Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Practicing my speech

"Unlearning" the myths
Preparing for Oregon/Idaho United Methodist Annual Conference - which starts tomorrow (June 10) and runs through the weekend), I've been making notes on how to introduce the divestment legislation that our Holy Land Task Force will be introducing.  What do you think?

We believe that the time has come for our Annual Conference to join other Annual Conferences who have already voted for divestment, including our neighbors in Pacific Northwest, Cal-Nevada and Cal-Pacific.
Divestment is not easy.  It asks us to “unlearn” the myths that many of us have about the reality of life in the Holy Land and to learn the hard truth of the reality of an Occupation that has lasted for longer than most of us have been alive.  

 It also asks for sacrifices – not financial sacrifices, because we believe these are minimal, especially when compared to the “upside” of following our Biblical teachings, the teachings of John Wesley, and our own hearts.  Rather, the sacrifices come from letting go of long-held beliefs and doing the right thing - as United Methodists, as Christians and as human beings - for human rights and the dignity of all people.  

The Kairos document, which our Task Force has been studying and sharing, sets forth the request of the Palestinian Christians to help “reach a just and definitive peace that will put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestine and …guarantee security and peace for all.”

I observed crowded checkpoints...
Some of you know that I spent three months in Palestine as a human rights observer in 2013.  During that time, I lived in the Palestine city of Tulkarm, where I documented human rights abuses and walked alongside those of all faiths who were working for peace in the region.  I observed such things as demolished homes and crowded checkpoints.  I also accompanied children on their way to school to protect them from attacks by settlers and soldiers, and watched locals and internationals peacefully demonstrate for the opening of arbitrarily closed roads, or the prevention of expanding the Wall deeper into Palestinian territory.

...and accompanied children on their way to school
I found a lot of good people – Christians, Muslims and Jews – working together for peace where they could, but too often divided by walls and laws designed to keep people apart.  (red sign)  We need to learn to work together – to know each other as human beings and not as “the other” to be feared for their differences.

A lot of people believe that the whole “Middle East Issue” is too complicated to understand – that it is a 2,000 year old problem without a solution.  I believe that what we are seeing in the Holy Land today is a 60+ year problem, and that the solution starts with us.  I believe that this resolution is a first step toward helping our church understand the reality of Occupation and a positive way to express our Christian values for peace.

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