So that we might risk the journey

One of my EA PPI colleagues and friends, Marthie Momberg, from South Africa, has posted this prayer on her blog.

Please follow her blog at http://www.marthiemombergblog.wordpress.com.

God,

You ask for our courage to protect the powerless
but we prefer to remain safe, preserving ourselves for future challenges.

You ask us to speak out for justice
but we whisper, in case we are heard.

You ask us to stand up for what is right,
but we would rather blend in to the crowd

You ask us to have faith,
when doubting seems so much easier.

Lord forgive our calculated efforts to follow you,
only when it is convenient to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so,
only with those who make it easy to do so.

Together we pray
God forgive us and renew us;
Inspire us and challenge us
So that we might risk the journey, to your kingdom with you,

Amen

(This is a Prayer of Confession from a service at GreenBelt, UK, in 2003, read at a service at Cheltenham Races. This prayer was recently used as an opening prayer for a skype meeting of the international Kairos core group.

 

Advertisements

The Ties That Bind

A number of years ago an urban friend came out to the farm during harvest season to ride in our combine with me as we were harvesting our crop.  She was thrilled to see the ripened grain as it was gathered from the land.  As we worked our way up and down the field, we talked about our lives and our shared passion and commitment to food justice.  We began to discuss how to elicit change so as to make our world more food secure, and my friend explained how she had moved from an extremely successful academic career in food policy analysis to that of ministry.  She had come to realize that “once you change people’s hearts, you change their actions.” Her words have stayed with me.  Justice happens when people’s hearts are moved to understand that change is necessary.  A simple intellectual understanding does not cause us to change our behaviour.

This past fall, while serving as an EA, I met a young Palestinian mother living in a herding village located in Masafer Yatta, in the extreme southern portion of the West Bank.  For cultural reasons, she has asked to remain anonymous.  I will honour her request and refer to her as YY.

Our team met with YY on a number of occasions and I felt that we achieved a high level of trust between us.  As a young mother, she was striving to make positive changes in the educational system in her village.  I am a Canadian school trustee with a commitment to ensuring access to quality education for rural students.  Together, we worked on improving the educational opportunities in her village.  She is a sheep farmer, committed to providing excellent care for her livestock.  I am a Canadian farmer.  We used to raised sheep and lambs on our farm.  The sheep served as another common bond between us.

Beyond our shared interests in education and sheep, we shared a common respect and care for one another.  We became friends, learning from one another about our respective lives and cultures.  We trusted one another.  We enjoyed being together.

There are hardships to living in a Palestinian herding village.  Limited access to water, no electricity, armed and violent attacks from nearby settlers, army harassment, difficult access to larger communities (the road in and out of the village is impassable for all but the hardiest of 4 wheel drive vehicles), limited medical access, and lack of educational supplies and teachers are all challenges she lives with on a daily basis, challenges I have never had to deal with.  Nor have I had to deal with the poisonous snakes she found under her mattress one morning!

But I did understand exactly what she meant when she explained to me one day about why, in spite of the ongoing challenges to life in her village, she and her family choose to live where they do. “I love it here” she said.  “I love being able to look up at the stars at night.   I love the quiet here.  And I love looking after our sheep.  This is our home.  This is our land.  We do not want to live in the city.  We would not fit in there.  This is our home.  All we want is to be left alone to live our lives here in peace.”

The last time we visited YY, she was eager to show us around her village, and in particular to show me her sheep and her home.  Her sheep and lambs were beautiful animals that were the clear recipients of meticulous care.  I was amazed at the absolute cleanliness of the sheep shelters and of the cleanliness of the animals.  There was not a speck of manure on them.   She obviously spent a considerable amount of time and energy caring for her sheep and lambs.  Her tent home, although basic, was also spotlessly clean and  well taken care of, with a small garden outside the door.  She gave me some fresh garden mint for our tea.  Today I grow mint in our garden, and think of her each time I see it.

YY’s sheep and lambs in their winter pen, a cave dwelling used to protect the small lambs from predators.  Lambing takes place in late fall.

YY’s outdoor lamb pen, used when the lambs are past the newborn stage.

YY’s residential tent and area outside her home

The interior of YY’s tent home.

YY’s village in the Masafer Yatta area of the South Hebron Hills. Notice the sheep grazing in the foreground with the shepherds, with the village in the central portion of the photo and the desert hills beyond.

Today, YY’s hopes of raising her children in the small Palestinian village she and her family live in are in severe jeopardy.  After a 12 year court battle, the Israeli’s have declared this portion of the occupied Palestinian Territory as “Firing Zone 918” and the Israeli Defense Minister has declared plans to demolish 8 of the 12 villages in the area, including the village YY and her family have lived in for decades.

Here are excerpts from an article published by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), dated July 25, 2012.

The area designated by the IDF as “Firing Zone 918” is located in the south Hebron hills near the town of Yatta.  Spread over 30,000 dunams (note = approximately 7500 acres), it includes twelve Palestinian villages, or hamlets: Tuba, Mufaqara, Sfai, Majaz, Tabban, Fakheit, Megheir Al-Abeid, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, Kharuba and Sarura. According to OCHA figures, 1,622 people lived in the area in 2010, and according to local residents the number of inhabitants currently stands at about 1,800.

The residents of the twelve villages maintain a unique way of life, with many living in or beside caves, and relying on farming and husbandry of sheep and goats for their livelihood.  Most of them were born and raised in these villages to families that have been living in the area for several decades – long before 1967.  The historical existence of the hamlets is well documented, including in research endorsed by the Israeli Ministry of Defense [see Ya’akov Havakuk, Life in the Caves of South Hebron (1985, Israel Ministry of Defense)]…..

The villagers maintain that they are permanent residents of the villages. Security forces, on the other hand, argue that they are non-permanent, as some of them are seasonally nomadic. For security reasons, the IDF is authorized to remove persons from a firing zone or limit their mobility within the area, except in the case of permanent residents.  It follows that the IDF is attempting to remove these Palestinian residents from their land by characterizing them as non-permanent. While it is true that a small minority of the villagers spend six months working their land and six months outside of the area, security forces conveniently deny the significance of the six months of cultivation within the fire zone. If successful, this approach will lead to the forced removal of all residents from Firing Zone 918, possibly resulting in the de-facto annexation of this area by Israeli security forces….

It should be noted that the legal proceedings have extended over twelve years, during all of which time the Palestinian residents of the twelve villages have lived under the threat of evacuation. At the same time, the communities have continued to live and work on the land, and have developed and expanded.

Furthermore, according to a 2005 report by B’Tselem (“Means of Expulsion: Violence, Harassment and Lawlessness against Palestinians”) in the Southern Hebron Hills, the army no longer holds live-fire training in the firing zone. Moreover, the two main military bases located in and around the firing zone, Adasha Infantry and Um Daraj, have been closed down.  It follows that the “need” for Israeli security forces to take over this area and expel Palestinians from their homes becomes even harder to understand and justify….

On 22 July 2012, after several delays, the State Attorney submitted a response to the Court, based on a position formulated by the Minister of Defense, according to which “permanent residence will be prohibited” in most of the area declared as a firing zone. The meaning of this position is that the evacuation of 8 out of the 12 village – that is, the expulsion of some 1500 people from their homes. The Defense Ministry is offering to allow the residents of these 8 villages to cultivate their land and to herd their sheep on Fridays, Saturdays, and Jewish holidays, and also during two periods throughout the year, each a month long. The 4 villages that are not supposed to be evacuated according to the Defense Ministry’s position are small khirbes in the northwestern area of the firing zone – Tuba, Sarura, Megheir al-Abeid, and Mufaqara.

According to the response of the State Attorney’s Office, using this area as a firing zone is essential to maintain the “required capability of IDF forces.” However, using an occupied territory for a general need of this sort exceeds the authority of the military rule in this territory. According to international law, the occupying force may not use the occupied territory as it sees fit and is not allowed to use it for general military needs, such as “maintaining the capability of the forces.” The military commander must refrain from harming the rights and resources of the local residents unless it is essential for specific security needs that relate to military activity in the area. The State’s response did not describe any such specific need.

The evacuation orders issued to the Palestinian residents are based on the State’s claim that they are not permanent residents of the area and therefore are not supposed to be without a permit in the firing zone, which is in fact a close military zone. However, this claim completely ignores clear historic documentation, including Defense Ministry publications, that shows generations-long Palestinian settlement in these villages, previously only in caves and later on also outside of them. The State’s position ignores the fact that evacuating the residents from the area means the destruction of these historical villages and would leave entire families, including children and the elderly, without a roof above their heads. All of this contravenes Israel’s obligations towards the Palestinian population under its control in this area – both according to international law and Israeli law.

The Court instructed the petitioners to submit their response to the State’s position by 2 August 2012.

The entire ACRI report, can be found at http://www.acri.org.il/en/2012/07/25/firing-zone-918-infosheet/

Current EA’s working in the area, along with Maan newspaper, report that roads into the 8 affected villages have already been closed by the IDF.

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=507622

As the ACRI report explains, military bases in the area have been closed and the area is no longer used as a firing zone.  This is land that is clearly within the Palestinian Territory, on the Palestinian side of the Green Line.  If indeed the Israeli’s feel there is a definable need for a firing zone for military practice, why do they not build it on Israeli land?

As any farmer knows, the concept of “offering to allow the residents of these 8 villages to cultivate their land and to herd their sheep on Fridays, Saturdays, and Jewish holidays, and also during two periods throughout the year, each a month long” is totally unworkableLivestock must be cared for on a daily basis.  As well, the ambiguity of “two periods throughout the year, each a month long” does not indicate which months.  Will these be months where the grass is growing and there is good pasture for the sheep, or will they be the dry months when farmers must supplement their sheep because there is no grass?  Will there be compensation for the costs of moving the animals, for the costs of lost grazing during good grass growing periods?  Will there be compensation for lost housing and other structures, or for help in establishing new living quarters, for finding new employment,  and for other costs of relocation?  Obviously, there will be no compensation.  Fridays are the Muslim holy day, a day for prayers and family gatherings.  This edict does not respect that.  Furthermore, as has been documented in the West Bank over and over again, settler violence towards the Palestinians is greatest on the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.  Personal safety is a valid concern for these villagers.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have courts outside of Canada declare that our family’s farm has been declared a military firing zone and have our family forcefully pushed off of our land and relocated to an urban area.  My heart aches for YY and her family.  I can only imagine what they are feeling. If the Israeli’s act upon their stated intentions, an entire way of life that has endured for several decades for these villagers and their families, will end. 1500 people, including YY and her family, will suffer a loss of livelihood and the pain and the humiliation of displacement.

As the ACRI report states, all of this contravenes both international and Israeli law.  The illegal Israeli military occupation of Palestine has been going on since 1967.  That’s 45 years!!  At what point will the world stand up and say “stop?”   The facts are clear, but the world in its silence continues to allow this and other human rights abuses and atrocities in the occupied Palestinian Territory to continue.  Is it because we view this situation from an intellectual perspective – a perspective that allows us to turn a blind eye to the suffering that is happening to innocent individuals and families such as those living in “Firing Zone 918”?  Maybe it’s time we gave up our practice of intellectual isolation and began to look at the world with open hearts, hearts that allow us to actually feel the suffering and the joy of other human beings.  Maybe then we would understand that we are more alike than we are different.  Maybe then we would understand the deep desire of those who live in places of ongoing conflict to live their lives in peace.  Maybe then we would understand that as we hurt one another, we too suffer, and that as we are silent in the face of injustice against another, we silently damage ourselves.  Maybe then we would risk touching the pain of those who are hurting, and risk having our hearts moved to understand that change is necessary.  Maybe then we would have the courage to actually stand up for justice – to make justice seeking an action, rather than an intellectual exercise practiced by those who have the luxury of living out their lives in places of relative peace and prosperity.

I pray for justice.  I pray for peace.  I pray for my friend YY and her family, her village, and her neighbouring villages in this time of turmoil and deep injustice.   I pray that our world will finally act to bring an end to this brutal, cruel and illegal occupation.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

Further information can be found in today’s Haaretz article “Israel orders demolition of 8 Palestinian villages, claims need for IDF training land” at

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-orders-demolition-of-8-palestinian-villages-claims-need-for-idf-training-land.premium-1.453015

Kairos Palestine: The Iona Call 2012

The world belongs to God

The earth and all its people

How good and how lovely it is

To live together in unity

Love and faith come together

Justice and peace join hands

If Christ’s disciples keep silent

These stones will shout aloud.

                   Opening responses, found in “an act of prayer for use when the community gathers”  The Iona Community Prayer Book 2012

The Iona Community  (www.iona.org.uk) is an ecumenical Christian community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.   It was founded in the 1930’s by the Rev George McLeod, as he brought together ministers and unemployed tradespeople in the rebuilding of the stone Abbey on the Scottish Isle of Iona.  The Community today is made up of members, associate members and friends, staff and volunteers from around the world, people from different walks of life and traditions in the church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and where that leads.  Together, the community shares an experience of the liberating power of Jesus Christ, expressed in many different ways, and a commitment to the personal and social transformation that spring from the vision and values of the gospel.  The community operates residential Centres on the historic Isle of Iona and on nearby Mull (both located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland) that welcome guests for week long stays.  Guests participate in community life, explore themes related to peace, justice and worship, and share in morning and evening worship services in the Abbey. The Community’s offices are located in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Iona Community has been an influential part of my faith journey for a number of years and I have been an Associate Member since 2008.  I spent Easter of 2008 at Iona and upon my return home began to seriously study the concept of peace from a Christian perspective.  On a 2010 visit, my learning was broadened through the study of the relationship between justice and peace and the realization that true peace can only be found where there is true justice.  It was at Iona that I first learned of the EAPPI programme of the World Council of Churches.

The issue of justice and peace in Israel and Palestine is one that has been of interest and action to the Iona Community for a number of years.  This year, from May 26 to June 1, the Iona theme of study was the Kairos Palestine document (found at www.kairospalestine.ps)  Guest leaders were Rev Dr Naim Ateek and Dr Mark Braverman.  A Palestinian Christian, Dr Ateek is the Founder and Director of Sabeel Jerusalem, an ecumenical liberation theology centre, the author of “A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation,” and one of the initial signatories to the Kairos Palestine document.  Dr Mark Braverman is a Jewish American who was transformed by a 2006 visit to the Holy Land where he witnessed the occupation of Palestine and met with peace activists and members of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. He now devotes himself full-time to writing, speaking and action towards a just peace in Israel and Palestine.  Dr Braverman is the author of “Fatal Embrace:  Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land.”

Pentecost Sunday (May 27) fell during the course of the week of study.  Dr Mark Braverman preached the sermon in the Iona Abbey on Pentecost Sunday.

Here are a few excerpts from Dr Braverman’s sermon:

Kairos presents what a friend once described to me as a case of “insurmountable opportunity.” Even when – and usually this is the case – the objective may be clear enough but the path to follow is uncertain, full of hazards, uncharted, you must go. We call to mind George MacLeod’s statement: “Christians are explorers, not mapmakers.”…..

 In my own journey as a Jew born in the years immediately following World War II and within a month of the establishment of the State of Israel… I was taught that a miracle had blessed my generation. The State of Israel was redemption from 2000 years of suffering and slaughter. In every generation, so goes the Passover liturgy, tyrants rise up to annihilate us, and the Lord God saves us from their hands. Jewish history was a story of struggle, exile, oppression, and slaughter that had now culminated, at last, in a homeland. We had been, literally, redeemed. The suffering and the helplessness were over.

 The story of the birth of the State of Israel in which I was steeped, in which in fact the whole western world has been schooled, partook of this narrative. The legacy of Europe that shaped my generation of western Jews and the generations that followed was a sense of specialness, separateness, and entitlement. Growing up Jewish was wonderful – but it also involved living behind a wall of self- preservation, vulnerability, and a kind of brittle exclusivity.

 I embraced this narrative, I adopted this identity. I carried that wall inside myself.  Until I witnessed the occupation of Palestine. When I saw the dispossession and oppression being perpetrated in my name, it broke my heart and it challenged my assumptions and beliefs. I learned about another narrative, the Nakba, in Arabic, “catastrophe,” the dispossession of three quarters of a million men, women and children to make way for the Jewish State. Most important, I met the Palestinian people and recognized them as my brothers and sisters. For me, the wall came down.

 I realized that if my own people were going to survive, we had to transcend our sense of specialness and victim-tinged entitlement, a sense incubated for 2000 years that had now taken the form of political Zionism — the claim to the land as our particular inheritance and birthright…..

 The church is called. The church has done it before, the church can do it again.

We recall the central role of the church in the Civil Rights movement in America, when the courage of African-American pastors changed the political and social landscape of America, articulating a philosophy of nonviolent direct action that was an explicit evocation of the sacrificial spirit of the early church, when Christians were proud to be identified as troublemakers. We lift up the example of the South African church when, declaring its Kairos in the 1985 document “Challenge to the Church,” it summoned the church to speak and act against the evil of Apartheid, challenging the very church theology that had supported the racist system. And in our day the Palestinian churches have issued their Kairos statement, a call to the churches of the world entitled “A Moment of Truth: A cry of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian Suffering.”…..

 The church is, once again, as it is always, called to read the signs of the times, to recognize that this is the favorable time, the moment of Grace and Opportunity, when, in the words of the South African Kairos Document, God issues a challenge to decisive action.

 Can the church respond to this challenge? Can the church be the church? …The answer is yes. That is its nature. “The church,” wrote George MacLeod, “is a movement, not a meetinghouse.”… Shall the church claim its heritage, understand what power we humans receive when we are open to the coming upon us of the Holy Spirit?… Can we stand up, renewed,… a multitude speaking the universal language of justice, as the Spirit gives us the ability?

 This the clear and simple message of Pentecost. This is the story of that day. This is the story we have come to this place of worship today on this island to tell…..

 In closing, I would like to bring to mind the events that led to that Pentecost of long ago, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was accompanied by a crowd of Jews, suffering horribly under the tyranny of Rome, who were joyfully (and noisily) celebrating the message and ministry of a leader who offered them dignity and hope in the darkest times.

 The Gospel of Luke records:

“As Jesus was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”  The local authorities were displeased. Your singing and praising and proclaiming, they told Jesus, threatened to disrupt the establish order, to spoil the accommodation they had made with the Empire. “‘Teacher,’ they said to him, ‘order your disciples to stop!’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out!’”

 Whether praise or protest, you cannot silence the cry of the oppressed nor deny the hunger for justice. And what was all the noise about, after all? It was the spontaneous response of an oppressed, occupied people—a cry of love, adoration and sheer joy for the miracle of Jesus’ ministry—his power to heal, to inspire, to lead. You can’t stop this! Jesus was saying. Nature itself, even these seeming inert stones, resonates with the joy and life force emanating from the people.

 My sisters and brothers, the time has come for us to do some shouting. The times challenge us to remain true to the principles that lie at the heart of our civilization and our faith traditions. In these urgent, prophetic times, let us remember the shouting. God loves that shouting.

 

Let us pray.

 

Compassionate God,

Sometimes we feel dried up. We lose our hope, we cut ourselves off from the source of true power. Help us to receive the power of your Spirit, raise us to our feet so that we can stand, a multitude filled indeed with the new wine of prophecy. Let us remember the shouting of joy and praise of those seekers of justice, from long ago and in our own day. The times call us to discipleship, now as it was then, now as ever to receive the power and the fire of the Holy Spirit. Grant this in the many names you are called, to all who suffer oppression, and all who work for peace, and to us today in this place.

Amen

 

The full text of Dr Braverman’s sermon can be found at www.iona.org.uk , listed under “Latest News.”

 

Following the week long session of study on the Kairos Palestine document, the Iona Community posted this call on their website.  It reads as follows:

KAIROS PALESTINE: THE IONA CALL 2012

We, a group of Christians from many parts of the UK and beyond, gathered on the isle of Iona in Pentecost week 2012. Under the guidance of Rev. Dr Naim Ateek1 and Dr Mark Braverman2 we considered our response to the Kairos Palestine document: ‘A Moment of Truth – a Word of  Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering’ (2009).

This is our kairos moment – our moment of truth. We are called to respond boldly to the deepening suffering of our sisters and brothers in Palestine under occupation by Israel. We stand in faithfulness and solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis who are working tirelessly for a peace based on justice.

We believe it is necessary to challenge the deafening silence of most churches in the face of the continuing injustice of dispossession and denial of basic human and political rights. We agree with the Kairos document that the occupation by Israel is ‘an evil and a sin’ (Kairos Palestine 4.2.1).

Therefore:

• We ask our churches and theological institutions to challenge how the Bible has been used to justify oppression and injustice. We encourage the development and use of educational resources to raise awareness, enrich worship and challenge misperceptions and apathy.

• Palestinian Christians have called us to ‘come and see’ (Kairos Palestine 6.2). We urge Christians to participate only in those pilgrimages which give opportunity to listen to the experiences of Palestinians and engage with the harsh realities of occupation.
• We support Palestinians in their non-violent resistance to Israeli injustice and oppression. We endorse their call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) and other forms of non-violent direct action.

• We call on Christians to put pressure on governments and the European Union to demonstrate a commitment to justice for Palestinians and security for all people.
In pursuit of the above we intend to establish a UK Kairos network, linked to the Kairos Palestine global movement, to alert our churches to the urgent situation in Palestine. We challenge Christians and churches to engage in prayerful study of the Kairos Palestine document in openness to what the spirit is now saying to the churches (Rev. 2.7). We must read the signs of the times and act in obedience to God’s will (Matt. 16.3).

Difficult though this journey may be, we seize this kairos moment with conviction and hope. We recognise our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to speak the prophetic word with courage.

We are called to respond to the question from Palestinian Christians: ‘Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?’ Kairos Palestine 6.1).

Notes:

1. Palestinian Christian Theologian, Founder and Director of Sabeel in Jerusalem

2. Author ‘Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land

 

Amen.

 

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

Prayer in a time of ongoing atrocities

Today, I return to a brief writing on this blog so as to bring the reader’s attention to the ongoing deplorable and heart wrenching situation of injustice in the West Bank.

 

This past Saturday, residents of the northern West Bank village of Yanoun were attacked by settlers while out with their sheep.  3 sheep were killed, crops were burned, olive trees were burned, and 6 people were injured, 5 of whom required hospitalization.   During this attack, the Israeli army protected the attacking settlers.  For more information, please refer to a Mondoweiss article found at http://mondoweiss.net/2012/07/pogrom-in-yanoun-settlers-kill-3-sheep-torch-fields-club-and-stab-villagers-leave-one-bound-in-a-field-overnight.html.

 

Canadian Jim Cairney is currently representing the United Church of Canada while serving EAPPI in Yanoun.  His blog can be found at http://inahotandthinplace.wordpress.com/

 

In the South Hebron Hills (where I lived and served for 3 months with EAPPI last fall), the villages of Wadi J’Hesh and Susiya face imminent demolition at the hands of the Israeli Army.  The Israeli rationale for demolishing the many structures of these villages is that they were built without Israeli permits, permits that statistically have been granted over the last several years to less than 5% of Palestinian applicants living in Area C of the West Bank.  Unable to obtain permits, residents build their residential tents, animal care structures and community use structures (cooking facilities, toilets, community centre tents, water cisterns, etc) as required for survival.  For more on this story, please read an AP article found at

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/palestinian-village-faces-demolition-israel-224334826.html.

 

These are only two of the many ongoing incidences that the Palestinian people endure on a regular basis as a result of the systematic oppression and settler violence brought about by this Occupation.

 

In response to the ongoing suffering brought by this illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, a prayer vigil was held Saturday, June 23, 2012 in the sanctuary of Knox United Church, Clearwater, Manitoba.  While 10 people gathered in our small rural Canadian church to pray, we were joined in prayer by many others across Canada and around the world.  Prayers were offered for all those affected by the Israeli military occupation of Palestine (Israeli’s, Palestinians and internationals), with special concern for the residents of the South Hebron Hills villages of Wadi J’Hesh and Susiya.

 

Here are the prayers that were offered that day:

 

Almighty and eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we give thanks for your presence.  You are our refuge in this troubled world.

 

In the birth of your son Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, you became one of us, sharing and understanding our humanity, our suffering and our problems.

 

We thank you that you took refuge in Egypt, identifying yourself with all who are refugees and victims of political power.

 

We thank you that you were crucified in Jerusalem, identifying yourself with every person who suffers and lives under occupation and injustice.

 

Loving God, we come before you now with all the troubles and pains experienced by your people in the Middle East.

 

We pray for all the victims of injustice and violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.   We pray for the people of Gaza and the West Bank who face daily injustice, hardship and cruelty.  We pray for those who have experienced recent demolition of their homes and community buildings, and for those whose villages are at imminent risk of demolition.  In particular, today we pray for the people of Susiya and Wadi J’Hesh.  Give them courage to walk through these difficult days, and maintain in them a continued commitment to the principles and practice of non- violent resistance, even in the face of violence towards themselves.

 

As we pray for the residents of Susiya and Wadi J’Hesh, we pray also for the residents of other Palestinian villages throughout the South Hebron Hills and the entire West Bank who are facing significant demolition orders against their villages. Grant them the peace of knowing that whatever happens, you are with them.  That the words “Allah Kareeem, God is generous and will see us through this”, may offer strength and sustenance in this time of trial.

 

We pray for the people of these villages, people like all of us.  Mothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles, friends.  Ordinary folk….  Rural people who provide care for their sheep, their goats and their chickens.  Farmers who tend to their crops.  Children with school classes and homework.  People  – each one of them with hearts and faces and dreams.

 

We pray also for those who are responsible for injustices and all forms of violence.   We pray for political and military leaders, and we pray for the young Israeli soldiers who, in following military orders, are required to participate as perpetrators in these horrific demolitions.

 

We pray for the Israeli settlers, that they might open their hearts to the ways of justice and peace with their neighbours.

 

We pray for the Israeli activists who work steadfastly towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Guide them as they share their desire and quest for peace with their fellow citizens.

 

We pray for the many internationals who work towards a just peace in this Holy Land, a just peace for both peoples.

 

We pray for the Israeli government and the Israeli people,  that they may turn from this illegal military occupation and work towards a genuine peace with their Palestinian neighbours.

 

We pray that the Palestinian people will be open to working with the Israeli people towards a just peace for both.

 

We pray that fear on both sides may be overcome by trust and a mutual desire for the true well- being of each another.

 

We pray that all involved may come to a place of respect and honour for the human dignity of one another.  That each may recognize their shared humanity with the other, and their shared place within Creation.

 

We pray that you will open the eyes of the world towards justice and reconciliation in this place of conflict.  Help us all to see that the security and freedom of one people is dependent upon the security and freedom of the other.

 

We pray for politicians around the world, but especially in Israel and Palestine, that they may realize that the security and peace we all long for will not come by the use of arms and force, but by living a mutual path of justice so that the two peoples together can work towards an equitable and peaceable shared future.

 

We give thanks today for those from around the world who are praying with us now as we pray,  offering with us prayers for all those affected by the military occupation of Palestine, with special concern for the people of the South Hebron Hills villages of Wadi J’Hesh and Susiya.   For those known to us, and for those unknown, we offer thanks as together we raise our prayers to you, O Holy One.

 

Holy Spirit, giver of life and new beginnings, help us to faithfully respond to God’s call to open ourselves to the pains of injustice of people wherever they may be, and to stand in solidarity with those who are hurting. May we, with our sisters and brothers around the world, open our hearts and confess our part in past injustices and find ways to build a just and secure future for all. Give us wisdom and courage in this difficult task.  And when the pressures of the situation leave us in despair, come with your Light to show us the way and to renew our strength and hope.

 

We ask these, and all our prayers, in the name of Jesus, the Christ,   Amen.

 

 

We invite you to join with us as we continue to pray, today including the people of Yanoun in our prayers.

 

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

 

Jan