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]

Friday, September 6, 2013

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> <>.