By Kristin Weschler
I approached a diner counter and was asked to sit down on the pedestal seat, put headphones on, close my eyes, and place my hands flat on the counter in front of me. After a short period of still silence, I heard someone whisper in my right ear, “What are you doin’ here, n—-r? You don’t belong here.” I cannot recall the next two minutes and twenty seconds in detail, but I can remember how my body felt and responded. I remember being yelled at, pushed off my seat, and feeling vibrations on the counter. Yet, this simple whisper had the hairs on my arms raised, and my heart beating out of my chest. It triggered a traumatic memory of my own. While I am a Caucasian female that the interrogator was not speaking to, I clearly connected with the reaction of fear and danger. At that moment, I was able to briefly and incompletely put myself in the shoes of a black individual who experienced harassment and abuse, but usually over many months, if not years. I cannot imagine living a life, day in and day out, in such terror and uncertainty. Read more
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25
I’m frequently asked how I maintain hope in the face of such challenging realities related to my work. With policy decisions from the White House that fail to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all of God’s children in the Middle East, to a polarized and hyper-partisan Congress, how is it possible to believe we can actually shift U.S. policy toward one that centers justice and honors the equality of all in the Middle East? All of this is exacerbated by a global pandemic and virus that will have even more devastating effects on marginalized communities. I will admit it can be quite difficult at times. I’m not a naturally optimistic person. But as CMEP’s Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon often reminds us, “despair is the luxury of the privileged.” Who am I, as a privileged U.S. citizen, to give up, especially when so many in Israel/Palestine continue to struggle daily for a future in which all people living in the land we call Holy have full equality and rights under the law? Giving up is simply not an option. Read more
J. Nicole Morgan
“. . . his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman. . . . The woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ . . . .Many Samaritans from the town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” John 4: 27-29, 39
When I’m not thinking about peace in the Middle East, I’m thinking about peace with our bodies. I’m an embodiment theologian – someone who thinks about how our bodies relate to God and also our neighbors. We are all familiar with the idea of fighting our bodies and seeking to control them into submission in search of some spiritual or soul-purity. Think about how we often equate whether or not our bodies are healthy, or a certain size, with whether or not they are holy and pleasing to God – when there is no correlation between those two things. A well-documented tragedy of history (that many still ascribe to) is the belief that having a body of a certain race or ethnicity made one further from God. When we degrade the bodies of others, or we attempt to minimize the importance of bodies, we become disembodied. We lose the connection between the fact that God created our bodies in God’s image and that our presence walking around on this earth is an extension of being God’s presence on this earth. We’re supposed to show people who God is with the entirety of who we are. We are supposed to remember that we are looking at the image of God when we look at other people. Read more
Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:
“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” Read more
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
During the 40 days of Lent, my thoughts are often consumed by the radical grace shown to us and the sacrifice of God’s son on the cross that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is a struggle to be graceful in my day-to-day life and, by my own admission, I live an extremely blessed and privileged life. Yet in 2017, I spent an entire trip learning from Israelis and Palestinians what it means to live a life full of grace, even in the midst of unimaginable struggle.
I was introduced to Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) through a trip my church took with CMEP several years ago. I spent eight days with the group learning from our Israeli guide, Eldad, and from our Palestinian guide, Hussam. For many of the group, it was their first trip to the Holy Land. It might as well have been mine for all I realized I did not know or was blind to the last time I traveled there. Read more
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. (Esther 4:1-3)
The powerful imagery of this passage in the book of Esther reminds us of the trauma inflicted upon the Jewish community under the rule of Haman and his decree against the Jews. Haman was a high official under the Persian empire and King Xerxes, who convinced the king that the Jewish community was separate and not following the laws of the land (Esther 3:8). Thus, Haman recommended to the Persian King that the Jewish people be destroyed (3:9). If Haman’s argument was not persuasive enough, he promised the king ten thousand talents of silver for the royal treasury to sweeten the deal. Xerxes acquiesced and said, “Keep the money… and do with the people as you please.” Read more
Just a little over one year ago, I returned from a three-month term of service with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). I lived in Bethlehem, experienced daily life in this Palestinian city, saw both its beauty and its devastation, witnessed both the warmth and the despair of the Palestinian people. Hardly a day passes when I don’t long to return.
When it comes to the long conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, I’d like nothing better than to find a safe place to sit, from which I could simply defend one side and condemn the other. Moral certainty is so comforting.
But I cannot. I illustrate my ambivalence with a personal story. On April 5th of last year, just three weeks before my term ended, I went to Jerusalem on a day off, taking the bus from Beit Jala, a community that abuts Bethlehem. When that particular bus route passes through the separation barrier that seals the West Bank off from sovereign Israeli territory, all the Palestinians are required to get off and stand in line outside while their permits are checked. Internationals like me get to stay on the bus while two soldiers board and proceed down the aisle, long guns pointed at the floor, checking passports. When all the checking is finished, the Palestinians re-board and the bus continues on its way.
Meaningful engagement by American Christian in the Holy Land in the hopes of contributing towards a sustainable, just peace is both necessary and possible.
One chilly Minnesota Saturday in the early months of 2002, I found myself listening in on a conversation between parishioners in my small Orthodox church while we made candles. The radio was reporting news of what became known as the Nativity Church Siege in Bethlehem, and my fellow parishioners were weighing in on their thoughts about the crisis. None of us had ever been to the Holy Land, but this faraway event in a place we only knew through Gospel readings and icons still had an impact in our humble little parish and its parishioners.
More than sixteen years after that morning of melting down paraffin wax in a church basement, my life and the welfare of the Palestinian Christian community of Bethlehem so impacted by that Siege have become forever intertwined. I spent ten years living and working in the city of Bethlehem district, finding a place in the community of my Palestinian Christian wife and sharing in the struggles of the local people. Yet even with the very unique set of circumstances, I feel that my fellow American Christians do not need such a significant personal connection to become engaged in the pursuit of a sustainable, just peace in the Holy Land.
Dear CMEP Community,
“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14
Earlier this afternoon, the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) staff gathered around a laptop in our office–just a mile or so from the White House–to watch the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu announce the much anticipated “plan” for Israelis and Palestinians. As I listened to the speech, I was devastated. I was heartbroken as I thought of all the pain, suffering, and injustice that this plan will perpetuate.
The plan presented by President Trump and further fleshed out by Prime Minister Netanyahu is nothing less than a recipe for endless oppression and injustice. Palestinians for far too long have suffered under Israeli military control, a reality which today was denied and ignored.
The proposed plan would further entrench the Israeli security establishment, ensuring that generations of Israeli young men and women will serve in a military tasked with continuing control of the Palestinian people. The inevitable result will be more human rights abuses, trauma, and violence.
This cannot stand. Read more
Two weeks ago, the Christian community in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area gathered together for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Services were held at many of the different denominations’ churches, including at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem/West Bank Young Adults in Global Mission (JWB YAGMs) helped to lead the service, in our debut as the “Young Adults in Global Mission Choir.”
Now, to be completely honest, I haven’t thought a whole lot about “Christian Unity” before coming here and serving as a part of YAGM. Before this year, my focus was decidedly more interfaith than ecumenical. As the vice president of the interfaith council at Vanderbilt University, I worked hard to foster dialogue between people of all sorts of different religious and ethical persuasions. My interest in intra-Christian relations, however, extended about as far as my education at a Catholic school and basic understanding of Catholicism. Read more