20 February, 2013
Steadfast Hope: Educating for Engagement
I recently organized and led an Epiphany Adult Series on Israel/Palestine (at St. Augustine’s Church, Wilmette, IL) using the Episcopal edition of Steadfast Hope as primary resource. By most indicators it was a success – lots of participants (29), consistent attendance, and, best of all, there were at least 6 who reported knowing “nothing” about Israel/Palestine. Its long-term success, in terms of new and enlarged engagement, remains to be seen.
Laying the groundwork is personal and labor intensive
The Diocese of Chicago passed the Palestine Israel Network (PIN) resolution at its 2011 diocesan convention with a unanimous vote and the diocese includes sympathetic clergy and laity, but, as a whole, the issue of ending the Occupation, pursuing a just peace for both people, is barely on our radar. We (a small Is/Pal subcommittee of diocesan P&J) have a lot of work to do here.
I began with my own Evanston deanery (11 parishes) where I am priest associate at St. Luke’s. From my six years of teaching, preaching, selling Palestinian olive oil and raising money for a children’s library in a Palestinian village, St. Luke’s is pretty well on board. One or two other parishes have included the issue in their adult classes. But it is on the radar of very few. When there are so many “terrible” situations in the world, why this one? Parish agendas are full to overflowing. There have to be convincing reasons for a parish to sponsor this series and for laity to take the time and energy to attend. In my publicity, I noted seven (there are more).
- Our Anglican sister church’s, institutions and people are victims of the Occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
- A Palestinian priest visited the diocese in 2007 and asked we not forget them.
- Palestinian Christians (the 2009 Kairos document) have asked for our help.
- Our government is complicit in helping maintain an oppressive Occupation.
- In our baptismal covenant, we promised to “seek justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being”.
- There are strong indicators that the world is waking up to this injustice. We can join thousands here and around the world and can make a difference.
- And for good measure, the 2012 General Convention passed a resolution asking every parish study this issue.
I lobbied hard with the two most likely parishes. I preached and personally advertised the series in one. In the other, I led an adult class with an update on the situation. In all my publicity (electronic, hard copy posters for every parish) and every time I spoke of it, I made clear the series was not for education only but for education that leads to informed engagement.
Laying the groundwork, building the necessary networks to launch a series is hard work and mainly a matter of making personal connections.
The format emphasized openness, little lecturing, and lots of interaction.
We had four evening sessions (6 – 8 including a half hour for a light supper) on the four Sundays leading up to Ash Wednesday, not nearly enough to do Steadfast Hope justice. So I primed the pump wherever possible. Probably too much. Prior to the first meeting I sent participants an electronic welcome with links to current articles, blogs, faith groups working for just peace. Between sessions I sent electronic links to information they asked for between sessions. More read them than I anticipated, but less is definitely more.
In the first session, we set an affective tone by reading material from Before There is Nowhere to Stand: Palestine/Israel Poets Respond to the Struggle: the first poem, “Jerusalem, City of Prayer”, and “In Lieu of an Introduction by Vivien Sansour”
In groups of 4-5 in the first session, “What were the primary influences in my life that have shaped my “take” on the Israeli/Palestinian situation?”
In the second session, divide into four groups (6-7 in a group) with these assignments: Develop a strong argument for why hanging the label of “apartheid” on Israel is/is not fair. Construct the elements of a (moderate) Palestinian narrative, of a (moderate) Israeli narrative. A spokesperson from each group then practiced “listening” to one from the opposing side.
In the third session, we listed and discussed “What has been/is most confusing about what you have heard/read so far?” and “Of what you’ve read and heard, what has been most impactful?”
In the last session, we broke into small groups to answer, “So what now?”
Most important, at the last session I offered (with Newland Smith) to consult with any individual or group from a parish about their plans for “what now?”
At the final session I told participants I would follow up with notices of local events that would help continue the learning as well as occasional links to important articles. They would be free to “unsubscribe” at any time.
A week and a half after the last session I sent participants an electronic link to an Amira Hass article in Haaretz about the prisoner hunger strikes and an explanation of administrative detention.
Ratings were very positive
Many commented favorably on “dialogue with others”
Positive experience but too little time.
High marks for Steadfast Hope and DVD
Liked links to current events/issues
Having Newland Smith as a “participant” was a distinct advantage.
Epiphany Study Group on Israel/Palestine
St. Augustine’s, Wilmette
RCF 012013 – 021013
Purpose To help fulfill a baptismal vow to “seek justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
- To provide basic understanding of Israeli and Palestinian narratives, a history of the conflict and an awareness of factors being played out in the current situation.
- To identify current sources of information and opinion; assemble resources for continued learning.
- To understand the components of faith as well as secular initiatives for a just peace and the organizations which constitute this movement.
- To decide on a level and a focus for engagement for each participant and with others in the quest for just peace.
Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace can only fairly be described as a resource with a Palestinian perspective. That it does does not mean it is anti-Israeli. It attempts to give an accurate history of the region from the late nineteenth century to the year of its update in 2011 – and to do so in a very few pages. Any document than condensed is, by definition, incomplete.
It is important to say that both this document, originally published by Presbyterians and revised and edited members of EPF’s Palestine Israel Network, is intended to further justice, peace and security for both the Palestinian and Israeli people.
We will differ in opinions, perspectives and conclusions – and everyone’s opinions, perspectives and conclusions will be respected. Discussion for clarification and airing differing opinions will be encouraged.
I hope these four weeks will be edifying, inspiring, motivating – and fun. And that it encourages you to keep learning.
Epiphany Study Group on Israel/Palestine
St. Augustine’s, Wilmette
RCF 012013 – 021013
You will do as much studying, viewing, reflecting as you choose to. I encourage you to do as much as you can within the time you have available. Four sessions is woefully too few to do justice even to the material in Steadfast Hope, a relatively small booklet. But it’s what we have, and maybe it will launch you into learning more.
In order to participate most fully in each of the sessions which follow this first one, I encourage you to do three things: read at least the assigned section in SH, view at least the assigned DVD chapters and sample one of the blogs and one of the web sites of organizations whose explicit mission is to support a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
For Sunday, January 27: Read SH Part I, pp. 5 – 16. View DVD, Chptrs 2, 3,4 (43 m)
For Sunday, February 3: Read SH Part II, pp. 18 – 31. View DVD, Chptrs 5, 6 (30 m)
For Sunday, February 10: Read SH, Part III, pp. 33 – 45. View DVD, Chptrs 7, 8 (27m)
Churches for Middle East Peace http://www.cmep.org/
Jewish Voice For Peace http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
J Street http://jstreet.org/
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation http://www.endtheoccupation.org/
Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network http://epfnational.org/PIN/
American Muslims for Palestine http://www.ampalestine.org/
Israel/Palestine Mission Network (Presbyterian Church) http://www.theipmn.org/
Shalom Rav (Brant Rosen) http://rabbibrant.com/
+972 (a blog-based web magazine jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine) 972mag.com/
Bitter Lemons (a joint Palestinian-Israeli effort to promote a civilized exchange of views about the Israel-Arab conflict and additional Middle East issues among a broad spectrum of participants) http://www.bitterlemons.net/ (regrettably, no longer funded; only past issues available)
Mondoweiss (a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective)
Muzzlewatch (JVP tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy) http://www.muzzlewatch.com/
Wallwritings (Jim Wall, former editor of the Christian Century writes regularly about issues related to Israel/Palestine) http://wallwritings.me/
The Electronic Intifada (published by Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian American journalist, author of the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict ) http://electronicintifada.net/
Pro Israel Blogs (a fascinating list of blogs that are, in varying degrees and ways, overtly pro Israel – sample any and all) http://5mfi.com/pro-israel-blogs/
(In third session)
Epiphany Study Group on Israel/Palestine
St. Augustine’s Church, Wilmette
RCF 012013 – 02101
So what now?
The baptismal vow to “seek justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being”, the reason for this study, is no less challenging than when we began. But responsible and strategic action is built on basic historical understandings and continuing study of a situation that is constantly changing. All of you have a basic understanding; some of you have a lot.
The second step is to keep learning.
The third is to assess what energy/time you want to/can devote to this issue.
And the fourth is to assess the context in which you live and the possibilities to effect change. Acting alone is tough and often discouraging. Acting as part of a group is no less tough but often more effective and hopeful. “Where two or three are gathered together ….”
From there on it’s planning and implementing and possessing sumoud, the arabic word for steadfast persistence, faithfulness. And, of course, to keep cycling through steps 2, 3 and 4. All education can lead to effective action. All action can be educational
Education ⇆ Action
Possible actions range from easy/costs little in time, energy, money – (1) to challenging/costs a lot in time, energy and (maybe) money – (5).
Wear an “UnOccupy Palestine” pin, inviting people to ask you about it. Develop an elevator speech about why this means a lot to you … and might to them. (1)
Become a Zatoun Palestinian olive oil vendor in your parish, community, food cooperative. Support the Palestinian economy and educate buyers at the same time. (2)
Educate – widen/deepen the circle. Select a friend you think might be open to learning about this situation, invite them to join you to hear a speaker, see a film. (2)
Start a reading/discussion group with an Is/Pal focus … and see where it leads. (3)
Join a US organization committed to “seeking justice and peace” among Palestinians and Israelis – for continuing education and opportunities for action. EPF/PIN (Episcopal); IPMN (Presbyterian); US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace); United Methodist Kairos Response; J Street; CMEP (Churches for Middle East Peace); AFSC Chicago Middle East Program; FOSNA (Friends of Sabeel, NA); CJPIP (Committee for Just Peace in Palestine). (1)
Support an Israeli/Palestinian organization committed to “seeking justice and peace” – continue your education through their communications. Freedom Theatre; Holy Land Trust; B’Tselem; New Israel Fund; Parents Circle – Families Forum; ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions); Ta’ayush; Combatants for Peace; Brit Tzedek v’Shalom; Just Vision; Rabbis for Human Rights; Sabeel. (1)
Explore creating a sister parish relationship with an Anglican Church in East Jerusalem or the West Bank. (5)
Visit Palestine and Israel. There are many responsible groups who regularly lead trips to Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including conversations with both Palestinians and Israelis. Ask your parish to sponsor 2-3 parishioners who will then be responsible to report when they return. Be sure to include a young person. (5)
Support a local project. Hands of Peace (Glenview based); Seraj Library Project (creates libraries in rural Palestinian West Bank villages). (3)
Advocate for an enlightened US foreign policy. Initiate a relationship with your Congressional representative, one of your two senators (or their staff); make an appointment to visit their office, let them know of your concern, learn of their position. (3)
Include an Is/Pal focus in your liturgy’s P of the P – both a general prayer for justice and peace and, as it occurs, prayers for particular people, groups, initiatives. (2)
Organize a study group of the 2009 Kairos Palestine document. (4)
Join the national/international boycott of SodaStream. Educate, demonstrate with local groups. (5)
What’s your plan?