By Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Over the past several weeks, the news coming from Palestine and Israel continues to be more than discouraging. The United States removal of the world occupation from the United States Human Rights Report of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) just seemed to be the beginning. Then on March 21, the Trump Administration recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights once again demonstrating the administration’s recklessly one-sided approach to Middle East foreign policy. On March 25, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in Israel injuring seven people; Israel attacked Gaza with military strikes. As if that was not enough, the United Nations reminds us that in the year since the beginning of the Great March of Return (March 30, 2018), 195 Palestinians, including 41 children, were killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations, including weekly protests near the perimeter fence, protests against the naval blockade, and other activities. Over the course of the past year, 28,939 Palestinians were injured as a part of the Gaza protests.
In the midst of escalating violence and such horrific tragedies, what does it mean to have Persistent Hope?
Lent is a time of reflection, a time to review the course of our individual work and advocacy, and a time to look at our work as an organization as we diligently seek and pursue what it means to work for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and that conflicts would cease in the broader Middle East. As violence escalates and the effects on human life, particularly children, become increasingly at risk, our advocacy work has never been more important. One of our goals is to call attention to the American church about the devastating effects of the occupation and the Gaza blockade on the Palestinian people. At the same time, we are committed to elevating the voices of both Israelis and Palestinians who are committed to justice, peace, human rights, and equality for all people in Israel and the oPt. We couldn’t do this work without you and your support. We couldn’t do this work alone.
Where does our hope come from? Psalm 121 reminds us that our hope “comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”… the one who never slumbers or sleeps. Our hope comes from knowing we are not alone. Not only is God with us, but we are not alone in our human efforts to respond to injustice and oppression.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) stands together in solidarity as a coalition of 28 church denominations and communions committed to pursuing a just and durable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in which Israelis and Palestinians realize the vision of a just peace, which illuminates human dignity and cultivates thriving relationships.
We come together to pursue an end to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, to promote a solution that advances security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.
We are not alone in our support of the right for engagement in nonviolent resistance while raising concerns about all forms of violence regardless of the actor.
Thank you for your support and solidarity with us in reminding us that we are not alone in our Persistent Hope that one day peace might come and justice will prevail.
An excerpt from a prayer from Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah
Written for World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2016
Dismantling barriers and dividing walls. So many wise men have said: humanity needs bridges, not walls. But war leaders in our holy land have responded by building the separation wall, plus checkpoints dividing the country in more than one place, and creating more separation and more hatred in the hearts. Lord, we come to you. You are our Father; you care for every one of us, for the Israeli and the Palestinian…
Lord, We are waiting for those who will bring us the good news of peace. The good news of dismantling the separation wall and checkpoints. The good news of opening the eyes and the hearts of all, so that we become able to see each other, for what we truly are, brothers and sisters. For what we truly are, “on your image and resemblance.”
Lord, we are waiting for your hour to come,
The hour of salvation, of new life without wall and checkpoints,
The hour of new hearts filled with your love.
We keep hoping with the “hope which will not let us down, because your love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5: 5).
Lord, hear us. Amen
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