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Middle East Focus on the Middle East Pax Christi Prayers for Peace Pax Christi Message to the Middle-East Christianity in Jerusalem – Speech of the Patriarch Executions Pax Christi International Delegation to Visit the Holy Land Americas & Caribbean Landless in Brazil Czechs in Cuba Prison Ethics of Human Rights in Latin America Asia & Pacific Letter of Concern to the Indonesian President Pax Christi member in East Timor Pax Christi Members from Asia and Pacific meet in Melbourne Petition against lifting of Arms Embargo Letter of Concern on Situation in West Papua The Laity and International NGOs Commonwealth of Independent States Conference on John XXIII in Moscow Ukraine Security, Demilitarisation and Arms Trade Call and Statement on Nuclear Disarmament Peace Bureau urges the U.S. to be a “Gentle Giant” Belgian NGOs criticise export of ammunition production machinery to Turkey Human Rights Economic Justice, Development and Ecology Third Conference on Least Developed Countries Letter of Appreciation from Ann Pettifor UN Commission for Social Development Alternatives to Violence Conflict Resolution Trainers Needed Culture of Peace Decade! EPLO Update Peace Education News from Pax Christi sections and groups Dorothy D’Alton, Founder of Pax Christi Ireland dies Pax Christi Peace Prize winner Luis Pérez Aguirre Dies Youth Forum activities in 2001 International Calendar
Focus on the Middle East
The layout of the February edition of the Pax Christi Newsletter is slightly different from our previous editions. This month is beginning with a focus on Pax Christ’s role in the Middle East.
Pax Christi International has been involved in the Middle East for many years. This work took on even greater significance when the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, H.B. Michel Sabbah, was elected as the president of Pax Christi International in 1999.
Now, with recent eruption violence in the area, Pax Christi’s involvement is especially important. The current Intifada indicates the Oslo process will not be able to bring the hoped for peace.
To show solidarity with those living in the region during these difficult times, Pax Christi has been involved in a number of activities and actions in an effort to support the process for lasting peace and justice in the Middle East. We have chosen to begin our February newsletter with a review of some of this work.
Pax Christi Prayers for Peace
Pax Christi members from all over the world answered the call for Prayers for Peace in the Middle East. Over a hundred people responded to the Christmas campaign by sending their prayers and wishes for peace to the people of Bethlehem.
On December 22, 2000, some hundred people, primarily Palestinians from the Bethlehem and Hebron areas, gathered at the Frères School in Bethlehem to share a Christmas celebration for peace. Pax Christi members from all over the world sent more than 150 prayers and wishes. These came from the United States, South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Portugal, and Kenya, among other countries.
Most of the prayers were handed out to attendants for silent reading, but some of them were pronounced during a Holy Mass attended by His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and International President of Pax Christi. To emphasize the international and inter-religious nature of the action, wishes were pronounced in different languages, by both Christians and Moslems. In his sermon Fr Peter Madros, chaplain of the Frères School, thanked Pax Christi International and stressed the connections between the message of Christmas, peace and salvation.
After the Mass, the attendants gathered at the Frères School’s courtyard to lift more than one hundred balloons, with attached prayers, into the air. Fuad Giacaman, director of the Arab Educational Institute and principal of the Frères School, said the symbolic lifting of the prayers to God and the world was an answer to the pressures the Palestinians were experiencing in their daily life - pressures of a physical, psychological and economic nature.
Afterwards, the participants shared an Iftar meal on the occasion of Ramadan. In his speech Msgr Sabbah stressed that the Palestinian people were united in their longing for peace and justice. He noted that despite the many travelling difficulties, Moslems and Christians succeeded in coming to share in each other’s celebrations, thus showing a real sense of community.
Susan Atallah, member of the board of the Arab Educational Institute and coordinator of English teaching at St Joseph School in Bethlehem, gave a sketch of local educational initiatives in the spirit of Pax Christi International (see below).
The meeting also involved story-telling and musical performances conducted by students from the Frères School and Al-Arroub Camp, while a student from St Joseph School read her diary.
The Institute wishes to thank each and every person who sent a prayer or who was otherwise involved in the Mass and meeting. They felt this simple activity was a great success in building the community - locally as well as internationally.
Pax Christi Message to the Middle-East Your Beatitude, dear friends and guests,
I wish you a warm welcome for the reading and pronouncing of so many prayers in different languages that come from all over the world, indeed from all continents. We would like to express our thanks to you, Monsignor, as International President of Pax Christi, for your kind willingness to preside over this mass and we also express our gratitude to Pax Christi International for having organized the arrival of so many prayers.
It is heartening and inspiring to know Pax Christi members abroad pray for the people living here. Originally, the ideas of a church and mosque, and also the synagogue, are linguistically and historically related to the idea of community. Sharing prayers from all over the world at such a difficult moment as today is indeed community building. It is often said that prayers serve to give consolation and inner strength; here they do more - they really connect.
We have come together as educators - teachers, parents and students. (Students are educators too; they educate themselves and others, including teachers). Education is essentially about connecting - connecting with oneself, other people, one’s own culture and other cultures. Here in Palestine educators have a difficult time not only because of the severe political, economic and safety circumstances but also because we are presently prevented from connecting. We are very limited in our freedom of travelling, communicating, meeting, joint learning and community building. In fact, I am sure that it was not easy for many of you to come here, especially not for those coming from the villages around Bethlehem or from Hebron.
When we as educators talk about peace, we are looking for the principles and practices of human connecting. In our contribution to the work of Pax Christi we wish to apply the following principles.
First, we need to bring forward the Palestinian voice. While we see images of Palestinian youth we barely hear the voices of those youth, especially the girls. Yet there are chances here. In a modern media-conscious world there are a great many opportunities to show the voice of people, including the making of diaries, oral histories, websites, on-line courses, video documentaries, photos and drawings. Increasingly, Palestinian educators now take the initiative to involve youth in communication projects that connect them in a two-way exchange with the world.
Secondly, the more difficult the circumstances are, and the greater the pressure of isolation, the more urgent also the need to develop an inclusive vision of peace – or in present-day language, a “culture of peace.” We have to prevent ourselves from becoming entrapped in an inward-looking culture of self-righteousness. When we talk about a vision of peace, we do not mean peace as a slogan or a political deal. Rather, for us, a vision of peace comes out of the hope and wish to transcend the present terrible situation of exposure, helplessness, fear and isolation; a hope which allows us to become human again and to connect with others.
Thirdly, as educators we choose non-violence. We follow the Patriarch’s words in his Christmas message. Doing so does not mean that we isolate ourselves from those youngsters who challenge the Israeli army. They have been led to do so by the force of desperate circumstances. We simply say that there should be different ways of dealing with others. In all human struggles of liberation, non-violent means of persuasion have been decisive in reaching out to others who support one’s rights, and to the world in general. Moreover, as educators we must prevent the violence that grows inwards, into the person, community and society. Non-violent means are essential in order not to loose the human connection.
As an illustration of these principles, I would like to quote from an essay written by four educator-students from Bethlehem, Jennifer Juha, Jumana Denho, Rasha Hazineh and Nisreen Ballout.
There was a little boy who was holding his toy. It was a pigeon that symbolizes peace. While he was playing one afternoon, he had a dream. He dreamt about another world where he could talk about his toys and his hobbies, his interests and his dreams, instead of talking about guns, blood and killing. A world where he could run and play with his friends. He dreamt about people loving each other, smiling to each other, happy and secure. Happiness was in everybody’s heart. There was no war, no tanks, no rockets, and no shelling and bombing. There weren’t sounds of crying. Christians, Moslems and Jews living together in peace, fighting together against the evil of the world. They talked about justice. He dreamed about a better world. A world full of peace. A bullet, an evil bullet came like a thief and entered his heart. It took his soul and his dream away. His pigeon was beside him, right there next to his motionless body. But the pigeon remembered his dream, and came to life and flew away. It had decided to tell his dream to the world. AND it decided to make his world that he dreamed about come true.
While walking to the Iftar meal, you will receive a balloon attached with the prayers we received. We invite you to lift the balloon, as if it is the pigeon, so that the prayers come alive and fly away in order to make the dream come true.
See also: http://aeicenter.tripod.com/aeicenter/id13.html
The report (ref. ME.54.EF.00) and all the prayers are available from the International Secretariat in 6 different language groupings: English, French, German, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish. See www.paxchristi.net
Other documents on the Middle East available from the International Secretariat:
The Bethlehem Diaries nr 10, 11, 12 and 13, by Toine van Teeffelen,
Arab Educational Institute, AEI, 18 December 2000 – 22 January 2001,
ref.: ME.55.E.00, ME.01.E.01, ME.02.E.01, ME.04.E.01.
UN Commission on Human Rights, Written submission of Pax Christi International, January 2001, Item 8, Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. In English and French (ref. ME.47.EF.00).
Diary of Susan Atallah, Teacher/Supervisor at Saint Joseph School for Girls, AEI, ref. ME.05.E.01.
Christianity in Jerusalem – Speech of the Patriarch
Msgr. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and our International President, was in London at the invitation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. On 23 January 2001, the Patriarch spoke about Christianity in Jerusalem at a private seminar. Secretary General of Pax Christi UK, Pat Gaffney, also participated. The speech of the Patriarch is available from the International Secretariat (ref. ME.06.E.01).
In a letter addressed to the Representative of the Palestinian Authorities in Brussels, Mr. Shouki Armali, Pax Christi Flanders protested the executions of so called Palestinian collaborators. The letter is dated 24 January 2001. The following is an extract: On Thursday, 11 January 2001, the State Security Court in Rafah in the Gaza Strip sentenced Majdi Muhammed Ahmad Makawi to death by firing squad. He was found guilty of collaborating with Israel. Pax Christi Flanders recognises that the Palestinian National Authority has the right to punish those who are found guilty of collaborating with Israel. However, Pax Christi opposes the death penalty as the ultimate violation of the right to life. This punishment is against the right to live, which has been guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pax Christi condemns the execution of Makawi and calls for the prohibition of the death penalty in the Palestinian National Authority.
We are convinced that maintaining capital punishment and putting it into practice will only damage the image of the Palestinian people. We urge the Palestinian Authorities to seek alternatives to the death penalty that reflect intelligence, civility, compassion and justice. Pax Christi wants to give voice to the hope for peace. It will continue its plea to incorporate the principles of international law into any peace process and will call on the international community to monitor and review the implementation of human rights. Compliance with human rights is not only the basis for a just and lasting peace but also of vital importance in relations and agreements between the State of Israel, the PLO and the European Union.