Isaiah 58

Working for Justice and Peace in All the Earth

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ELCA Churchwide Assembly Makes News!

Here’s a link to the article:

Evangelical Lutheran Church Should Approve Human Rights Investment Screen

Former Church Volunteer Speaks in Favor of Investment Screens and His Experience

“’Ta’al Amu Grayvey, Ta’al Amu Grayvey’ my Palestinian niece would call me when she wanted me to come out and crack walnuts or join her in the games we would play. My niece currently lives in Ramallah and her parents live with the worry of the Israeli occupation. Even though her father is Lutheran pastor, she will probably grow up without the chance to leave the West Bank, access to good health care, and live in crumbling infrastructure that is denied aid because of fear of the people being terrorist, people like my 2 year old niece. I was accepted in her family and I cannot in good conscious let my retirement benefit at the expense of my niece. While she may not be my niece in blood, I love her and her family like my own. I support screening of the companies who we as a church invest in, and wish we would even go further and do an outright boycott of the companies.”

 

 

Former Church Volunteer, Speaks in Favor of Investment Screen

“Living, serving, and walking alongside our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land enabled me to see and learn more than I ever expected, in particular about the impact that we have on others based on what we do with our money. As people of faith we are called to live out the Gospel and to be faithful stewards of our time and our resources. It is therefore our responsibility as the ELCA to direct our financial resources in such a manner that we are not supporting or funding any organization that uses those financial resources as a means of oppression or violence, whether it’s in the Holy Land or elsewhere. With prayers for justice, I fully support the memorial and the adoption of a human rights social criteria investment screen. We all know that money talks. It’s time to use our money as part of our voice.”

 

 

Former Church Volunteer Speaks for Human Rights

“If the ELCA is to remain relevant to the church today and true to its gospel mission, we need to approach social and political issues with the same energy we use on our outstanding record in humanitarian aid because they are one and the same. It has been awhile since seminary, but I am pretty sure there are verses in the New Testament that essentially say “put your money where your mouth is” – I am paraphrasing. If we say we are for human rights for all people, then let’s act like it.”

 

Former Church Volunteer and now LSTC Student Supports C1 & C2

Please consider the testimony and reflections of a former Church volunteer:

“For two years, one as a [Church volunteer working in Palestine] and one as a fourth year seminarian, I lived in and around Jerusalem walking alongside, working with, and learning from the people of the Holy Land, especially our companion synod. I quickly learned once living there that while the news is quick to tell us of the daily violence that occurs in that region, we don’t see the deep violence that our economic investments directly inflict upon the occupied population of Palestine with rippling repercussions for the State of Israel. Having seen this reality, I was granted new eyes to see how it is our duty as people of faith, of mercy, of justice, and of grace to invest our financial resources responsibly, in ways that do not produce the structural violence that continues to oppress our brothers and sisters around the world who are our family in Christ. Just as we commit to walking alongside our companion synod and their community in Israel and Palestine, so too must we commit to that walk in all realms of our faithful living, including how we invest our resources in the States. As such, with prayers of gratitude, humility, and hope, I fully support memorial C1, and especially support memorial C2 and its call to adopt a ‘human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this church and the concerns raised in the ELCA Middle East Strategy.’”

 

Testimony of an ELCA Young Adult

As more and more members of the ELCA come to understand the real conditions under which people in Palestine (both Christian and Muslim) must live every day, the call for some sort of truly meaningful response from our Church grows.  Important witnesses to the brutality of occupation are our very own ELCA young adults who have volunteered in Palestine:

I was originally in Nablus working for a NGO called Project Hope, working on English and French instruction across all ages. While I was there I saw many effects of the occupation. Many times lessons in the neighboring villages would be canceled because the checkpoints encircling the city were closed, or the threat of settlers kept the villagers indoors. I saw the fires of olive groves burning. Just outside one of the refugee camps there is a church known as Jacob’s Well and a location alleged to be Joseph’s Tomb. Every week the settlers would use these locations as an excuse to enter Balata. They would burn things, yell, assault, and deface the entire area escorted by the IDF. So every week once the headlights of the caravan were seen Balata residents had to make sure they made it indoors before they arrived. If one of the local volunteers I worked with was in the city and couldn’t make it back, they couldn’t go back that night.

I returned to the West Bank a year later with [a] program through our church. Most of the year, we were not allowed to go to Nablus because incidents with the settlers had increased. I met my friend halfway once, and he said every single person leaving the city (to elsewhere in the West Bank) was being searched and harassed. While I was serving in YAGM, one of the schools Project Hope used to teach at was demolished by the IDF. Uncounted numbers of olive trees burned according to local news sources. Eventually I was able to go Nablus and visit my friends. I got there late because the checkpoint was choking movement in and out of the city. This was unfortunate because that night the settlers were coming and my friend had to leave early. I found out later that night that thousands of settlers escorted by IDF forces had entered Balata fully armed and a friend of my friend was shot in the head.

A few weeks later I went on a dual narrative tour and met some settlers. I raised the question of settler harassment violence, specifically in Nablus, with the organization leader. He didn’t know I had spent time in Nablus. He responded to me not to trust the media and that it was so unfortunate that a few teenagers leaving graffiti was so blown out of proportion and used in the media to give settlements a
bad name. I said nothing back because I couldn’t form a professional response at that moment. I had seen the fires from burning trees, the hate graffiti on schools, and the pain my friend felt.

Settlements continue to grow and settlers’ actions and rhetoric continue to be unchecked in anyway. We are nearing a point of no return where Palestinian communities in the West Bank are so cut off and brutalized they won’t be able to function properly. We need to raise our voices to call for Israel to hold itself and its citizens accountable for their actions.

 

Why is Military Aid to the State of Israel “Singled Out”?

Because….

Israeli aid

of around $6 billion dollars in annual U.S. foreign military aid, the State of Israel receives more than half of it.  See more at www.howmuch.net.

WAYD?

What does WAYD mean? It stands for What Are You Doing?

For those readers who might be less Internet and social media savvy (not that I’m any expert, by the way), check out this handy acronym: “wayd” (= “what are you doing?) a shorthand many people use to ask for a quick update on their friends’ or family’s current activities of the day.

You’ll see a lot on this website about “the Kairos Document” or “Kairos Palestine” which you can read here.  And if you don’t think you have time to read the whole thing, I’ll give you the bottom line:  Palestinian Christians (including Lutheran Christians) are in dire straits and have explicitly asked for our help–almost SEVEN YEARS AGO.

Maybe you didn’t even know this.  But now you do.  So the question now becomes, how will you respond? WAYD?

I’ve long noticed that people who are working the hardest here in the U.S. to end the Israeli occupation are often the exact same people who are working the hardest to help support Lutheran ministries in the West Bank/East Jerusalem—three quick examples: Opportunity Palestine, Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy and Bright Stars of Bethlehem.

And to the people in the ELCA who are working equally hard to ensure billions of U.S. tax dollars will continue to flow to the Israeli military and weapons manufacturers in order to maintain a brutal occupation, I often wonder—in what way have you supported and accompanied Lutheran ministries in Palestine?

WAYD?

Fair is Fair

What is the relationship between peacemaking and fairness?

As the ELCA discusses our Church’s involvement in the occupation of Palestine next week, one will no doubt hear some Voting Members argue that we need to be fair in our stance toward this issue.  But what would “fair” really look like in today’s world?

Many people were brought up thinking about Israel and Palestine in terms Cold War categories, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union used Israel and its Arab neighbors to fight one of many proxy wars around the world.  And even though the Cold War has been over almost 30 years, one still hears slogans that date back to a bygone era, one of these being…

“Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors”

While this was certainly true way back in the day, the political situation has changed quite a bit over the past 30 years.  Israel signed a peace treaty with the second biggest power in the region, Egypt, in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.  And while hostilities with Syria remain technically unresolved, Assad currently has his hands full with his own civil war and the Syrian army is in no shape to attack any other country in the region, much less the sophisticated and powerful Israeli military.  Lebanon is extremely weak and divided—not even able to muster a defense in the face of repeated offensive Israeli military invasions in 1982, 1993, 1996 and 2006.

Given the recent relative docility of its near neighbors, the Israeli government has more recently pointed to distant Iran as the new “boogeyman on the block.”  (Tehran and Jerusalem are about 1,000 miles apart.)  Yet, Israel’s annual defense budget is nearly three times greater than Iran’s.  Compared to Iran, Israel has more than four times as many tanks, ten times the number of armored assault vehicles, twice as many fixed-wing fighter aircraft and four times the number of attack helicopters.  Israel’s air force is ranked “second to none in the world,” even superior to the U.S. Air Force.

in the past 50 years, the State of Israel has developed one of the most (if not THE most) technologically sophisticated military establishments in the world, including likely acquisition of nuclear weapons—largely funded by U.S. tax dollars—in fact, over $100 billion in tax dollars,  according to the Israeli press.  The Israeli government and owners of Israeli weapons manufacturing companies directly benefit from having you continue to think that they are “surrounded by hostile neighbors.”  After 50 years of military buildup sponsored by the U.S., Israel’s neighbors no longer pose a threat.

And most people in the U.S. don’t even flinch over the prospect of pouring an additional $30 billion of arms into the Israeli military apparatus.    Yet a “fair” proposal to give $130 billion of military aid to the Palestinian Authority would certainly be dismissed as an absurdity.

Why is continuing to arm one “side” to the hilt thought of as fair?  How does funding one of the largest armaments stockpiles in the world advance peacemaking in the region?  Why does the U.S. subsidize the sale of Israeli arms to war-torn countries?

Justice and fairness are indeed important in any process of reconciliation.  If anything, working to maintain the status quo is grossly unfair.

 

What’s an Investment Screen? And Why Would We Want One?

No, it’s not this kind of screen…

Screen

As the name implies, investment screens “screen out” investments which the Church deems inappropriate or socially irresponsible.  The ELCA has been voluntarily employing investment screens for a long time in areas such as:

• Alcohol production
• Environmental concerns
• Gambling
• Weapons manufacturers
• Pornography
• Private prisons; and
• Tobacco

Resolution C2 as it is currently worded will require Portico (the Church’s retirement/benefits administrator) to implement a new human rights screen, one that will help the Church avoid profiting from the suffering and oppression of others, wherever that oppression is taking place in the world.  C2 makes perfect sense.

You can read more about the ELCA’s corporate responsibility policies here.

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