According to peacemaking advocate and Campus Minister at Stanford, Rev. Geoff Browning, “There is a growing gap between U. S. Middle East policy and the realities on the ground in Israel/Palestine.”
Scores of church leaders in the Bay Area heard in-depth presentations October 29, 2011 on the Israel-Palestine crisis. The conference featured eight Middle East experts including Professors George Bisharat and Joel Beinin, from both Berkeley and Stanford respectively. There were also presentations from Jews, Muslims, and a Palestinian Christian Lutheran Pastor. Participants came from Methodist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic congregations in the region.
The in-depth briefings covered the agonizing conditions of the 40 year Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands which both Muslims and Christians share as their homeland. Three rounds of five repeating workshops enabled participants to hear in-depth presentations on life in the occupied territory, the growing movement to impose boycotts, divestment and sanctions to bring Israel to agree to a peaceful but just establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Obstructive movements such as Islamophobia and Christian Zionism were included in presentations.
The Kairos Palestine document issued by Palestinian Christian church leaders reviews the current conditions in Palestine and calls for non-violent solutions to the problems.
On October 31, 2011, the U. S. voted against admission of Palestinians to UNESCO and when admission was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 107 to 14 with 52 abstentions, the U. S. cancelled its $60 million in financial support. Most experts believe the role of the U. S. as a mediator for just peace in the Middle East has been surrendered by its vote and decision. It has also further alienated the U.S. from the rest of the international community and, in particular, the Muslim world.
If you are interested in learning more about the Israel/Palestine conflict you might be interested in the Sabeel Conference March 23-24,2012. At the conference, you can learn about existing barriers to peace and the consequences of those barriers, who are challenging the barriers, and what actions can be taken to overcome the barriers. Several renowned theologians, including Dr. Marc Ellis, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies of Baylor University, will provide thoughtful leadership in explaining core issues and offer workshops for interactive discussions to answer your questions.
Topics of discussion range from the ordinary (life on a daily basis, the economy, high tech businesses) to the philosophical (ideological differences, theological interpretations, influence of the media). Add in a sprinkling of fun with excellent food, music, film and poetry, and it will be two days of dynamic growth for body, mind and spirit.
Jesus calls us to take care of our neighbors, love one another, and live in peace. The conference will be an extraordinary opportunity for opening hearts and minds to learn how.