pilgrim Place, a unique ecumenical community of retired religious leaders that includes Ruether as one of their residents.
That conference title was not just a titular honor for an appreciated colleague; the entire conference was permeated with Reuther’s extraordinary body of theological work and the courageous activism that theology informed in herself and generations of others. It was fascinating to hear how much these eminent speakers owed to Reuther’s influence. The excellent lineup of speakers included Mark Braverman, Donald Wagner, Marc Ellis, Mae Elise Cannon, and Naim Ateek.
....With that very welcome free time, along with the impressive offerings of the speakers, the productive use of technology for video conferencing and for a presentation on Reuther’s life and career, the long-term planning and publicity that brought together such a full and diverse audience (150-200 people): all in all, I would have to say that this was the best conceived and organized conference that I have attended in many years.
Following are some notes from each speaker’s address, in the order they were delivered. Some have more detail than others, which does not reflect the length or importance of their messages but, rather my ability to take notes at various times during this long and rewarding day! Read the full article
Am I "all in"?
A United Methodist reflects on the JVP National Members Meeting 2017
by Paula Roderick
Sometimes it’s easier to start at the end in trying to explain why an event had so much power.
“Sell the Torah, put the child in school.” That was the moral of Rabbi Wise’s story, told in the closing plenary of Jewish Voice for Peace's National Members Meeting, held March 30-April 2.
I did not envision - and I doubt that the JVP organizers even envisioned - such a ferocious, sad, powerful, joyous, moving closing plenary. Rabbi Alissa Wise (Deputy Director of JVP) began that plenary – titled “All In!” – with the story of a rabbi and a young child who had been denied the chance to go to school because his family lacked funds. The rabbi ultimately told his congregation to “sell the Torah and send the kid to school.” That is what it means to be “all in.”
Read the full article
We are in this together
A report on the conference “A Call to Action: Black and Palestinian Liberation”
By Judith Polson
In April this year, I drove over 100 miles from Anderson, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend “A Call to Action: Black and Palestinian Liberation,” an event that organizers promised was “not just another conference.” And it did not disappoint! Which should not be surprising, considering the range of participating organizations, including Black Lives Matter, Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel (FOSNA), the Fellowship of Reconciliation, local churches of several denominations and more [see the list here].
.... the church’s pastor, Rev. Tim McDonald, told us that “an event is not a movement.” Even a series of events is not a movement. Movements are based on relationships. If we want both Black liberation and Palestinian liberation to happen, we have to join together in activism. We build a relationship when we work together. We must ask ourselves: Who am I in the trenches with? How do we transform what matters to people?
10 Weeks in Palestine
J.R. Atkins, seminary student at Emory's Candler School of Theology and UMKR activist, had the opportunity to spend a big part of his 2017 summer in Palestine, thanks to the Candler Advantage Program. In his blog, he shares the lessons he learned from his ministry work there and the people he came to know in Palestine. Read his blog
Reflections of a United Methodist Missionary
United Methodist Missionary Janet Lahr Lewis reflects on her time as a missionary in Israel and Palestine
July 31, 2017 – In 1994, I began working in a Palestinian village in the Lower Galilee region of Israel. It was only about a year after the now infamous “Oslo Agreement” was signed – when hopes were high with the anticipation that peace between Palestinians and Israelis would be accomplished in only a couple more years. Tens of thousands of tourists who had avoided traveling to the region, considering it too risky, began flooding into the country. It was a time of optimism and confidence in a better future.
Palestinian Pastor Sends Open Letter to UK Prime Minister
3 March 2017 – Rev. Alex Awad, retired UM missionary to the Holy Land and pastor and UMKR Steering Committee member, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May about the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and Britan's role in the last century of suffering for his people. He calls on her for bold leadership, independent of the U.S., for Britain to forge a new path to justice in Palestine. Read more »
UMC Agency Joins in Briefing Paper to Trump and Congress
15 February 2017 – Fifteen Christian organizations – including the UMC General Board of Church & Society – sent a Briefing Paper to the Trump Administration and all members of Congress, calling for U.S. policies that promote peace, justice, and equality for Israelis and Palestinians. Citing issues such as massive settlement expansion, home demolitions, and military courts, recommended actions include applying the Leahy Law to all U.S. aid, protecting human rights organizations, and more. Read and download the paper »
lsraeli Rights Trump Palestinian Rights
by Alex Awad, UMKR Member
4 December 2015 – What are U.S. leader really saying when they use the tired old excuse for Israel's actions - that Israel has a "right to defend itself"? A hard-hitting look at what Palestinians are expected to endure, accept and refrain from doing. Read more »
Light Pushes Away Darkness
by Sam Morris, UMKR Member
21 November 2015 – Will we choose a path of light or let another path choose us? Morris expresses his reasons for profound sadness over an event at a local UMC church - supporting the oppression of the Palestinians - and concludes with good advice for justice advocates who consider attending such event. Read more »
A Tribute to Hashem Al Azzeh
by Dianne Roe, UMKR Member
24 October 2015 – A former member of the Hebron Peacemaker Team writes of the life and legacy of a Palestinian activist who steadfastly worked for justice for his people and who lost his life during the current upsurge in violence that is taking such a high toll on Palestinians. Read more »
An Evening with Hind Khoury
September 2015 – Hind Khoury, recently appointed Secretary General of Kairos Palestine appeared in many venues this month in a tour organized by UMKR. United Methodists and others heard from this former Palestinian ambassador about the crisis facing the Palestinians as the occupation worsens, the economic hardships and the moral imperative for church members to take meaningful action to support freedom and equality for all the people of the Holy Land. Read more »
Destruction in Wadi Foquin
June 2015 – Residents of this little West Bank Village that is being strangled by a nearby settlement were awakened one morning to see hundreds of their trees being destroyed along with vital water cisterns. Wadi Foquin is a United Methodist Advance Project and is well known to many United Methodists who have visited there. Read more »
The Win We Didn't Expect
by Rev. John Wagner, then UMKR Convener
May 2012 – UMKR co-founder and former Convener John Wagner reflects on the results of General Conference 2012 and what lies ahead for UMKR. Read more »
An Unusual Advocate
by Rev. John Wagner, then UMKR Convener
November 2011 – Not all activists look alike; meet a conservative evangelical and commercial banker who is a passionate advocate for justice in Israel/Palestine. Read more »
News & Analysis Articles by UMKR & Members
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It's time – again – for BDS to end oppression
by Lloyd Nyarota - Mondoweiss, April 26, 2015
Rev. Lloyd Nyarota is UMC clergy from Zimbabwe, former GBCS staff in Africa, and a UMKR Member.
For many Africans, a sense of déjà vu was unavoidable last month as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, ‘”Whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel.” Asked by the Israeli news site NRG if that meant a state would not be established if he remained prime minister, he said: “Indeed.”’ Three days later he won an election with unprecedented support from right wing Israelis.
When Benjamin Netanyahu made that statement in the run-up to the Israeli election I was reminded of another prime minister, one whose words still echo in the hearts and minds of my fellow Zimbabweans. “There will be no majority rule in my lifetime,” said Ian Smith in 1969. The position of the white minority government in Salisbury had finally been clarified, and the world began to realize how monstrous it had become. Read more »
U.S. Churches and the Boycott of Israeli Settlements
by Philip Farah - Huffington Post, Dec. 10, 2014
Philip Farah is co-founder of Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace and of Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace and a UMKR Member
Why are some churches in the U.S. calling for boycotts and divestment aimed at companies that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories? The decision last summer of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) to divest church pension funds from three such companies resulted in first-page coverage in The New York Times. A few weeks ago a grassroots group of pastors and lay members of the United Methodist Church (UMC) launched a holiday-season campaign to boycott products made in Israeli settlements located on occupied Palestinian land.
While this group Methodists is not an official agency of the UMC, it bases its boycott call on a 2012 decision of the policymaking body of the church calling "on all nations to prohibit any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements; and also to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements." Read more »
Evangelical Christians come under attack as more move
to oppose Israeli occupation
by John Wagner - Mondoweiss, Nov 7, 2014
Rev. John Wagner is UM Clergy in the West Ohio conference and Co-founder of UMKR. as well as first UMKR Convener and currrent UMKR Co-Chair.
On October 26, 2014, the Jerusalem Post carried an article entitled “Bethlehem Bible College – purveyor of anti-Israel propaganda” in their Christian News section. The Rev. Alex Awad, a Baptist minister who works both for Bethlehem Bible College and The United Methodist Church, was personally named as part of “a blatant attempt to demonize Israel.” The article goes on to denounce a video the college produced on the bombing of Gaza.
Though not immediately apparent, the writer of the article is on the staff of “Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting,” a controversial US-based, pro-Israeli organization.That the Jerusalem Post felt it necessary to publish this frontal attack on a well known Bible college is actually a good sign. Read more »
Palestinian Christians against the occupation
by Philip Farah - Huffington Post, May 1, 2012
Philip Farah is co-founder of Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace and of Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace and a UMKR Member.
In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren claimed that Christians in Israel are better off than their brethren anywhere else in the Middle East. Two Sundays ago, "60 Minutes" made clear he attempted to intimidate Bob Simon by going over Simon's head to speak to Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," to complain that Simon's story on Christian Palestinians was "a hatchet job" against Israel. In fact, it was a hard-hitting, but honest piece in which Simon helped to expose the terrible harm the Israeli occupation -- not Muslim Palestinians as the ambassador claimed -- is doing to Christian Palestinians in the Holy Land. Read more »
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Dec. 2016 – UMKR has a (slightly) new name: United Methodists for Kairos Response
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