Jerusalem: “May all our lives be beacons of justice, peace, love and hope”

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Jerusalem_EAPPI_2017

Photo: Marianne Ejdersten/WCC

There is a warm buzz in the church. Happy reunions. Friends and colleagues reunited. It is a time for goodbyes for some. It is a time of being welcomed for others. Nearly 150 people gathered in St Anne’s Basilica in East Jerusalem to pray for a just peace, for an end to the 50 years of occupation and for the solidarity to be able to live side-by-side in Palestine and Israel. It is time for the ecumenical accompaniers in group 67 to hand over to those in group 68.

The prayer begins with words of welcome from Josef Buholzer, the new superior of the White Fathers  and the local coordinator of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI) Zoughbi Al Zoughbi, as well as a recorded greeting from Bishop Munib Younan from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land: “Accompaniment is an instrument and tool of the holy communion through which we are compassioned to be God’s witnesses for justice, peace and reconciliation.”

In his welcome, Younan added, “Witnesses of hope in a hopeless situation. Witnesses of love in a world that ignores God. Witnesses of truth in a world of propaganda and lies”.

Zoughbi said in his introduction that it is an important moment to gather in the church and pray and thank those who have been accompaniers for three months and welcome the new people who are taking over. Zoughbi addressed the accompaniers by saying, “Thus you are our oxygen in life that keeps our hope alive, enhances our sanity, baptizes our commitment , empowers our walk, clarifies our talk, contextualizes our faith and incarnates our vision and mission. Being an accompanier involves devoting a period of one’s life to living in a large global family. Coming, seeing, reflecting and acting.”

A special mission as accompanier

Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of Communications, provided a greeting from the WCC leadership. She said, “We are all peacemakers. Our task is to work for a just peace in the Holy Land. Peace without justice is not a sustainable peace. The World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel was started 15 years ago and will continue until we have achieved the goal of creating a just peace, with Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side on equal terms.”

Ejdersten highlighted the bravery of the accompaniers. “You who choose to leave your home, your families and friends, and your normal job to act as accompaniers for three months are brave people. You are good role models. You are posted here to listen, talk and report, to live side-by-side, building bridges and using non-violent methods.”

Ejdersten concluded, “Working with human rights involves being vulnerable, and sometimes it is difficult to carry out the task. It is important not to give up despite all the difficulties, and also to seek new solutions and have the courage to continue even though the darkness of hopelessness can take over. The presence is important for the local people, for Palestinians and for Israelis.”

Local handover

A special thanks was given in the prayer to the World Council of Churches and the accompaniers from the local churches and to the local religious representatives Hamed Qawasmeh from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rabin Yehiel Grenimann from Rabbis for Human Rights, and local priest Ashraf K Tannous from the Lutheran Church. The global partners were represented by Hania Kassicieh from the Swedish Study Center, Fr Aris Shirvanian from the Armenian Orthodox  Church, Nora Carmi from the Orthodox Community, Rev. Paraic Reamonn from St Andrew Church, Jessica Lindberg from the Church of Sweden and Angleena Keizer from the Methodist Church in the USA.

Group 67 and group 68 alternately read out a text for the mission: “A time to plant and time to reap. A time to let go and a time to keep….May all our lives be beacons of justice, peace, love and hope. Let it be so. Amen. Inshallah”.

The final prayer and the blessing were led by the local representatives Josef Buholzer, Nora Camri, Loren McGrail, Fr Emmanuel from the Armenian Orthodox Church and Archimandrite Meletuis Basel from the Greek Orthodox Church.

The members of group 67 return home to their countries and continue their work by sharing stories about life in the Holy Land. Group 68 resumes work in the local communities. The work will continue until a just peace has been achieved in Palestine and Israel. The WCC Executive Committee processed in the end of November a plan for just peace in Palestine and Israel 2018-2021.

It is the fifteenth year of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI). Nearly  1,800 volunteers from more than 30 countries have been posted for three months each to live in local communities and monitor human rights violations. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme is led by the World Council of Churches (WCC), on behalf of local churches and together with 120 partners from around the world. The mission element itself is an important part of the task: being sent on a mission by the local churches, the various religious representatives, to act locally as accompaniers. They  live together in various communities. They take part in everyday local life. They worship together. They create a safer life for many people, according to a study conducted in the past year.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme has 120 partners from around the world. These include both Israeli and Palestinian partner organizations at the local level. The local reference group has representatives from three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

WCC-EAPPI

He knows neither the place nor the time

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By EA Katherine, Bethlehem Team.

Among the group of teachers sitting in the sun before lessons start, Khalid Zboun is clearly the head teacher. All the teachers are drinking tea, the fuel of teaching, but Khalid is drinking his from a pint mug that wouldn’t look out of place in a British pub.  He needs to drink tea in such quantities because being head teacher of Al Khadr Boys’ Secondary School, near Bethlehem, is a tough job. He knows neither the time nor the place that the Israel military will come.

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Without history, without future

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by EA Petra, Bethlehem team, 

In 2002 , following a series of suicide attacks the Israeli military devised a plan to secure its people [1]. A wall was built separating people from people. In 2008, the suicide attacks had ceased but construction of the Barrier, whose objective is to separate the entire West Bank from Israel, continued.

Today is 11 April 2016. I stand and watch as the bulldozers dig among olive groves and cranes slowly place concrete blocks next to each other. I stand next to Issa on the land that had once been his, now confiscated by the Israeli military to divide the Cremisan Valley from Beit Jala for security reasons. Issa’s eyes are empty and he shrugs his shoulders at the sight of what is happening in front of us. His entire olive grove is destroyed, and with it his family’s history and future. Issa is one of 58 families whose olive groves were torn up to build the Separation Barrier. In the end, the wall around Cremisan Valley will restrict between about 400 and 500 families from accessing their land. With the wall slowly being built in front of us, I ask Issa whether he still has hope:

“There’s always hope. The Berlin Wall fell, and even this wall will fall.”

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Qalandia Checkpoint: “another brick in the wall”

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 by EAs’ Mayara and Katarzyna, Jerusalem team.  

Jerusalem is different to any other city in the world. It is a place of worship for three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and moreover it’s a city that has a special international status (corpus separatum). According to the International Law (UN General Assembly Resolution 181, 1947), it can’t belong to a specific nationality and it has to be accessible for all peoples. For these reasons it is important that Jerusalem is an open, inclusive and shared city.

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“The sky will be my blanket and the earth my bed”; what Bedouins’ face

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  by EA Alex, Yanoun team. 

“I have nowhere else to go. says Ali Z, 39 year old father and resident of Ein Ar Rashash “If my home is demolished the sky will be my blanket and the earth my bed.  I must stay” 

Ein ar Rashash is a Bedouin village in Nablus in the northern West Bank. This community faces imminent demolition after a decision made by the Israeli Military court on Thursday (28th January), which gave the community until 6am on the first of February to demolish their homes and evacuate the area. The first of February just passed and the residents of the village did not carry out self-demolitions nor did the evacuate the area. They do however live with the knowledge that their homes and livelihoods could be destroyed at any moment. 

29.1.16, Imminent Bedouin demolition threat at Ein Ar Rashash Bedouin Community, Photo EAPPI/A. Dunne

29.1.16, Imminent Bedouin demolition threat at Ein Ar Rashash Bedouin Community, Photo EAPPI/A. Dunne

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Who controls the water in the Jordan Valley?

By the Jordan Valley team, 

(PHOTO A) 09.12.15. Baddala, Jordan Valley, Palestine. Village leader - Abdullah Sawafta. Photo EAPPI/P. Longden

09.12.15. Baddala, Jordan Valley, Palestine. Village leader – Abdullah Sawafta. Photo EAPPI/P. Longden

Tanks took my water…

Abudallah Sawafta, age 78, a senior resident in Bardala, the northernmost village in the Jordan Valley, occupied Palestine, describes what happened when the Israeli military visited his village.

“They (the Israeli water company and the Army) took our fresh water well. They connected another pipe and just took the water – and now they sell our own water back to us at very high prices”

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Our top 10 posts from 2015

Happy New Year to all! We want to say thank you to all our followers for reading our blogs and to all our Ecumenical Accompaniers for their eyewitness stories. We are encouraged by your interest and pray that 2016 will be a year of renewed hope for a just peace.

2015 was a challenging year in which occupation related human rights violations continued throughout the West Bank. August registered the highest number of structures demolished by the Israeli authorities in a single month in five years (since July 2010), settlement expansion was ongoing in Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and construction of the separation barrier resumed in Bethlehem. In addition, the escalation of violence that began in mid October led to a tragic loss of life in both Israel and Palestine. Here we shed light on some of the injustices that occurred in our 10 most viewed posts from 2015.

1. Uprooted lives: Christians protest the construction of the wall in the Cremisan

06.09.15 Bir Ouna land owner in front of Israeli soldiers during Sunday demonstration Photo EAPPI/T. Finstad

06.09.15 Bir Ouna land owner in front of Israeli soldiers during Sunday demonstration. Photo EAPPI/T. Finstad

On August 17, Israeli soldiers and security personnel supervised the the bulldozing of land and the uprooting of over 100 ancient olive trees in the Bir Ouna. The land is being cleared to facilitate the routing of the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. Local Christians have been gathering daily at the site of the bulldozing to protest the illegal confiscation of their land and to pray for the protection of the Cremisan Valley.

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