Friday, July 30, 2021

PRAYER: "For Protection and Courage"

A Prayer for Protection
Friday, July 30, 2021
DGJ for Antony, Sherry and Barry

Maker of the Heavens,
Friend of the Poor,
Hope of the World's Many Peoples:

We call on you now, with humble hearts,
To protect our dear brother Antony
From any system that might scare him,
From any bigot that might target him,
From any fear that might overwhelm him.

O God, you are Antony's God, 
His one holy Maker,
And his constant companion 
On the journey to freedom.
Bless him today with your anointing, with your courage.
Plant within his soul the Holy Spirit's promise
Of tenderness in the struggle for right, and 
Grace in the journey to freedom.

As You give voice to the voiceless,
And strength to the weary,
And hope to the despairing of the world:
Touch Antony with the quickening of your Spirit.
And empower all who love him to
Stand in steadfast faith with him,
And offer to him the strong arm of friendship now.

All these things, and so much more,
We ask in the Name of the One
Whose Way is mercy,
Whose Promise is wholeness,
Whose Name is Love.
Amen.
 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

BOOKS MATTER: "Mornings in Jenin"

Having read and loved "Against the Loveless World," I've just picked up Susan Abulhawa's previous novel, "Mornings in Jenin."  I'm about half-way in...and this, too, is a stunning and evocative story of war and love, persevering bonds through generations of loss and dispossession.

I can't cite the page, because (to be honest) I'm listening to this one on my summer travels; but Abulhawa suggests that the capacity for love--or maybe the quality of loving--is different in a people who have experienced so much loss, and so much dispossession, and so much violence.  Because they have struggled so profoundly, and lost so much, and because they hunger for the good--out of that lived experience, out of that loss--they cultivate a kind of loving, a kind of devotion that is sometimes unavailable in a so-called "first world" context.  

The young protagonist has spent years in the US, studying and preparing for a career here.  When she returns one summer to Lebanon, to the refugee camps where her beloved brother still lives, she meets a Palestinian there--and immediately senses a raw, open, hunger in him, a hunger for authentic communion that meets hers in a way no American has been able to.  She wonders whether it's the nature of their lives, and their hearts--to love out of a different ache, to connect around a vulnerable center, to need one another in different ways.  And no American she's met could do that, could offer that, could meet her there.  She doesn't go so far as to say that the Americans were lacking in some way, unable to love so deeply; but she hints that our acquisitive culture, our notions of security and accumulation, render us less equipped for deeper journeys of the spirit and heart.  Challenging stuff.

And she doesn't go here, but I will.  I can't help thinking about that beatitude: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled."  Maybe Jesus was acknowledging and even celebrating what Abulhawa's Palestinian student is beginning to see: that there is a strange blessing, a spiritual opening, that comes with the frontline struggle for justice, the frontline vulnerability in the struggle for goodness and peace.  When that struggle is the substance our your life, the pattern of your family's existence, you may (and it's not a simple blessing, right?) find your heart open to needs, opportunities, songs, touches that make for a kind of intimacy that is profoundly human and blessed.  This is not the kind of hunger and thirst one can simply 'cook' up--as if you hear the sermon on this beatitude and you then go out Monday morning to "hunger and thirst for righteousness."  Instead, it is born in occupation (as it is for these Palestinian families), and it is born in the community bearing the scars of white racism (as it is for our Black siblings in the USA)...and so on.

All of which is to say: Read this book.  It's provocative and brilliantly written.

REPARATIONS: "For a Baghdad Skatepark!"

Monday, July 19, 2021

BECAUSE MUSIC: "God Bless the Grass"

SOLIDARITY: "Why Boycotts Matter"

GENERAL SYNOD, WHAT NOW? "A Prophetic Moment"

RESOLUTION OF WITNESS: "Why 'Apartheid' Matters"

From General Synod 33, Plenary 4
Sunday, July 18, 2021
On the Resolution of Witness:
Declaration on a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel

This MOTION passed, leading to the eventual adoption of the resolution itself.  A subsequent motion (also passed) restored the recognition that oppression and occupation of the Palestinian people is a "sin" to be confessed in the church and transformed in a spirit of humility and justice.

MOTION: 

 

I’m Dave Grishaw-Jones.  My pronouns are he, him and his; and I am the pastor of the Community Church of Durham, and a delegate from the New Hampshire Conference.  

 

I move to strike the words “systemic economic and political oppression of the Palestinian people” after the possessive “Israel’s” in line 197 of the resolution; and then to add in their place “apartheid system of laws and legal procedures”.

 

And I’d like to speak to the motion.

 

SPEAK TO THE MOTION:

 

This motion would restore a key and consequential word, in the original draft of the resolution.

 

“Apartheid” is an internationally defined and recognized term, used in legal circles and international diplomacy to name situations like the current one in Palestine-Israel.  The word is profoundly important to our covenant partners in Palestine and Israel who struggle against the yoke of occupation and oppression every day.  Using it here, in this resolution, we can CENTER and AMPLIFY the urgent Palestinian call for solidarity.  

 

The statement proposed by six congregations is a faithful response to the Palestinian “Cry for Hope.”  It is our Palestinian partners—out of their own lived experience of dispossession and apartheid—who called upon us to name what they have already experienced, and continue to experience each day.  Call this what it is, they cried.  Join the consensus around international law.  Call it apartheid.  In the United Nations context, doing so compels member states to act together and address together the conditions of apartheid itself.   It conveys purpose and obligation within the international community.

 

While some Jewish friends express discomfort with the word, I note the growing movement among Jews to use apartheid to describe the Israeli government.  Earlier this year B’tselem, an Israeli organization, and a UCC partner through Global Ministries, issued a report entitled This is Apartheid.  Just this week, a Jewish Electorate Institute poll documented that 38% of US Jewish voters under 40 believe that Israel is an apartheid state.  Clearly we have reached a tipping point, within and beyond the Jewish community.

International consensus around “apartheid”—what it means, where it exists, and how it should be addressed—is a critical sign of meaningful change and a catalyzing force for justice.  We’ve seen this in South Africa.  We know that this is true.  Our Palestinian partners have spoken—urgently and faithfully.  Let’s center and amplify their voices by returning the vocabulary of “apartheid” to this powerful resolution.


----

See the text of the entire resolution, as it was amended and passed, here!

Friday, July 16, 2021

GENERAL SYNOD, DAY 6: "Bearing Witness"

GENERAL SYNOD, DAY 6: Thirteen years ago, I was invited to Hebron by a Palestinian family whom I'd come to know through a mutual friend in California.  I was greeted in the city center by Tareq, a young man whose decency and strength I noticed almost immediately.  Tareq walked me through the divided city, narrating his story and his family's, wincing where armed settlers kept vigil, laughing at young friends we passed in the market.

West Bank Sunset, 2017

At the end of that long afternoon, we walked home and Tareq showed me to my guest room in the house he shared with his mother and brother.  I was exhausted from the day's travel and probably weary of the unrelenting conflict I was seeing for the first time in the West Bank.  I felt a deep responsibility toward those who shared their stories, their lives, their pain with me.  I took off my shoes and fell quickly to sleep on the bed in the guest room.  And I must have slept, pretty soundly, for three or four hours.

In and out of dreams.  Rolling from side to side.  Sadness and anger.  Beautiful people and divided cities.  Walls and security cameras.  Armed teens at checkpoints.  At some point, in the midst of a dream, I must have cried out.  As I was drifting back to sleep, I was aware of a figure in the room with me, and then aware of the figure pulling up the blanket I'd shed while dreaming.  Pulling it up to make me comfortable, safe, in his home.  It was Tareq.

Later that night, Tareq took me out, another tour, an evening round in Hebron.  This time, we visited his friends, some his age, some much older.  We went from home to home, building to building; and at each place, he introduced me to his friends, who pulled out sweets or tea for us; and Tareq did his best to translate (Arabic to English) so I could follow the conversation. I remember that one friend had recently returned from Mecca and shared the joy of that hajj with all of us.  It was, start to finish, one of the most extraordinary nights of my life.  Tareq's love for Hebron, for life there, for the community of families, with their many stories and aspirations--it was infectious, genuine and human.

I'm thinking of Tareq tonight, and his many friends in Hebron, his extended family there.  They are suffocated by Israel's occupation, and it's been that way for decades now.  They are threatened regularly by settlers who toss hot water and garbage from high above their markets and streets.  And their city itself is almost always in some state of lock-down, impassable and economically devastated by an occupation that's gone on for years and years and years.  

What Tareq and his friends said--all the way back in 2008--was honest and hopeful: "We're counting on decent people in the West to speak up, to intervene, to use whatever nonviolent tools you have to call Israel to account."  They mentioned the huge American contribution--annually--to Israel's security apparatus and the occupation itself.  They recognized that Amercan governments enabled Israel's apartheid project.  And they knew--even then--that without American intervention nothing would ever change in Hebron, in the West Bank, for Palestinians.  And they were right about all that.  History bears that out.

But they also believed--and this continues to amaze me--that some Americans were eager to stand up and be counted.  They trusted that we were serious and committed about speaking to all that military support, demanding accountability, insisting on Israeli compliance with UN resolutions, bringing the occupation to an end at last.  

As General Synod 33 debates our Resolution of Witness on a Just Peace tomorrow, I'll have Tareq in my heart and in my mind's eye.  His hope for a future in his hometown.  His love for family and friends.  His commitment to creative and daring nonviolence in pursuit of justice for all.  For Tareq's sake, and so many others, I hope and pray the Synod will name the present project in Israel for what it is, and for what Palestinians have been experiencing for decades: apartheid.  It's the language of international law, after all, and only international law and international collective action will bring the occupation to an end.

And then I hope and pray the Synod will hear what Tareq's Christian friends are asking for: an acknowledgement that silence in the presence of such an occupation is sin, that the occupation itself is sin, and that peoples of faith can only begin to play a constructive role when we confess complicity over decades.  Only then--but then--we can be truth-tellers and healers of the breach.

If I have an opportunity to speak tomorrow--to either of these points: "apartheid" or "sin"--I'll be thinking of Tareq as I do so, and the many other friends and advocates like him, whose decency and strength move me to witness.  Now.  Always.