Greetings from the steering committee of the Mennonite Palestine Israel Network! We have several items to share in this month’s update.
1. Gaza: Much uncertainty and suffering persists in the Occupied Territories, and especially in Gaza. We continue to pray and act. MennoPIN signed onto a call along with many other faith groups for an arms embargo on Israel. The call points out:
“Israeli aggression against Palestine, both in the past two weeks, and over the past several decades, has been largely enabled by American military aid and international military sales. The US government gives Israel $3.1 billion a year to purchase the most advanced weaponry in the world. European Union countries, as well as Brazil, India, and Chile have also sold advanced weapons to the Israeli military. We support efforts to prevent the distribution of weapons to Gaza. We likewise call for a blockade of weapons to Israel. We are therefore joining the six Nobel Peace Laureates and thousands of others in endorsing the Palestinian call for an arms embargo on Israel. We will continue endorsing this call until the current bloodshed, blockade, occupation, and exile come to an end.”
Learn more about this call here.
There are many in our network who have been very active in our congregations and communities these past weeks: prayers, vigils, demonstrations, phone calls to policy makers, letters to newspapers editors. Would you share with us what you have done? We would love to gather this information and share with others in Mennonite Church USA.
As the brutality continued in Gaza, we witnessed brutality here at home. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month—an unarmed, African-American teenager killed by police—had many identifying connections between Ferguson and Gaza. We are again reminded of the challenges of working for justice at home: that seeking justice in Gaza must be complemented by seeking justice at home, actively dismantling structures of oppression such as racism and poverty as well as militarism.
2. Peace Sunday: For over a decade, September 21 has been recognized by many as an international day of prayer for peace. Mennonites from around the world identify the Sunday closest to September 21 as Peace Sunday. This year the Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA has provided Peace Sunday worship resources for congregations to “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.” Check them out here.
In addition to these worship ideas, consider hosting a film screening at your congregation for Peace Sunday. For example, check out The Stones Cry Out, a film that explores the Palestinian Christian experience of dispossession in 1948 and the destructive effects on the remaining Christian communities during the last 60 years of occupation.
Also, this year the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches invites churches around the world to join together the week of September 21-27 for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. For prayer, education, and advocacy ideas for your congregation, learn more here.
Will you join congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice during this week, to take peaceful actions and pray for peace?
3. MennoPIN in the news: Word about our network is spreading! The weeklyMennonite World Report ran a brief article on MennoPIN this past week. We are including it below. You can also read about it here. Please keep spreading the word and keep checking back at out our website for more information: https://mennopin.wordpress.com/.
Finally, we close with Sabeel’s recent “wave of prayer”. Please continue to keep the people of Palestine-Israel in your thoughts and prayers.
Mennonite Palestine Israel Network Steering Committee
- Jonathan Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
- Tom Harder (Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, Wichita, KS)
- Joy Lapp (Pleasant View Mennonite Church, Mt Pleasant, IA)
- George Muedeking (Albuquerque Mennonite Church, Albuquerque, NM)
- Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach (Peace Fellowship Church, Washington, DC)
- Timothy Seidel (Community Mennonite Church, Lancaster, PA)
Sabeel Wave of Prayer, August 14, 2014
God of justice and mercy, we continue to pray fervently that a Gaza-Israel cease-fire will hold and the bloodshed will permanently end. We grieve the loss of all human life. We worry for the wounded, the displaced and the traumatized. We weep for the surviving families, many who lost multiple family members, who must now move through life with such heaviness in their hearts. Lord in your mercy…
As the international community debates their future, the people of Gaza yearn for the ability to trade, fish in their sea water, rebuild their homes, and leave to visit family or pursue education and work opportunities. We pray, Lord, that the illegal blockade will be lifted and your people in Gaza will come to know the human rights that have been withheld from them for much too long by the powers that be. Lord in your mercy…
Lord, the massacre in Gaza has affected all of Palestine and Israel, exposing injustice and discrimination, and causing increased tensions. In the West Bank, at least 16 people have been killed by live fire over the last month from Israeli soldiers during protests in solidarity with Gaza. God of love, we pray that these unjustified killings end so that violence does not spread further and some healing can begin again in this troubled land. Lord in your mercy…
The Middle East is in turmoil, Lord, with atrocities happening daily in Iraq and Syria, especially in minority communities. Give your people there strength and protection, merciful God, and let your peace spread faster than hate and war. Lord in your mercy…
God of grace, we continue to ask for your blessing on Sabeel staff and volunteers who work tirelessly for peace and justice. Give them wisdom and insight as they plan programs and events during the coming months. Lord in your mercy…
Network seeks to mobilize Israel-Palestine peacemaking
Aug 12, 2014 by Kelli Yoder, Mennonite World Review | http://mennoworld.org/2014/08/12/network-seeks-to-mobilize-israel-palestine-peacemaking/
Mennonites have been building relationships in Israel-Palestine longer than many other Christian denominations but lack the churchwide efforts to work for peace in the Middle East that some denominations have.
Joy Lapp of Pleasant View Mennonite Church in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, noticed this gap while serving with Friends of Sabeel – North America. The organization works for peace in the Holy Land in solidarity with Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem. She leads trips to Israel-Palestine through the group.
“I’m a Mennonite working with Catholics, Episcopalians and Methodists, who have task forces in their denominations trying to work at this, and so I’ve been trying to find out: What are the Mennonites doing in terms of these issues?” she said.
Through Friends of Sabeel she met Tom Harder, co-pastor of Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kan., and they started talking.
“It’s shameful in a way that as North Americans and Mennonites we’re far behind in joining the global community in acknowledging what’s happening there,” Harder said. He became active in the cause after a trip to the Holy Land with Bethel College in North Newton, Kan.
So, the two of them — with the help of other supporters — formed Mennonite Palestine Israel Network, or MennoPIN, in 2013. The grassroots network has been gathering steam ever since, intending to build enough critical Mennonite mass to have an impact on working for peace with justice in the Middle East.
The group launched officially as MennoPIN at the 2013 Mennonite Church USA convention.
Now they have a website to serve as a go-to for prayer, education, advocacy and action resources, as well as information about initiatives already happening among Mennonites and other Christians, specifically Mennonite Central Committee, the Peace and Justice Support Network (a collaboration between MC USA and Mennonite Mission Network), and Christian Peacemaker Teams.
A steering committee provides leadership and sets goals. Subcommittees work on education, advocacy and communication.
Another thing they’re working on is material for the Peace and Justice Support Network’s Peace Sunday on Sept. 21. The focus this year is Israel-Palestine.
Steering committee and other network members used Mennonite conference assemblies this summer as access points for raising awareness with displays and presenting workshops.
Timothy Seidel of Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa., helps with the website, writes articles and works with the email list. Especially with the recent violence in Gaza, the list has been useful for distributing bulletin inserts and worship resources.
“The past month has been terrible, and the level of death and destruction — with thousands of Palestinians dead and wounded, and hundreds of thousands displaced — it is nothing short of ethnic cleansing,” Seidel said.
Emails to the network notified them of places to connect — MCC’s efforts to distribute food, calls to politicians, CPT’s local demonstrations and prayer and information resources, and MC USA’s lament, call to prayer and more.
“At my latest count [on Aug. 4], 1,900 Palestinians had died, most of them civilians, and our country is providing the money for that,” Harder said. “As North American Anabaptists, there’s a strong sense of urgency to be doing something to stop it.”
In its goals and language, MennoPIN affirms the work already being done by Mennonite agencies toward peace in the Middle East. But, Seidel said, there are some gaps.
“MennoPIN is working to identify those gaps and create a space for Mennonites who . . . want to see those gaps filled,” he said.
Harder is encouraged by the eagerness to collaborate MC USA leadership has already offered MennoPIN. Denominational staff members Andre Gingerich Stoner and Jason Boone have helped guide the formation of and spread the word about MennoPIN. Presently, MC USA is sending Mennonite leaders on “Come and See” learning tours to the Middle East.
“This is how social change happens,” Seidel said. “You need folks working at many different levels with different approaches.”
Empowering local action
Education and advocacy are first steps MennoPIN is hoping to encourage. Lapp recommends the documentary The Stones Cry Out (thestonescryoutmovie.com).
Then, Lapp said, they want to empower people to be active where they are.
One of Seidel’s goals is to encourage Mennonites to know where their money is going.
“We need to be aware of how our consumer habits and investments are maintaining the violence,” he said. “My motivation for engaging the network is to see MC USA taking a stance in support of boycotts and divestment from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”
The MennoPIN effort is also in response to a document Palestinian Christians leaders released in 2009 called “Kairos Palestine.” In addition to challenging theologies that legitimize violence and dispossession, the leaders point out the mission of the church “to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly,” to “stand alongside the oppressed” and “take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”
The Kairos Palestine document and MC USA’s letter of response can be found at mennopin.wordpress.com.
Ultimately MennoPIN’s goal is to work for peace with justice.
“Peace with justice means a solution that recognizes the historical injustice that Palestine has faced,” Lapp said. “The injustice that came from the creation of the state of Israel as well as acknowledging the history of injustice that the Jewish community has faced.”
Mennonite World Review | Est. 1923