Thursday, August 31, 2006

LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

The following letter was composed through consultation with members of the Social Justice Network, the Conference of Churches of Christ in VIC/TAS and presented to the office of the Prime Minister of Australia on behalf of our movement.

24 July 2006

The Hon John Howard MP
Prime Minister
Room MG8
Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Prime Minister

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN VICTORIA AND TASMANIA

At the 141st Annual General Meeting of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania, the delegates present from our 145 churches overwhelmingly adopted the following three motions, to which we now draw your attention:

The plight of Holders of Bridging Visa Type E

This Conference of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania asks that the Australian Government change this policy, which denies many people seeking asylum (on bridging visas type E) the right to work, Medicare and income support thereby ensuring they have adequate means to survive as they go through the appropriate legal process.

In addition to the adoption of this motion, the Annual General Meeting of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania also recommended to the churches of the Conference that they offer assistance to these

People, by whatever means possible, as part of our Christian discipleship and ministry.

The plight of Guantanamo Bay and Political Prisoners

This Conference of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania expresses to the Australian Government our deep concern for the international prisoners being held illegally in the US facility at Guantanamo Bay, and urge our government in every way possible to apply pressure to the USA to these ends:

  • without delay, bring those held at the Guantanamo Bay facility who are accused of a crime to trial in the USA under the non-military laws of that country, and/or repatriate them to the country of their citizenship for trial under the laws of that land; and
  • ensure the speedy release of those being held at the Guantanamo Bay facility not accused of criminal activity.

Policy on the Possession of Nuclear Weapons

This Conference of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania urges the Australian Government to maintain the long standing policy of unqualified support for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and:

(a) to work zealously for all nations to become signatories to the Treaty;

(b) to seek that those countries known to have, or are suspected of, possession of nuclear weapons, or of developing programs to that end, disarm themselves of those weapons, discontinue all programs for the development/production of these weapons and submit themselves to the inspection program by the International Atomic Energy Agency;

(c) to rigorously continue its policy of not allowing uranium from Australia to be traded to countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty;

(d) to refuse to be involved in any military action with the goal of removing unauthorised nuclear weapons from another nation-state without first having the express sanction of the United Nations Security Council for such action; and

(e) to actively work towards the peaceful reduction and eventual elimination of all atomic weapons including those held by those currently entitled to possess them under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Conclusion
We will continue to pray for you, your ministers and advisors in the demanding tasks of leadership of our nation.

Friday, August 18, 2006

WORSHIPING INTO GOD'S FUTURE

Looking for exciting new liturgies, music and images to enrich your worship services? Looking for resources that use inclusive language? Looking for resources that proclaim Jesus as our teacher of justice, peace and mercy?
Worshiping into God’s Future, an initiative of our partners in mission, the United Church of Christ USA, offers an exciting selection of FREE worship resources to download from the internet. These resources arise from wide spectrum of groups that call UCC their own---from the Hawaiin church, from the Hispanic communities in the USA, from the American Black faith communities, as well as from partners around the world. The United Church of Christ, where "God is still speaking," is a denomination committed to a diverse Christian witness. The UCC embraces the concept of God's "radical hospitality," so often finds itself unpopular with Christian groups whose focus is on separating the goats and the sheep. If you are committed to Jesus's plea to welcome all into the kingdom of God, you now have a place to go for worship resources.
Colourful images by modern Christian artists are ready for projection. Song lyrics are ready for overheads and PowerPoint, and full musical scores are ready for your musicians. There's even a CD of the tunes available. Thoughtful liturgies from numerous places, including the church in Hawaii, touch on the breadth of the worship experience, e.g. baptism, communion, etc.
In addition, articles reflect on the use of the arts in worship, and provide questions and suggestions for reflection and discussion which can help you and your congregation evaluate your specific worship needs.
Take a look and be inspired! http://www.ucc.org/worship/witgf/#LIT

Ana & Tod Gobledale
Chaplains, Churches of Christ Theological College
Mulgrave, Australia

Thursday, August 17, 2006

WHY AND WHERE TO: THE MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

Johan Galtung: THE MIDDLE EAST 3. August 2006

The unspeakable tragedy unfolding in this sixth Israel-Arab war should force us to focus on what peace might look like. The building blocs are clear, but they are threatened particularly by those who stop thinking when it is needed most. The building blocs are:

[1] The UN Security Council Resolutions 194 and 242, demanding the return of Palestinians, and the withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 (meaning before the June war) borders.
[2] The resolution by the Palestine National Council of 15 November 1988, accepting a two state solution.
[3] The proposal by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders in exchange for recognition by all Arab states.

Putting the building blocs in place we get two states side by sidewith East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank reverting to Palestine (Israel has already withdrawn from Gaza), the Golan Heights to Syria, and some minor border problems solved, sometimes through creative adjustments. No big revolution. Only common sense.

But there are also minimum and maximum demands on both sides.

Palestine has three minimum, non-negotiable demands:

  • a Palestinian state in line with [1] and [2] above, with
  • East Jerusalem as the capital, and
  • the right of return - as a right, numbers to be negotiated.

Israel has two minimum, non-negotiable demands:

  • recognition of the Jewish state, Israel,
  • within secure borders

All five goals are legitimate, and compatible.

The Palestinian legitimacy rests on continued residence, and the Jewish legitimacy on territorial attachment in their cultural narratives, and their residence there in the past. It does not rest on their suffering at German and European hands. Any territorial bill on that basis would have to be placed at the feet of Germany.

The demands are compatible because they can be bridged by a two states solution with the 1967 borders, to be spelt out below.

But there are also maximum goals: an Eretz Israel defined by Genesis between the two rivers Nile and Euphrates (or something in that direction), and on the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim side no Israel at all, erased from the map. Their incompatibility is obvious. But they are also illegitimate. There is more than a de facto basis for a Jewish state, even if never anything with that extension.

How strong are the maximum demands? A major tragedy of this war that it strengthens the maximalists, not only "hatred". On the Israeli side some will feel the borders cannot be far enough out, at least where disarmament of anyone hostile to Israel is concerned. And their numbers are increasing by the day, week, month(?) of war. On the Arab/Muslim side there some will feel the solution to Israel is no Israel at all; their numbers no doubt also increasing.

The two maximalist positions are emotionally and intellectually satisfying, being simple, easy to understand. And spell nothing but endless war. The Arabs have to accept SOME Israel state, but not the overextended, belligerent monster of today. And the Jews have to understand that settler colonialism AND occupation AND continued expansion will never bring them secure borders. The road to security passes through peace. There is no road to peace that passes through security in the sense of eliminating people-supported Hezbollah and democratically elected Hamas. What perhaps might work against smaller and less firmly rooted groups will never work today.

There will be new groups coming up all the time. Governments may be bribed or threatened into acquiescence, people never. Behind Israel there are some increasingly unwilling governments, also behind settler colonialism: USA, UK, Australia. Behind Palestine there is the Arab and Muslim world - considerably larger. Maybe 1.3 billion and increasing, as against 0.3 billion and decreasing.

The in-between peace position must be made equally compelling. There is the 1967 possible meeting point with minor revisions and the idea of two states with capitals in Jerusalem (thus, Jerusalem could become a confederation of two cities, East and West).

But two demands still have to be met: the Israeli demand for security and the Palestinian for the right of some, limited, return.

Saudi Arabia's recognition is a necessary but not sufficient condition for positive peace. Sovereign states may recognize each other and still go to war. They must be woven together in a web of positive interdependence making sustainable peace desirable to both.

Since Israel wants secure borders, why not focus on the border countries Lebanon, Syria, Palestine recognized, Jordan and Egypt? Imagine the five border countries add to recognition a readiness to consider a Middle East Community, along the lines of the European Community, as a major carrier of sustainable peace in the region? The formula that accommodated Germany may also accommodate Israel.

There would still be the problem of Palestinian return, half a million in Lebanon alone. And there is the problem of some parts of the West bank being a part of the Israeli narrative of the past. So why not exchange one for the other? Some Jewish cantons in a West Bank under Palestinian sovereignty in exchange for some Arab cantons inside a sovereign Israel? Both states could become federations rather than unitary states that are relics of the past anyhow.

The non-governmental Geneva agreement is a non-starter because it fall short on three rather major points:

  • East Jerusalem as capital and a right of return are non-negotiable
  • borders can only become reasonably secure in a peace community, like the Nordic Union, the European Union, and ASEAN.

This peace solution is compelling by being so obvious.

But not obvious to Israeli and Western leaders now traveling down the Viet Nam trail, with Israel : Lebanon = USA : Viet Nam. USA did not win, and withdrew. The same will happen to Israel. Further down, on the same trail of mad stupidity, 9/11 and Iraq are waiting.

There is the idea of Lebanon in two parts, with international forces pacifying a South isolated from two evil outsiders, Syria and Iran. As doomed to failure as in Viet Nam. Hezbollah is a part of Lebanon like "Viet Cong" of Viet Nam. And arms are easily available.

There is the indiscriminate killing of civilians, in line with the two points made by the Israeli army chief of staff, General Dan Halutz: to bomb ten building in the shiite district of Beirut for each Katyusha missile launched against Israel, and to "bomb Lebanon 20 years into the past" (EL PAIS 28/7, HAARETZ and JERUSALEM POST; USA said back to the Stone Ages). Hezbollah also kills civilians, but the ratios are at least 10:1. The final ratio may be closer to Hitler's famous order in 1941 to execute 50 civilians for each German soldier killed by the "terrorists" (they used that term): Lidice in the Chech Republic, Oradour-sur-Glane in France, Kortelisy in Ukraine. Today most of Lebanon is used for collective punishment. And to Israel Jewish lives are worth much more than Arab lives.

There is the naive idea that violence disappears if Hezbollah is, along UNSC 1559 lines. But 1559 makes no sense without 194 and 242. Israel cannot pick a resolution it wants, relying on USA forever controlling the UN. And Hezbollah will be reborn.

THERE IS A CONFLICT, THE CONFLICT CRIES FOR A SOLUTION, THE SOLUTION IS AT HAND AND WILL ONE DAY BE AS OBVIOUS AS THE EC/EU.

Everybody should work for real peace as political complement to immediate humanitarian cease-fire. To help Israel stumble down the Viet Nam trail is blind solidarity, not an act of friendship. Europeans could mobilize the talent and experience of the European Community/Union for a sustainable peace, not for infinite and escalating warfare. That would be an act of true friendship.

And in Israel itself? A coming generation might do well to question the wisdom of the major Zionist ideologue, Vladimir Yabotinsky, inspiring Begin, Netanyahu, Sharon and now Olmert. To Yabotinsky there seem to be only two options, either "impotent, humiliating self-sacrifice or militant, invincible rage" (Jacqueline Rose, "The Zionist Imagination" in THE NATION, June 26, 2006, s. 34) To Yabotinsky Jews had been humiliated, shamed by violence, and the answer is militancy, violence. This vision, apart from making violence a cornerstone of human existence, is short on the third option: negotiation, settlement, peace.

And the Arabs, Muslims? Something similar. But Islam opens for a third possibility, not only dar-al-Islam and dar-al-Harb, the House of Peace, the House of war, there is the dar-al-Ahd, the coexistence with the infidels - possibly in a community, not too close, not too distant. Possibly also as an Organization for the Security and Cooperation in the Middle East. The present generation would also do well to elaborate this in more detail, today.

When will those generations come, how far have we been set back? Difficult to tell. The three building blocs for peace have been there for some time, but nothing seemed acceptable to Israel. They never were let into the collective mind, into public space. Outside pressure will only confirm the stark Yabotinsky dichotomy. If Israel wants security, mainstream Israel must want peace.

That leaves us with the maximalists. Their strongest argument against the moderates is "your line doesn't work". And the strongest counter-argument, like for ETA, for IRA, is to prove them wrong.

To reconcile conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. But how many of us are able to do that?
Thich Nhat Hanh

This article was emailed to the SJN Blog for posting. - THURSDAY AUGUST 17TH 2006

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

CEASE-FIRE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

This email has recently been sent on behalf of the SJN:

Dear friends,

Right now a tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or wounded in the bombings in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel and the death toll is rising every day.

If the US, Syria or Iran get involved, there is a chance of a catastrophic larger war. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an immediate ceasefire and the deployment of international troops to the Israel-Lebanon border, and been strongly supported by almost every world leader. This is the best proposal yet to stop the violence, but the US, the UK, and Israel have refused to accept it.

I have just signed a petition calling on US President Bush, UK Prime Minister Blair, and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to support Kofi Annan's proposal. If millions of people join this call, and we advertise our views in newspapers in the US, UK, and Israel, we can help pressure these leaders to stop the fighting. Go to the link below and sign up now!

http://www.ceasefirecampaign.org

With hope,

Merryl
And the Social Justice Network

Thursday, August 03, 2006

History of the conflict

Further to Who is my neighbour, I have just read a fab article coming from a Christian org in Lebanon giving a brief summary of the hostory of the present conflict.Titled "The madness of War: Hizballah and Israel" It is from Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center www.sabeel.org Worth reading! Gerald