Saturday, September 7, 2013

Message from the Synod if the Protestant Church in Iran to world leaders.on Syria

Hugh Johnson, retired United Methodist missionary and former Superintendent of the United Protestant Church in Algeria, has passed on the following message from the church in Iran which has been  delivered to President Hollande of France in a French translation of the English original text:

Greetings in the name of our Lord.

Now after more than two years destructive and terrible war in Syria, the great western powers, and especially United State of America is going to expand the war through a direct intervention! Though your officials are trying to convince public opinion and justify their probable intervention through reasoning - claiming protecting human dignity in Syria, and preventing danger of chemical warfare, the issue created some serious doubts, suspicion and concerns among the people of the region including different communities of Christians.

So by this letter as part of the Presbyterian community of the region we ask you please to express our views and concerns regarding the issue to your big communities:

1.       We remember the suspicious and shameful silence of the western powers including United States of America during the 8th years war of Saddam Hussein and his regime against Iran, and complete neglecting of an almost constant chemical warfare that he imposed to Iranian people (at least in some stages of the war); and the issue creates some serious doubts regarding the current reasoning of the United States of America and other western powers including France, and also regarding frankness of their high level officials!

2.       We remember almost the same reasoning that was developed against Saddam Hussein after his destructive war against Iran, and we remember again the famous slogan of American officials of that time, “the World will be safer place without Saddam Hussein!”  However after such long and costly war not only the level of security in world and especially in the region is not improved, but Iraq has turned to be an almost safe hiding place for the terrorist groups including al-Qaida, and as result the big community of Iraqi Christians which was more than two million before the first Gulf War decreased more than five times, big numbers of church buildings were destroyed, strong waves of immigration have been created, the hostility among different tribes and religious sects of the country increased, and civil war continues! We are watching the terrible news of Iraq everyday, which tell us a big number of innocent people are slaughtering there everyday, and the situation as whole shows us that Iraq (at least considerable parts) in fact after the western powers military intervention has turned to be a hell!

Of the issue we have many things to say however this should be concluded by letting you know that we expect you earnestly to do your best to prevent your political leaders from entering a new war that without doubt will impose heavy expenses to your own societies, and it will also increase the pain, destruction, lack of security, poverty and post-war bitter consequences in the region; and we ask you also to make your political leaders to support United Nation earnestly in order to find a peaceful political solution for Syrian hard crisis instead of war. 

Jesus Christ declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.”

Yours Sincerely,

Rev. Sargez Benyamin

The Executive Secretary

[Protestant Synod of Iran]

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Methodist Liaison Comments on Peace Prospects

Recently I was asked by a Methodist church for my thoughts on the new round of “peace talks.” My reply follows. Interestingly, I have received negative comments from folks in the US while my Palestinian colleagues have written in support of the article. Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. I call it as I see it. It may not be the “popular” response, but it is a truthful one. We must be brave enough to speak the truth no matter how unpopular that truth may be or how unpleasant the realities. Knowing the truth, the realities, is the only way change can take place. As it says in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Thoughts in response to the peace process...

Aug 5, 2013

Having lived in Israel and Palestine for almost twenty years, having seen “peace talks” and “peace negotiations” and even “peace agreements” fall apart and make little or no difference on the ground, I tend to look at this next round of talks as “Much Ado About Nothing.” We’ve seen it all before. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has appointed Martin Indyk to return to the region as chief negotiator.

Will it work this time?

Can he achieve what he could not the last time he was here?

Can Indyk, an American Jew, be an unbiased negotiator for talks between Israel and Palestine? <See footnote 1.>

Can Palestine realistically give up any more concessions and still hope to be “viable?”

Will Israel stop creating “facts on the ground” while it negotiates?


Just today Israel announced that it has approved the payment of subsidies to and, more importantly, recognition of additional Jewish settlements that it had previously considered “illegal.” (Jewish-only settlements built on land inside the West Bank are considered illegal by the 4th Geneva Conventions, the United Nations, and even the US State Department, although no US administration has been brave enough to say that out loud since the days of Jimmy Carter.) By recognizing these settlements, some of which are already large cities, Israel has in a matter of seconds created more “facts on the ground” with which it will try to manipulate its way into the next round of peace talks. In addition to recognizing these formerly “illegal” settlements the Israeli government is also approving the construction of tens of thousands of more housing units in areas that have formerly been small “outposts” or trailer parks, marking the location of a future permanent Jewish settlement, as in the case of Givat Hamatos in the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa.

I have lived here long enough to know that the results of negotiations will only mean more benefits for Israelis and even fewer human rights for Palestinians. I agree with Finian Cunningham in his recent article: “Unfortunately, we can say with near certainty that the end result will be stillborn. History tells us so.” <See footnote 2, below>

There is another history that we must consider, however —one that continues to give us hope despite the pessimism, despite the grinding away of dignity and human rights, despite the daily deaths and abuse. History has shown us that this is the land of miracles. Consequently we continue to pray that God will send another one that will bring not just peace, but truth, justice, reconciliation and healing to this ravaged land.

The author, Janet Lahr Lewis, is Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel

<Footnote 1> – As an aside: I was invited to attend a party at Indyk's house in Hertzeliya when he was U.S. Ambassador here. The walls were lined with 3-foot-high portraits of Zionist leaders such as Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin, all of whom adopted violent policies to be used against the Palestinians. I didn’t even stay long enough to hear the U.S. Marine Band play “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I was too disgusted.

<Footnote 2> <>.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Tactic for Skeptics as another Round on the US-Made Peace Wagon Begins: Intensify "B-D-S" efforts to bring Worldwide Opinion to Bear

Like most of my neighbors, I am a Palestinian who hungers for peace. United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recently proposed a new Israeli/Palestinian peace initiative and I want his efforts to succeed. But do I think they will? Unfortunately, like most Palestinians, I have very little hope that real peace will be a welcome passenger on a US-made peace wagon. All it takes is a look back at the last 25 years of US-led Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations to see why I’m skeptical. In the last 25 years Palestinians have watched as one peace wagon after the other started with fanfare and ended in disappointment and disaster. Not one of the peace wagons has managed to deliver its promised goods. However in each round of negotiations, the wagon picked up a load of Palestinian concessions and delivered them to the Israelis. Again and again Palestinians and the millions who desire peace all over the world have been cheated in their efforts at peace by those who successfully and deviously derail each new initiative and who consider it a triumph to thwart possible attempts to resolve the conflict. A recent case in point: after Kerry announced the launching of his initiative, the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. This action, so typical of measures carried out in previous peace initiatives, is like the raising of a sledge hammer to cripple the peace wagon before it starts the journey.

Despite these latest negative actions taken by the Israeli government, my hunger for peace leads me to encourage Kerry’s efforts. I work to check my cynicism and pessimism, not wanting them to count among the reasons why this round of peace negotiations may fail. I’ll play the fool for the sake of encouraging the peace process rather than the savvy prophet who predicts the doom of the negotiations. Yes, I could draw from both ancient and modern history to make a list of all the reasons why this round of negotiations is bound to fail. Instead, I am determined that even if there is less than 1% chance that the negotiations will succeed, I will stand in support of them. I’m not so naive as to assume there will not be another disappointment — and yet I hang on to the thin hope for possible success. I do this,simply, because my people and I want peace.

Who stands with me? And how can we, who are devoted to peace and yet aware of all the obstacles, support Kerry’s initiative? Allow me to offer a suggestion. The best way to shore up the peace wagon is by supporting the world-wide BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). Let us unite in sending a message to the Israeli authorities that negotiations with the Palestinians will not put an end to BDS efforts, but rather that BDS efforts will intensify as long as Israel uses the negotiations to buy time while resuming the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As the BDS campaign continues and gains momentum while negotiations are going on, surely it will influence the Israelis to resume negotiating with greater sincerity and flexibility. Moreover, as the BDS campaign gains momentum during the negotiations, the Israeli government will recognize that it will face greater sanctions, boycotts and isolation if Israeli leaders cause the negotiations to fail. In the future, sanctions may not target only the settlements in the West Bank, but may extend to all Israeli economic and cultural interests.

Let us not suffocate Kerry’s initiative with righteous skepticism and rational cynicism. Instead, let’s, exert pressure and influence where we can to give Kerry’s initiative, along with mounting sanctions, the momentum he needs to lead the path, finally and truly, to a negotiated peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The author, Alex Awad, is Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College serving with the United Methodist Church in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Message from South America for U.S. Americans on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and in the light of the Syrian conflict

Dear brothers and sisters:

You, your people and your government leaders are in our prayers just as Syria's people and also their leaders are. The sounds of the celebration and remembrance of Martin Luther King and the 50th anniversary of historical March to Washington are still fresh in our ears and hearts and we praise the Lord for all the witnesses that worked and are working for peace in your country and around the world. King's words resound loud and strong:

If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the words of Jesus: "He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword." We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you." This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love...  [ King's words after a bomb was thrown into his house in Alabama, on 30 January 1956, in Stride Toward Freedom (1958)]

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. [ 'Where Do We Go From Here?" as published in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62]

We pray asking God's forgiveness and for true peace for you, your people, the Syrian people and for all the world:


Kyrie Eleison!

May God's love be with you while you witness and announce the Good News of Jesus the Christ the only one that gives TRUE PEACE.  

We send you our love,

Eunice Arias & Luis Aramayo

Retired missionaries

"Nacimos para manifestar la gloria de Dios que está en nosotros y nosotras. No está solamente en algunas personas escogidas, está en cada persona y, a medida que permitimos que brille nuestra propia luz, sin saberlo, permitimos que las otras personas hagan los mismo". 

Nelson Mandela, 1994. 

Discurso de instalación como presidente de África del Sur.