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An Open Letter to Mennonite Church USA Congregations
Becoming Peacemakers in Israel/Palestine
(A beginning list of Follow-up resources follows)
For more than 60 years, Mennonites have witnessed to the good news of Jesus Christ in Israel
and Palestine. In recent decades the human rights situation for Palestinians has deteriorated dramatically. Today, a power imbalance of Israelis over Palestinians distorts the lives of everyone living in the region and fails to provide the longed for security. A system of forced segregation and oppression imposed by the Israeli government, which some have called apartheid, and the resulting spiral of violence calls for urgent collaborative action by all Mennonites including the agencies currently working in the region.
In response to the discernment of the Peace and Justice Partnership Council of Mennonite Church USA of the need for a common conversation among various parts of Mennonite Church USA, a delegation of ten persons (see below) traveled in Palestine/Israel, May 11-24, 2007. We visited many important centers in the region and engaged in dialogue with Christians, Jews and Muslims. During the visit we listened to our partners, talked with leaders of other agencies and heard from ordinary people as well as co-workers of Mennonite-related agencies.
Delegation participants - Daryl Byler (MCC Washington Office), Ron Byler (Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership), Ed Epp (MEDA), Kim-Vu Friesen (MC USA Executive Board), Stanley Green (Mennonite Mission Network), Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach (MCC Washington Office), Rich Meyer (Christian Peacemaker Teams), Mark Regier (Mennonite Mutual Aid), Carol Rose (Christian Peacemaker Teams) and Lee Schmucker (Mennonite Mission Network)
The news release
The open letter (993k PDF)
A Biblical-Theological Reflection on Israel Calvin E. Shenk
'Beginning list of resources'
In light of these disconcerting realities, in congregational education we encourage
In economic engagement, we encourage
- Mennonite Church USA pastors and leaders to visit Israel/Palestine and to deepen their understanding of the current situation in this region.
- Congregational groups and Sunday school classes to use study courses like Under Vine and Fig Tree to counter the distortions of land and promise in Christian Zionism.
- Intentional and continued initiatives to meet with and listen to a range of voices of Israelis and Palestinians.
Joint Palestinian-Israeli Sites:
- Use of other resources on Mennonite understandings and responses to the Middle East and Israel/Palestine for further study and reflection (see www.MennoniteUSA/peace).
- "Another Round of Dangerous Optimism"
Timothy Seidel, Peace Development Worker, Mennonite Central Committee - Palestine.
February 06, 2007. How do we speak a word of hope that is not a "cheap" hope veiled in dangerously misplaced optimism? How should advocates for justice, peace and real security for Palestinians and Israelis respond to current reality?
- "Peacebuilding in Palestine/Israel: A Discussion Paper"
MCC, May 2005
- "Children of the Nakba"
DVD Produced by MCC 2005 Grade 10 to adult.
For Palestinians, the events between 1947 and 1949 are remembered as a time when Israeli military forces destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages and expelled between 700,000 and 900,000 Palestinians from their lands -- about 85 percent of the Palestinian population at that time. These refugees have lived exiled from their land since then.
In peace building (political advocacy, public witness and accompaniment) we encourage
- Groups already visiting Palestine/Israel to consider staying in Palestinian communities including Bethlehem and Nazareth for at least a part of their time in the region to encourage economic development in Palestinian communities.
- Church institutions to gain greater understanding of their investments in this region and to avoid investments which violate international law and promote violence. We encourage exploring ways investments might be used to provide hope and promote peace in this region.
- Mennonite-related agencies working in Israel/Palestine to coordinate their work in the region.
- Congregations and agencies to challenge U.S. military and economic support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to advocate for justice and protection of human rights for all people in the region.
- All parts of the church to strengthen our commitment to bridge-building between the alienated factions in this region.
- MCC Palestine update
- CPT in Palestine
- Bethlehem Then and Now,
Advent Advocacy for all ages: Powerpoints, coloring pages, etc.
- Additional Mennonite resources:
Israel / Palestine Resources
On May 15, 2008, the state of Israel will celebrate its 60th anniversary of "independence" (1948) while Palestinians will remember 60 years of ongoing dispossession starting with the “nakba” (Arabic for “catastrophe”) when in 1948 upwards of 500 Palestinians villages were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians became refugees. Many others were killed. Visit these sites of MCC partners working to commemorate this history:
www.badil.org – "Nakba 60 Campaign" being led by this Palestinian partner group in the West Bank
www.zochrot.org – Israeli partner group working to make the Israeli public aware of the Palestinian historical and current realities