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Peace and Justice

Peace and Justice

 

The Other Side of the Wall: A Palestinian Christian Narrative of Lament and Hope
Many of you will be aware of the writing and speaking of Rev Munther Isaac from Bethlehem. His new book is published on Sunday 16th June and is available in paperback and Kindle. 
Christians have lived in Palestine since the earliest days of the Jesus movement. The Palestinian church predates Islam. Yet Palestinian Christians find themselves marginalized and ostracized. In the heated tensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the voices of Palestinian Christians are often unheard and ignored.
This book provides an opportunity to hear the realities of life on the ground from a leading Palestinian pastor and theologian. Munther Isaac gives the perspective of Palestinian Christians on the other side of the separation wall surrounding most Palestinian West Bank cities today. 
Isaac laments the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people but holds out hope for a just peace and ways to befriend and love his Jewish and Muslim neighbours. In contrast to the dominant religious and nationalistic ideologies and agendas for the region, he offers a theology 
of the land and a vision for a shared land that belongs to God, where there are no second-class citizens of any kind.
'This book is my invitation to you,' Isaac writes, 'to step into the other side of the wall and
listen to our stories and perspective. It is my humble request to you to allow me to share how Palestinians experience God, read the Bible, and have been touched and liberated by Jesus - a fellow Bethlehemite who has challenged us to see others as neighbors and love them as ourselves. . . . This book paints a picture of our story of faith, lament, and hope. And I invite you to join and listen, on our side of the wall.'

Anne Hollows

 

 

From Anne Hollows, 12th May 2024:
Many heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to the fund raising for Rana and her family.
Amazingly we raised £15000 in just over a week with huge generosity from friends and family. The money was paid into the Cairo office on the 30th April, with expectation that they would be on the crossing list within 3-4 weeks to join Rana's parents (her father is receiving cancer treatment in Cairo). Since then of course the crossing has been closed by the Israelis, so the future is uncertain to say the least.

Bahzad and his parents and wider family have re-evacuated back to their home city of Khan Younis where they are camping. Their home is rubble.

Nick Maynard, the amazing surgeon from Oxford, completed his time for MAP in the hospital at Deir al Ballah and managed to cross to Egypt just a few hours before Israel closed the border. The situation remains horrendous.


Justice and Peace News from St Andrews Psalter Lane and Highfield Trinity

Churches
April 2024

In this issue: The Breadline Exhibition; News from Gaza and the West Bank; How genuine are asylum seekers’ conversions? The Rwanda law - what next? Fixing the system for Asylum seekers and refugees; Obituary of the founder of the Fair Trade Movement; the enquiry into the infected blood scandal
 

The Breadline exhibition attracted interest from a range of church and secular visitors. Overall, attendance could have been better, both for the exhibition itself and for the two key events that took place during the exhibition. The ‘Question Time’ event was clear that the levels of chronic poverty in Sheffield were growing all the time, particularly among children. Food banks, intended as a ‘last resort in emergencies’ were not working in that way with many providing a regular source of food for families. More effective, and certainly more respectful to individuals, were the approaches enabling people to pay a small amount, even as low as £1, to then choose what they wanted from the available supplies.
 

News from Gaza and the West Bank The situation in Gaza continues to be terrible with
increasing anxiety that the Israeli Army is determined to enter Rafah where around 1.5 refugees are camping. There has been evidence that the IDF are using Artificial Intelligence with the ironic name ‘Lavender’ to target bombing of any family that can be linked to a phone call from someone who might have had an association with Hamas. Hence the high numbers of murders of doctors and health professionals, and of academics, lawyers, and journalists. The numbers of people starting ‘Go fund me’ attempts to raise the funds to evacuate from Rafah. The going rate is around
$10,000 for an adult and $4-5000 for a child. I had 5 requests this week. For those of you who have been following the news of some of my contacts in Rafah, Bahzad now has enough money to leave but at present his friend in Egypt is unable to spend the several days needed to queue to pay the money to the ‘travel agency’ that organises evacuation. He is working on re-defining the definition of PTSD to recognise children who have sustained chronic trauma for all of their lives, now compounded by acute trauma and the total destruction of family and community support. He is hoping to meet with Nick Maynard, the Oxford surgeon who has just arrived back in Gaza with MAP. He is working at the only remaining hospital, Al Aqsa, in Deir Bala. You can often see Nick’s reports on the MAP web page.
Rana and her husband have now decided that they will try to leave and so we are attempting to gather the funds for them. I have a short video of Hannan, Rana’s three-year-old daughter, trying to scrape up the last grains of flour as she makes little bread cakes. She also tries to clean her clothes. But she doesn’t play anymore. They have an uncle in Belgium who hopes to enable them to travel there on the family re-unification programme. Rana’s husband is an engineer and hopes to find work once they are settled. So far we have collected around £9000 in four days from incredibly generous friends and family. Any contributions will be most welcome. Email me for details of how to contribute.

The worrying news from Gaza is that a further ground invasion is expected to begin next week. Caitlin is now undertaking a formal, real-time evaluation of the work of UNRWA. Her interviews, by phone, with staff in Gaza can only be described as harrowing. Around 75% of their staff are unable to work, either through death, injury, or family responsibilities – it takes a whole day to queue for bread, as well as time to maintain tents.
The situation in the West Bank is fast deteriorating too. Last weekend a Christian Palestinian young woman was detained and will be kept for 3 months without trial. Settlers are being armed and encouraged by the right-wing faction in the Israeli government and attacking farmers and nomadic herds- people.
The Methodist Church issued a statement about anti-semitism and Islamophobia which can be read here


How genuine are asylum seekers’ conversions?  Last month there was considerable interest in the press about the so-called ‘conveyer belt’ of conversions to Christianity among asylum seekers. In general, this is thought to be most prevalent among Iranians. The bishop of Chelmsford, the RT Revd Dr Guli Francis Dehqani, who is herself Iranian, has pointed to three ways of understanding these figures. First, some Iranians are seeking asylum because they are Christian, while others are seeking to understand Christianity. But a third group are drawn to churches because of their
warmth and welcome. As with many issues, there is a danger of generalising from the particular – in this case the Afghan man who attacked his former partner and children – especially when asylum seekers are involved. An Iranian minister works with the Methodist church at Highfield Triunity and in Doncaster to support Iranian Christians in this area.

 

The Rwanda law - what next?  At the time of writing, the Rwanda Bill has finally become law. It is equally not clear at what point, and which, asylum seekers will face removal on the scheme. There is no doubt that churches are completely opposed to the plan, alongside groups working with asylum seekers and refugees. So far there is no evidence that it is ‘stopping the boats’. But there remains evidence that among Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, and people from the Horn of Africa between 90 and 99% of those claiming asylum are found to have a genuine case. The Home office
apparently estimates that it will take at least 10 weeks from the final assent to the legislation for the first flights to take off, but at the time of writing it is uncertain whether any airline has agreed to take them, from which airfield. There will be huge protests on the airfields as well as legal actions. Britain was a founding signatory of the Human Rights convention and threatening to leave puts us on a par with just two countries: Russia and Belarus.

 

Fixing the system for Asylum seekers and refugees  Information on asylum and refugees is always complicated. Colin Yeo, a highly respected barrister who works in this field has provided a detailed guide to what is wrong with the current system and how it could be fixed. As members of an intending Church of Sanctuary, readers will find it helpful to read this. It is too long to be printed here but I would be happy to make it available to anyone who would like to read it.

 

Obituary of the founder of the Fairtrade Movement  When we buy products labelled as ‘Fair Trade’ most of us will be unaware of the origins of the movement. This week, the Guardian published the obituary of the little known Dutch-born Catholic missionary Frans van der Hoff, who has died aged 84, who was a co-founder of the global Fairtrade movement. Through guaranteeing price levels for their produce that benefit their communities, it has improved the livelihoods of millions of cooperative farmers.
His initiative started in 1988, by helping the coffee farmers of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, with whom he lived and worked for the bulk of his adult life, to gain fair prices by selling directly to consumers via a certification mark. Drawing on contacts in the Christian-influenced social justice movement of his homeland, Van der Hoff arranged for organically produced, cooperatively managed coffee beans from Oaxaca to be exported to the Netherlands and sold through a network of anti-poverty retail stores, known then as “world shops”. The obituary is
available in full here:

 

The enquiry into the infected blood scandal  The enquiry into the infected blood scandal is likely to report in the next few weeks. As a social worker in a haemophilia unit in the early 80’s, I knew much of the Factor 8 treatment came from the USA but had no idea of the sources. Clearly others did know. The irony is that in the short term, it made the lives of children more bearable as they could enjoy sports without suffering painful episodes of internal bleeding. Rather like the Post Office scandal, the issues relating to surgical treatment of women, the WASPI women pension issues and other problems, there are fast mounting costs of compensation.

 

More news later in the summer. Hopefully more cheerful!
Anne Hollows

 

 

A message from Lord Alf Dubs

Today marks a devastating blow for refugee rights as the Rwanda Bill just passed in
Parliament. It brings the threat of removal to an unsafe, unfamiliar country closer to reality for hundreds, if not thousands, who have fled war and persecution.
I can’t begin to imagine the fear and uncertainty gripping these men, women, and children today. It's appalling and wrong that our Government is inflicting such distress and cruelty on people who are simply trying to rebuild their lives.
As someone who sought safety in the UK as a child and who strongly believes in a
compassionate asylum system, refugees must not be treated as mere political
pawns. Refugees deserve far better. I know you stand with me, Anne [Hollows], as do countless others across the country, including some of my peers in Parliament.
It is a truth this Government can't ignore any longer. Despite the heaviness of our hearts, my fellow peers and MPs stood in Westminster to demonstrate that this bill does not represent our values or principles.

 

 

Friends of the Holy Land is a non-political Christian Charity. Our mission is to secure a resilient and enduring Christian community in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan - the part of the world that Christians call the Holy Land. To read their response to the situation in Gaza, see https://www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk/our-response-to-gaza

 

 

President and Vice-President of the Methodist Church update on the situation in the Middle East

As deaths and injuries of civilians continue to rise in the Israel-Hamas conflict, we are heartbroken to see the devastation this is having on so many people living in the region. We believe in a God who weeps, and, alongside the Holy Spirit our Comforter, our hearts are breaking with all those whose loved ones have had their lives brutally cut short, for the terror felt by Israeli families, and the unimaginable wait that many face for news of the people being held hostage. We watch in horror as Gazan civilians flee for their lives, unable to leave Gaza and trapped in the midst of a violent and unpredictable conflict.

The situation may feel overwhelming; so much information, so much misinformation and so much misery. Where is our hope? Watching and reading news reports can leave us confused and feeling helpless. What can we do? As members of the Methodist Church we have witnessed the plight of the Palestinian people’s oppression for many years and have sought to encourage those on all sides who are working for lasting peace with justice in the region.

Now we pray for all those people and groups we have met: Daoud Nasser from the Tent of Nations and the recipient of the World Methodist Peace Prize in 2018; Rabbi Nava Hefetz from Rabbis for Human Rights, the Wi’am Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Bethlehem; the staff of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel, and the countless people and families in Gaza and the West Bank who we, as a Church, have supported over the years. We uphold them, praying for their safety, asking for God’s protection and comfort. And we pray for those who have the power to effect change – that they will use this privilege wisely and well to put a swift end to this violence and aggression. We undertake to continue to pray that the beautiful peace of the Prince of Peace will manifest in our world, and we pledge ourselves once again to respond to the Gospel of God’s love in Christ and to live out this discipleship in our worship and mission.

We call on the UK Government to do all it can to encourage dialogue between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and states in the wider region. We urge our Government to use its influence to end the siege of Gaza that is depriving its population of water and food, and to call on all parties to abide by international humanitarian law.

The Revd Gill Newton, President; Deacon Kerry Scarlett, Vice President  

 

As well as praying, there is a list of suggested actions we can take – see here

 

News from Gaza, and a request for prayer

Anne Hollows writes:

[Caitlin’s] dear friend and research assistant Rana, made the journey south to Rafah with her two small children, Hannah (2) and Mohammed (3 months) but it was so chaotic she returned to Gaza city to be with her husband and family. She told Caitlin that she was dressing the children in their best clothes so that if they were pulled from the rubble, people would know they were from a good family.

Please pray for them and all the other children and if possible, donate to Medical Aid for Palestine who have released all their supplies in Gaza and have much more waiting to be allowed through the crossing from Egypt. They have a lot of staff on the ground.

#CeasefireNow in the Gaza Strip and Israel petition

Over 300 charities from across the globe have signed the #CeasefireNow petition, an open call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and further loss of innocent lives.

The open letter, reproduced in part below, calls on all Heads of State, the UN Security Council, and actors on the ground, to prioritize the preservation of human life above all else.

 

Individuals can also sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/ceasefirenow-open-call-for-an-immediate-ceasefire-in-occupied-palestinian-territory  where you will also find the full text of the letter and a list of signatories.

 

Open letter

#CeasefireNow: Open Call for an Immediate Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel to Prevent a Humanitarian Catastrophe and Further Loss of Innocent Lives

We have witnessed unfathomable death and destruction in the Gaza Strip and Israel. Thousands of people have been killed, injured, displaced, and nearly two hundred remain held hostage, including children and elderly.

In Gaza, the UN has said that water, food, fuel, medical supplies, and even body bags, are running out due to the siege. The UN warned that people – particularly young children – will soon start dying of severe dehydration. Neighbourhoods have been destroyed and turned into complete rubble. Palestinians in search of safety have nowhere to go. Many of those who relocated from northern Gaza to the south after the relocation order by the Israeli army were reportedly bombed as they attempted to flee or once they arrived in southern Gaza.

The events of the last week have led us to the precipice of a humanitarian catastrophe and the world can no longer wait to act. It is our collective responsibility.

 

On Sunday, October 15th, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator to the Occupied Palestinian Territory appealed to all parties to the conflict, and to Member States with influence, to urgently agree to a humanitarian ceasefire.

 

 

 

 

Fighting the Anti-Refugee Laws in our communities

In July 2023, the passing into law of the Illegal Migration Act created a near-total ban on seeking safety in the UK.  But against huge odds and in the face of the UK Government’s determination to push through these cruel and divisive measures, communities across the country have united to fight this anti-refugee bill and defend the right to seek safety. As we face the implementation of this Act and the continued fight against the #AntiRefugeeLaws, it’s important to look back and recognise how our communities and local leaders have mobilised, and recognise our growing collective strength and power as we move forward to repeal this appalling Act. 

Go to https://asylummatters.org/2023/07/26/fighting-the-anti-refugee-laws-in-our-communities/  to see what has been done already, and information on how to take further action.

 

The recent event 'How to talk about asylum' was recorded and is now available on YouTube. More events are being planned, so watch this space!

 

City of Sanctuary is looking for passionate and dedicated individuals to join their Board of Trustees, and also for the Treasurer position.  As a trustee, you will play a key role in guiding and supporting the organization as they work towards creating a city that is safe and welcoming for people seeking sanctuary. All details of these posts can be found on the Sheffield City of Sanctuary website

 

Church Leaders have signed a joint statement expressing opposition to the government’s new ‘Illegal Migration Bill’. To see what they said, see here

 

Maintaining hope and solidarity in the face of hostile rhetoric - please read the City of Sanctuary Sheffield article here.

 

Safeguarding people who are LGBT+ within the Methodist Church

This webinar, held on 24th January 2023, is now available to watch here.

You can read the the answers to the questions or comments posed in the Q&A function during the webinar, along with links to some helpful organisations, here.

 

 

From the Methodist Church website

On the Situation of the Palestinians

The situation of Palestinians in the Israeli-governed Holy Land is significantly worse today than it was a decade ago, according to an international delegation of Methodist leaders who just completed a five-day visit marking the 10th anniversary of the Jerusalem-based Methodist Liaison Office (MLO).

The group represented the three organizations that sponsor the Office, which provides information on conditions in Palestine/Israel to Methodists visiting the area and to constituents around the world. The partners are the World Methodist Council, the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, and the Methodist Church in Britain.

The delegation members talked to Palestinian Christians, Israeli human rights groups and Jewish representatives. They visited groups and projects supported by the MLO and heard first-hand how Palestinians are affected day to day by the Israeli occupation. They also heard from six non-governmental organizations (NGOS) that have been shut down by the Israeli government on charges of links to terrorist organizations.

 

Their joint statement said:

“During our visit we have been shocked by the violence we have witnessed, the growth in the number of illegal settlements, and the number of young Palestinians who are being forced to leave their homes. We are distressed to hear the number of our sisters and brothers in the area has significantly decreased which is devastating for a Christian presence in the Holy Land.

“We are bewildered by the apparent lack of desire by the Israeli Government to find a way to ensure that all communities live peacefully alongside each other, and by the disproportionate responses shown by the security services. We watched as tear gas rained down on a small group of teenagers in a refugee camp who had been throwing rocks.

“During our tenth anniversary service in Jerusalem we were sad that many of our Palestinian partners were unable to join us because they were not issued with the travel permits required by the Israeli Government for a worship service just six miles away.

“We visited the Tent of Nations, recipient of the World Methodist Peace Prize Award in 2018 and heard of their 32-year struggle to stay on the land they have farmed for 100 years. They have suffered violent attacks to the land they own and on family but continue faithfully to only adopt non-violent resistance.

"Every person we met urged us to return to our homes and tell everyone what we had seen, and in honoring this we call on Methodists worldwide to work for peace in the Middle East, whether that is by lobbying politicians or supporting groups who work for peace. We urge all governments to support measures that respect international law and to resist actions that attempt to normalize the illegal occupation. 

“We also call on all Methodists who are visiting the region to not only visit the Holy sites, but to meet Palestinians and Christians who are most affected by the occupation while they are there so they can hear and see first-hand what their lives are like. The MLO is keen to arrange such encounters. We ask all Methodists and Christians worldwide to continue to hold everyone affected by the situation in their prayers.”

 

Talk of invasion is grossly exaggerated The graph below shows the numbers of asylum seekers received per capita of population across Europe. As you can see, the U.K. figure puts us at the bottom of the league. We’re the graph to include countries in Africa, or adjacent to conflict areas such as Turkey or Jordan, the position of Europe as a whole would be much lower. Please share this widely and tell your friends. These emotive terms such as invasion or swarm are designed to create a moral panic. 

 

 

Can You Help Those Most Affected By The Cost Of Living Crisis? This will be a bleak winter for many low income families.. The South Yorkshire Community Foundation (SYCF) has set up a Cost of Living Fund, which gives grants to community groups that help to reduce food and fuel poverty eg food banks. The Diocese of Sheffield’s Board of Faith and Justice urges people who can afford to do so to donate to this Fund (or a comparable charity).

People, could you donate all or part of the following Government provisions:

*All households are receiving £400 energy bill discount in 6 instalments this winter.

* Households in bands (A) to (D) should already have received £150 Council Tax rebate.

* Pensioners will receive a £300 Cost of Living Payment alongside their Winter Fuel

Payment.

If you would like to donate to the SYCF Cost of Living Fund, please look up

https://www.sycf.org.uk/southyorkshirecostoflivingfund/

 

Churches respond to risk to benefit levels  The Methodist Church in Britain, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain respond to the proposal to limit the uprating of benefits, risking a real terms cut to benefit levels:

The social security system should prevent families from being pushed into hardship, yet foodbanks are facing rapidly rising demand and almost half of claimants receiving Universal Credit report skipping meals to make ends meet. The value of benefits has declined for the last decade and already an average family of four relying on Universal Credit will be £1,400 worse off this winter than last – despite the interventions already put in place. Against this background it would be outrageous to erode benefits further.

For months we have called on government to provide targeted support to the lowest income households, who are at the sharp end of rising costs. Without that additional help huge numbers of families – particularly families with children – will face impossible choices to make ends meet. The proposal to link benefits to wages rather than prices would mean the largest real terms cut in benefits ever at a time when low-income families are already facing increased hardship. Such a decision would lack both compassion and morality.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus declared “I have come to bring good news to the poor”. We cannot stay quiet when vital support to the communities we are part of is threatened. We call on the Government to reaffirm its commitment to uprate benefits in line with prices and to provide targeted support to those families who are at the sharpest end of the cost of living crisis.

Signed by

Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church

Revd Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Conference, The Methodist Church in Britain

Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

 

 

Missing people in Ukraine  Some of you will remember the Nexus article by Bel Trew about the rebuilding of a church in Beirut. Bel has spent much of the last 8 months in Ukraine and the first item in this broadcast is about her work on missing people in Ukraine. 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001d57b?partner=uk.co.bbc&origin=share-mobile

Anne Hollows

 

 

 

 

 

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