St John the Baptist Parish Church

Where a warm welcome awaits you

Ecumenical Accompaniment

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.

EAPPI seeks to provide up-to-date, reliable information on the occupation. When EAs return home, they campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.

EAPPI supports local and international efforts to end the occupation, bringing a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.

To see photos and videos from some of EAPPI's partner communities, click here

A prayer for Gaza

On Christ the King Sunday we were thrilled to welcome Chris Rose, Director of the Amos Trust, as our preacher at the 8 and 10am services. The Amos Trust seeks to promote justice and hope for forgotten communities.  They partner peacemakers in both Palestine and Israel and endeavour to hear their stories, stand alongside them in their suffering and support their work.


Chris talked passionately about the current situation in Palestine and read to us a prayer he wrote for Gaza: 


A prayer for Gaza - 14th November 2012

 

God of many names, I cry out to you:

As the bombs pound Gaza again

As more children die,

And more and more will carry the scars and psychological wounds.

As medical staff try to respond with depleted stocks,

And numbers of casualties mount.

As the missiles fly against Israeli cities,

And fear and hatred grows in each community.

As political lies are fed us in sound bites,

And statistics become currency

In an equation over electoral gains.

As attempts to arrange a cease fire become more frenetic,

And world leaders try to justify the unjustifiable

‘Israel has the right…’

There is no right

It is all wrong.

I am sick of praying for peace.

The words stick in my throat.

I protest and march

Shout slogans and give and lobby and weep.

I want to know how many deaths are required.

How much less is one child worth than another?

How much hatred and fear do we have?

A just future Palestine

Is not a one sided call,

It is the only way

To end this cycle of shame and death.

 

Amen


Chris Rose , Director, Amos Trust


For more information about the Amos Trust or to support the work they are doing, go to their website at http://www.amostrust.org

Talk by Su McLennan

Su McClennan from Embrace the Middle East (www.embraceme.org) came to speak to us on 15 January to help us to learn more about the situation in Israel and Palestine. Around 20 people came for this fascinating insight into the issues and the way in which people are affected. Su spoke with authority and compassion.

Embrace the Middle East was one of the organisations involved in the creation of the “Kairos Britain” document which calls Christians in Britain to work for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. Our own Kairos Action Plan (see our website for more information under “Concerned for Creation”) sets out our plan for considering whether and how we might respond.

The next opportunity to get involved will be on Wednesday 29 January at 8pm when we are having an informal get together in the Church Hall to continue the discussion. Everyone is welcome, whether on not they came to Su’s talk. We will share a glass of wine and a few appropriate nibbles, show a couple of short videos and encourage people to discuss the issues and their feelings about the situation.

As part of my personal commitment to peace and justice, I am going out to Bethlehem on 3 February for two months. I will be staying with a refugee family in Bethlehem. I have been invited to spend some of the time at The Holy Land Trust (www.holylandtrust.org) getting involved with their programme. The following is a quote from their values – “We strongly believe the only way to move forward is by engaging in a deep healing process. Our projects are designed to create the spaces to raise one’s mindfulness and capacity for compassion towards the other, learn to listen without judgment or prejudice, and break the chains of fear and mistrust.” I think I will learn a lot from being involved with these projects. In order to keep in touch I will maintain a blog (kenperrett.blogspot.co.uk ) and write a weekly newsletter which Tracy will post at Church. 

Ken Perrett

The plight of the innocents

The recent violence in Gaza and southern Israel illustrate just how desperate the plight is for the innocent people of this region. Whatever the politicians say – Israeli, Palestinian, American or European – the truth is that innocent men, women and children are suffering terror and death in the name of “national security” and “the right to protect”. The pictures of young children burned, bloodied and broken cry out for justice. 


Now is the time for each and every person to explore how best they can help to bring about peace, justice and mercy for all people.

 

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all God’s children.

Bassam Aramin and Robi Damelin at the Oxford Jewish Centre

The Church in Palestine produced the ‘ Kairos Document’ in 2009, asking for support for the Palestinian people, who have faced more than six decades of suffering and the dispossession of land.

At the 2013 Greenbelt Festival, a group of British Christians launched a response to this, ‘Kairos Britain – Time for Action’ asking for Churches here to think about becoming ‘Kairos Congregations.’ This is what our PCC is currently considering i.e to join with other Christians in the UK in seeking justice and peace for Israel and Palestine, with equal rights for all.

To find out more about this and to broaden our perspective, a group of us travelled to Oxford this week , to the Oxford Synagogue, to see a film and hear two members of the ‘Bereaved Families’ Forum’ one of whom was Jewish and the other Palestinian, speak about their loss of a son and a daughter respectively. The film showed how initially a small group of bereaved families got together, with two facilitators, to try to work through their pain and loss and eventually to empathise with ‘the other side.’- to understand that the pain felt was shared by all and to try to dispel some of the prejudices that they inevitably had about each other. One very telling comment was that a Palestinian, up until this meeting, had only ever seen Jews as soldiers and settlers, whereas Jews had only experienced Palestinians as suicide bombers.

Six hundred ‘partners for peace’ now belong to this Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families’ Forum and their work is worldwide. They argue that no peace settlement will ever work unless it is supported by the ordinary citizens on both sides . They constantly engage in projects to bridge the gulf between their two peoples and work tirelessly to spread their message. We were asked not to be either pro Palestinian or pro Israeli but to further their work towards pursuing peace and reconciliation.

The ‘Kairos Document’ also says that it is not anti Jewish, respecting their faith and traditions and that it is not pro Palestinian, whether Christian or Muslim. It is pro justice and pro peace. This is surely where the emphasis should lie. As members of the Forum say:

‘ Too much blood has been spilt. We do not want others to suffer as we have suffered.’

House demolitions: Beit Arabiya

 

As part of our ‘Vision’ priorities for 2012, Lisa has asked me to raise awareness of the continuing lack of justice for the Palestinian people in the Holy Land.   

 

One example of this injustice is that since 1967, around 2,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in East Jerusalem. According to official statistics, from 2000 – 2008 the Israeli authorities demolished more than 670 East Jerusalem homes and the number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated at up to 20,000.  ICAHD(Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions) is a non-violent, direct-action organization established in 1997 to resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. 

 

Read more: House demolitions: Beit Arabiya

Villagers on the line

The 'Green Line', and a railway line, bisect the Jerusalem village of Battir. Israeli plans are taking shape aiming to use either the Apartheid Wall or an Israeli National Park to confiscate around 3,000 dunums (741 acres) of the lands of the village, located just nearby the Green Line. Irrespective of Israel's tools of colonization, the villagers firmly believe that for them, land means life.


Click here to watch the video made by BADIL

House demolitions: Beit Arabiya (part 2)

 

In her article back in February, Hazel told us about Beit Arabiya (meaning Arabiya's House) the home of Arabiya and Salim Shawamreh and their seven children, which was demolished for the fifth time in January 2012.


This was one of the stories which particularly motivated the Pathfinders to share with the Church what they had learnt, and what motivated one of our Pathfinders, Laurence Smith, to write a moving and powerful script on the house demolitions.


In July Beit Arabiya was rebuilt during ICAHD’s (Israel Committee Against House Demolitions) tenth annual rebuilding camp that attracted more than thirty internationals, together with Israelis and Palestinians who refuse to be enemies, demonstrating that there are partners for peace. Within two weeks, the pile of rubble left after the demolition of the house in the middle of the night on 23rd January, was transformed into a fully functioning house.


On 1st November Beit Arabiya was demolished for the sixth time.

Read more: House demolitions: Beit Arabiya (part 2)

Children in Military Custody

 

In September 2011 a UK delegation of 9 lawyers, from the fields of human rights, crime and child welfare, travelled to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to assess the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law.

 

The objective of the group was to produce an independent report founded on the principles of the rule of law and children’s rights. A substantial and balanced body of relevant information was collated. The delegation met with various key parties, including Israeli Government departments and the military, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, UN agencies, former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children. They also visited the military courts at Ofer Prison outside Jerusalem and observed proceedings involving children.

 

The project was funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which also provided diplomatic support throughout the visit, on the shared understanding that the delegation was to be entirely independent. The content, conclusions and recommendations of the report are accordingly the delegation’s own.

 


You can read a summary of the report or in full at http://www.childreninmilitarycustody.org


Groups working for peace in Palestine

Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre is a Christian project based in Bethlehem, which is helping to bring reconciliation to the Palestinian community. The occupation and lack of freedoms increases family and community breakdowns. Wi’am means ‘cordial relationships’ in Arabic and Wi'am believes that "helping people resolve their personal conflicts helps to preserve Palestinian society and people’s faith in non-violent possibilities’. Wi'am runs counselling and reconciliation services for all ages.  It also supports groups for young people, children, older people and women.


The Holy Land Trust runs community outreach programmes in Bethlehem and the surrounding area to strengthen communities in the face of adversity. It runs workshops for local leaders, young people and community groups and produces resources promoting non-violent resistance. 


Israeli Committee Against House Demolition UK  ICAHD UK works to raise awareness in the UK and EU of the illegal demolition of homes in the West Bank by the Israeli authority.  It encourages UK and EU citizens to take action to stop this illegal activity. 


Why not Google them and find out more about the work they are doing and also look at the Pathfinder notice board in the Church Hall.


Hazel Berry

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron

“When good people do nothing then evil succeeds” say Sister Paulette a Roman Catholic Tiffin Sister from Ohio in the USA who spent 3 years as part of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron on the Palestinian West Bank and whom I met when visiting Hebron a few years ago.

 

There are 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron and about 400 Israeli settlers living in the Settlement which is right in the centre of the ancient city. The settlers are guarded by between 500 and 1,500 Israeli soldiers. The tension between Palestinians and settlers is sometimes reported in the news but we don't necessarily get the whole story. What we don’t often hear is that these 400 settlers are very ideologically bent. They feel that it is their land. … They say that because God gave them the land in Biblical times, it is theirs by right and it is their duty, to regain it, doing whatever they need to do to get it back which involves a great deal of violence.

 

The Peacemaker Teams are there to afford some protection to the Palestinians.  They accompany children going through the checkpoints on their way to school, they accompany Palestinian shepherds and farmers to fields where they are exposed to assault by the settlers, they join Israeli peace groups to replant olive groves destroyed by settlers and join Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in acts of public nonviolent resistance to Israel's construction of the Wall which cuts through Palestinian territory.

 

The Christian Peacemaker Teams are constantly monitoring activities in Hebron, videotaping any incidents and uploading the videos to the Internet.  Sister Paulette says, "We're there to either try to get in the way of the violence, to de-escalate it or to stand in the way of people who would be victims," she continued. "We want to reveal something that is not usually revealed in the media." Sister Paulette was attacked by teenagers in the settlement because they didn't like her videotaping them and the soldiers who were there on guard duty. She was kicked and choked and spat on, and the soldiers were slow to intervene but she refused to be put off.

 

Please pray for those doing this work in Hebron and other parts of the West Bank.


Hazel Berry

 

Seam Zone keeps Palestinian children in limbo

 

Every morning at dawn, Khalil wakes up and hurries to class. While his school is a mere 15-minute walk from his house, the 14-year-old boy has no idea how long it will take him to get there. The Israeli-manned Beit Yatir checkpoint, which stands between his house and Imneizil School, can turn the 15-minute walk into an hour-long wait.

 

“No matter how early I wake up, I always end up being late for school, which is extremely stressful,” said Khalil.

 

He crosses the checkpoint twice a day with another 17 Palestinian children aged 6 to 14. Each child has to line up in a chamber to pass through a magnetic scanner where Israeli security forces check every school bag and, sometimes, ask children to remove their shirts, citing security reasons.

 

You can read the full report, which is written by Catherine Weibel, Chief Communications Officer for UNICEF in Jerusalem, at http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/oPt_62454.html

 

 

House demolitions

In February’s St John’s News, Hazel included an article about house demolitions in East Jerusalem and in particular the recent demolition of Beit Arabiya.  This was the first of a series of articles which, as part of our ‘Vision’ priorities for 2012, will help to raise awareness about issues of injustice in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory that require our prayers and actions.

 

Read more: House demolitions

Justice and Mercy Service

“And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”


These words from the prophet Micah were the subject of a special service led by the Pathfinders on Sunday 23 September in the evening. The service focussed on God’s desire for justice and mercy in our world and especially in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Read more: Justice and Mercy Service