A week by week advent reflection/guide from the Women of Palestine
Let this be a special Advent...
As we prepare for Christmas this year let us consider places around the world where real hope for real peace continues to dwindle.
In Palestine, the Apartheid Wall and illegal settlements limit our mobility, deny us access to our natural resources, and strangulate our economy. Wherever one looks, be it the prolonged and inhuman siege in Gaza, the isolation of East Jerusalem and the fragmentation of the West Bank, the fabric of Palestinian society is being torn to shreds.
Fear grows in the shadow of Israeli settler violence that has increased most dramatically per month.
Settlers, accountable to no one and acting in total impunity, have set blaze to churches, mosques, and most recently, a house with its family inside, burning to death eighteen month old baby Ali Dawabsha and his father Saad Dwabsha. The mother Riham, also succumbed to her wounds in early September.
This prolonged occupation contorts the great human values born in the cradle of our Abrahamic faiths. Arguments about divine election and misinterpretation of the Holy Book are summoned to deny Palestinians their God-given rights and to justify policies of dispossession and expulsion. “They say: ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). Our challenge must be to implement a course of action that can change the dehumanizing realities of our lives as Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims. If the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend towards justice, then let us continue pursuing a just peace with courage and confidence.
Palestinian resilience in the face of a prolonged occupation is a clear message that our humanitystands tall and a better future is possible. We are thankful for the growing international solidarityand efforts for justice in Palestine, and we hope those efforts will continue to push the internationalcommunity to act in ways that bring melding and moderation rather than polarization and extremismto the Middle East.
This Advent season, we take you to Bethlehem accompanied by the spirit and actions of brave, unyielding and resilient Palestinian women, the bearers of good news. These women continue to weave hope every new day, just as their foremothers and forefathers did for centuries. Amidst suffering, they continue to explore the mysterious forces of faith, hope and love.
In the following reflections Hanadi takes us to the Apartheid Wall and reconfirms the love of parenthood and the struggle fornormality under the wall’s suffocating impact.
Rania speaks to us of Palestinian resilience, unity, and mutualrespect despite Israeli policies of “divide and rule.”
Amira shares with us the energy of Palestinian youth and theirgrowing faith in the face of harsh realities.
Sister Virginie inspires us by affirming the status of Palestinian women, and tells of the blessed event when two Palestinian women were canonized by the Vatican as Saints in recognitionof their great vision and selfless sacrifice for their communities.
Finally, we end this Christmas Alert with the message of the inspirational mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. With her courage and persistence, she speaks of her desperate hope and newdevelopments planned for the holy city of love and peace.
In Solidarity from Brazil, Nancy Cardoso reflects on the Alert for all women everywhere.
This is a Kairos moment where you too can be builders of a Just Peace by participating in one or moreof the following:
• Advocate for an inclusive and plural Jerusalem that allows free access to all religious groups.
• Lobby for the end of the inhuman siege and blockade of Gaza.
• Campaign to de-legitimize the illegal Israeli settlements.
• Support the right of Palestinian children to security and education, and denounce their detentionand torture.
• Remind the world of the plight of our refugees and their internationally recognized right of return
• Campaign for the rights of Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom are women and children.
• Call for the removal of the Apartheid Wall as endorsed by the World Council of Churches .
The International Court of Justice in The Hague released an “Advisory Opinion” in 2004 concluding that the construction of the wall is contrary to international law (Para. 142).
• Write letters of solidarity for Justice in Palestine to Israeli embassies in your own countries. (see here for all Israeli embassies)
Our joint pledge this Christmas is to take our light out from under the basket and to act as agents forpositive change in the Holy Land.
Kindly start by widely sharing this document and former publications including the Kairos Palestinedocument; let our Kairos Call reach schools, congregations, universities, political representatives, theological institutes and church hierarchies. As Christians, we need to ensure that the global church critically revises a theology that justifies the oppression of peoples, and in its stead advocates atheology of justice and liberation, equality and peace. Our faith has empowered us with moralcourage, love and faith to act boldly and speak prophetically. Do support Palestinian civil society intheir non-violent struggle to boycott and divest from the occupation and injustice. ‘Come and see’, visit us, talk to Palestinian Christians, and find the truth which liberates both the oppressed and the oppressor.
Collectively we can make incredible change and turn the tide towards real peace. Together, we can make this Advent a time of reflection and action. Let us stand firm, truthful and righteous and we shall be amply blessed and rewarded.
A very happy and fulfilling Christmas to all!
Kairos Palestine – A moment of Truth
Click here for the pdf file of the 2015 Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert document.
Please share widely!
The purpose of the seminars is to struggle with and to address the serious theological problems which arise when the traditions of a religious community and its way of reading the scriptures assert that its members are somehow chosen, set apart, called or covenanted to be in a unique and specially privileged relationship with God to the exclusion of all others. These assertions have profoundly affected the self understanding, the relationships to those outside the religious community and the attitudes and values of many within the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions across the centuries. And, secular nation-states, like the USA, Israel, and others sometimes make similar claims of divine election.
It is one thing to affirm that every man, woman and child on earth is created in the image and likeness of God, is infinitely loved by God and therefore is of infinite value. It is quite another to claim that belonging to one or another of these religious or national communities gives one's life a value, a vocation and a unique relationship to God which somehow supercedes any of the others. Such a conviction easily leads to violence, abuse and oppression, as history all too clearly demonstrates.
To transform these long-standing issues and their consequences in each of our religious traditions is no small undertaking and will demand years of hard work. Indeed it will require something approaching a theological and ecclesiastical revolution. But we have no choice but to begin, since it is now clearly essential to preserving the life of the world and to ending the violence which threatens to destroy it. Justice and peace require the reconciliation of our religious communities in order to bring an end to the deep divisions which our misguided visions have helped to create. This program represents a modest beginning to transform preaching into a means of struggling with these very issues.
Our seminars will be designed to help preachers challenge and inspire believers to heed God's urgent call to justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel by raising a vision of God's love that embraces all people, especially those who are oppressed and persecuted, and exposing the theological error of using biblical passages to rationalize injustice to Jews or Palestinians, or their supporters.
The new program will involve the creation of seminars of five to ten pastors who will meet under the direction of selected resource leaders to study and discuss passages taken from the upcoming year's lectionary texts which refer to the profound theological concerns voiced directly by Palestinians and Jews.
Palestinians have called upon the churches of the world to "preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than to turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed," and to renounce the theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer." (Kairos Palestine, 6.1)
For instance, some Christians and Jews erroneously interpret Genesis 12:3 as a literal land grant to contemporary Jews of all Palestine and texts in Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges as an excuse to "cleanse" Palestine of non-Jews. To support contemporary Jewish claims to Palestinian land, other texts are used to claim a connection between the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the current state of Israel, or a genealogical connection between modern day Jews and the ancient Israelites.
Jews have called upon the churches to renounce the real or apparent anti-Semitism in New Testament texts (e.g. Matthew 27:25) that are cited to blame all Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus (the charge of Deicide), texts that declare that God's covenant with the biblical Israelites and their Jewish spiritual heirs has been nullified or replaced by God's covenant with all who believe in Christ (supercessionism), as well as texts that denigrate or appear to denigrate all Jews. Both Jews and Palestinians engaged in peacemaking have urged their religious communities to interpret the Bible through the lens of contemporary international standards of justice and human rights.
The first of these seminars was held in Chicago, Illinois, from October 27-28, 2015, just before the annual fall meeting of the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).
The Back Story
It has been said that home is where the heart is. Home is remembered as the place where one flourished and is remembered with joy; when one has lost their home, that joy is mixed with an ever-present sadness and longing. In 1915, a ten-year-old Osanna Panian left home and escaped what is now known as The Armenian Genocide; she survived and walked over the mountains into Iran and life as a refugee. Was she just lucky that she survived what Winston Churchill later called the first holocaust of the twentieth century? Or was it Providence?
Osanna is the Latin version of the Greek word hosanna. It’s a popular girls’ name in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but it is also a liturgical word with Hebrew and Aramaic roots meaning “Save me!” or “Help me!” When sung in the liturgy on Palm Sunday, this beseeching cry has the feel of a profound prayer for deliverance. Osanna Panian was given this liturgical name because she was born on Palm Sunday in 1905. Little did anyone know on that day of sung hosannas that this new life would indeed be saved from the horrors of a genocide in which 1.5 million Armenian Christians perished while under the control of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.
Osanna was saved by the joint efforts of the Muslim and Christian community over the border in Iran; they offered two gold coins to anyone who could “deliver a live Armenian from the massacres.” Osanna ended up where her family always feared, “over the mountains” in Muslim Iran. Ironically, she lived a fuller and richer life there than her surviving siblings who ended up in the Soviet Union in faraway Moscow. Osanna’s life spanned most of the twentieth century and she lived it decade after decade, as with all exiles, longing for home. She raised three children in the Christian community in Iran and six grandchildren. As with all refugees, she nurtured her family to have a special attachment to her lost homeland of Armenia.
In 1991, five years after Osanna died, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Armenia gained independence, becoming a sovereign country, with only a fraction of its historic lands. One of Osanna Panian’s grandchildren is Presbyterian elder, Noushin Darya Framke who established The Hosanna Preaching Seminars in her grandmother’s honor, “with the hope that all refugees might find their way home.” It is this same hope that sustains The Hosanna Preaching Seminars and the conversations around finding a way home for those in some version of exile today.
By its name The Hosanna Preaching Seminars program seeks to honor a very special woman who at a young age became a refugee, a person who was never able to return to her native home. In honoring her, we remember the vast numbers of God's children who have been driven from their homes and made refugees in our own time. In particular we think of Palestinian refugees, the largest number of refugees today, who long for home and hope for a day of return. May the fruits of this program contribute to the home-coming of all those who long to be welcomed home.
top 3: Palestinian refugees holding keys to their family homes lost over the decades since the creation of Israel.
Back Story, right: Yerevan, capitol of Armenia, with Mount Ararat in the background where Noah's Ark is said to have rested after the flood. With Mount Masis, these peaks are the symbol of Armenia but are across today's border in Turkey.
Back Story, left: bowl of house keys at a market stall in Jerusalem. These old keys have come to symbolize the plight of Palestinian refugees who have lost their homes.
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The Hosanna Logo includes the ancient Armenian Symbol of eternity.