The Path to Peace: Conference Set for September 28-29 in Albuquerque
A two day conference entitled “Justice: The Path to Peace In Palestine/Israel” will be held Sept 28-29 in Albuquerque, New Mexico featuring workshops, noted speakers, as well as entertainment, including a group of Palestinian Debka dancers...
The event is being hosted by Friends of Sabeel-North America, a group which works in the US and Canada in conjunction with International Friends of Sabeel as well as the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center based in Jerusalem. Sabeel (Arabic for “the way”) is a grassroots, international, interfaith peace movement founded by Palestinian Christians, including Rev. Naim Ateek.
Ateek, featured in the video above recorded three years ago, will be the keynote speaker at the conference later this month. Other speakers will include Jeff Halper, of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition; Palestinian journalist Nadia Hijab; Rev. Donald Wagner, co-founder of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding; Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, co-founder of Muslim-Jewish peace walks; Ali Abunimah, of the Electronic Intifada; Israeli author Miko Peled; and Mark Braverman, of American Jews for a Just Peace.
“I have heard some of these speakers before and read their work. They are not only well informed, but they are spiritually and morally inspirational,” says Rita Erickson, one of the organizers of the event. “They express a high level of consciousness which I think is the result of introspective of spiritual work that has healed their personal pain.”
Ateek was 11 years old in 1948 when his family was driven out of its home by Israeli soldiers during what Palestinians today refer to as the “Nakba” (“catastrophe”), the establishment of the state of Israel and the resulting displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians. The story is told in his book, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation. Ateek is also the author of A Palestinian Cry for Justice and Faith and the Intifada: Palestinian Christian Voices.
One of the activities the Sabeel movement is noted for is its sponsoring of “witness visits” to the Holy Land—tours that offer Americans and others the opportunity to worship with Palestinian Christians and to see the reality of life under occupation close up. Erickson said she went on one such tour herself in 2007, and that she found the experience moving—and disturbing.
“I was sitting at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem waiting for my sister to pick me up, watching the wide variety of people in various attire stream past me. It was a Friday night, the start of the Jewish Sabbath. A small boy, maybe eight years old, came by with his new puppy. I talked to him about raising and training his little dog. A group of girls dressed real pretty for Sabot came by. They started to pet the puppy with me. As soon as they noticed the boy and recognized that he might be Palestinian, they acted like he was poison and walked away without a word,” said Erickson.
“My sister arrived. I got in the car and started to sob uncontrollably for the next hour. It seemed so tragic that people who live in such close proximity could not see themselves in a child. All they seemed to see was the enemy the child represents. It is such a huge loss to a society to blind ourselves with fear and wall ourselves off from each other, a child and his puppy for what? Security?” she added.
Erickson describes it as an “eye opening and sad experience,” and offers a quote from social reformer and Nobel Laureate Jane Addams: “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”
The conference will provide attendees with an opportunity to learn from and talk with Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular scholars, leaders and activists about the conflict, its history, current efforts to end it, visions for the future, and their relevance to Americans. Workshops scheduled include one entitled “Undermining Justice: Christian Zionism in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist and Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches,” to be conducted by Wagner.
For many years, of course, Palestinian Christians have had to go it alone, with virtually no support from Christians in America. However, Janice Hart, another conference organizer, says she believes that is now starting to change.
“Christians in the US do not receive full or always accurate information. Some evangelical groups misinterpret Biblical text. Because the US is the supporter and mainstay of the occupation of Palestine, facts are often omitted from the public’s awareness,” said Hart.
It is very important to help give a voice to the voiceless Palestinians, who feel forgotten by the world community,” she adds.
Other conference workshops will be:
* “Paradise Lost: the Transgenerational Legacies of Life Under Occupation: Native American and Palestinian Cultural Survival,” conducted by Elena Ortiz;
* “Global Palestine: Exporting the Occupation,” conducted by Halper;
* “Water Denied: Justice Denied,” with Gary Anderson;
* “Ending Military Aid to Israel,” Josh Ruebner;
* “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” conducted by Sydney Levy, of Jewish Voice for Peace.
For a conference brochure in PDF, click here.
For a tentative schedule click here
To register for the conference click here.
Registration is $85 and includes meals.
Also see the Friends of Sabeel-North America website as well as the website of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.
Erickson describes Ateek as “a perfect expression of the humility and compassion that the majority of the Palestinians I meet embrace”—and she also believes that Palestinians in general have something to teach the world—and perhaps particularly Jews.
“These are victims who have not over identified with their victimhood,” she said. “It seems to me the legacy of the Jewish people as personified in Zionism and Israel is an over identification with their victimhood which walls them off from the opportunity to truly heal from the history of the Holocaust. This unhealed violence compels them to recreate the violence their ancestors experienced.,” she said.
“I think healed victims everywhere retain or take back their dignity, humanity, personal power and strength from not over identifying with their victimhood. Because they (Palestinians) do not scramble for power and protection through greed, hate and aggression, they give the universe, all of us willing to witness, the gift of compassion, humility and love. They will go down in history for this gift. I am certain of it,” she added.