A reminder that apartheid can be ended…

Recently, an Honorary Elder within The Elders, wrote a letter for the United Church of Canada, as it gathers for its triennial General Council in August 2015 in Newfoundland. In the letter, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu encourages the UCC to “join with other denominations around the globe who have decided to boycott and divest from companies that benefit from the occupation.” He refers to the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine, an occupation that is illegal according to international law. He writes from a first-person stance and knowledge that political apartheid can be ended, as it was in South Africa. Tutu encourages the UCC to continue with the Unsettling Goods campaign (click here).

To read Tutu’s letter, click here. To read the press release by the United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), click here.

With each day, we grow increasingly aware that we, collectively, are interdependent on and with this planet we call home. We could carry on with ‘business as usual’ and feel powerless as we move from crisis to crisis. Or, we could act with hope; we have opportunities to act with intention to shape a great transformation (for more click here and here). We could listen to elders in our local, regional, and global lives. They are stepping up, like David Suzuki when he says to himself, ” ‘it’s time to admit you’re an elder and start getting on with doing what elders should be doing, which is speaking out without fear of being fired’ ” (as he was quoted in a recent review of Suzuki’s book, Letters to My Grandchildren; click here). Globally, the Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, are “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights” (click here). Our elders have experienced and witnessed much in their lives, including long-time effort toward various types of justice.

This summer, let’s listen to their voices…to inform our intentions… and actions… as the United Church of Canada during the General Council and beyond, in local and global communities…

Political prisoners as leaders on paths to peace

Think of the political prisoners of our time… one in particular immediately jumps to mind, Nelson Mandela, especially when I hear others ask, “Who is or will be the Mandela in the Palestinian-Israeli situation…?” Mandela, among many other steps on paths to peace, founded The Elders (click here) in 2007. They are “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights”.

I introduce you to Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and longtime advocate for Palestinian political prisoners. At 1 am on 2 Apr. 2015, her home in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank was raided and she was arrested (click here for info and actions to take). In Nov. 2014, Khalida met with several Canadians including Peter Larson (click here for Peter’s blog posting and a video with Khalida). Peter notes that: “In democratic countries, the arrest of a parliamentarian is a very unusual event. Jarrar’s arrest now brings to 16, the number of Palestinian parliamentarians who are held in Israeli jails.”

After years of advocating for others, the world is invited to advocate for Khalida Jarrar, political prisoner, and for her human rights… as she continues on her path to peace, from inside HaSharon prison in northern Israel (for more info, click here). Click here for an online petition.

Gaza – Ubuntu – “It is in each other’s shadow, that we flourish.”

We are in this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, together. In this posting, I quote Mary Robinson (more info here and here) who is one of The Elders, the group of independent leaders who work globally for peace and human rights (click here). In a recent interview in celebration of Mandela Day 2014 (here), Robinson offers an observation about the meaning of life in terms of the African concept, ubuntu, (“I am because you are”) and a similar expression in Irish: “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” It means, “It is in each other’s shadow that we flourish.” (quoted from here)

As described on The Elders’ website, Mary Robinson was the: “First woman President of Ireland and [is a] former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; a passionate, forceful advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace-building and human dignity.

“Part of the wisdom of the Elders is to remind the world that we actually have universal values that are accepted by every government in the world and yet they are not being implemented.” ” (here)

People in civil society in Israel are calling for peace and dialogue (for example, here). People around the world are calling for an end to the violence and the phrase, war crimes, is used increasingly (for example, here).

Navi Pillay is the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. On 23 July 2014, she stated: “A seven-year old Palestinian child in Gaza has never known life outside occupation and is already living through her or his third experience of a major Israeli military operation, including the so-called operations ‘Cast Lead’ in 2009 and ‘Pillar of Defence’ in 2012, with all the unimaginable death, destruction, terror and the life-long consequences that they inflicted.

Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve better than a life of chronic insecurity and recurring escalation in hostilities.” (for Pillay’s full statement, click here) Commissioner Pillay is also quoted as saying that “… ‘147 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 16 days. They had a right to life, just like children in any other countries.’

Pillay said Israeli children shared these rights and should also be able to live without fear of rocket attacks from Gaza. The indiscriminate nature of Hamas rocket fire, Pillay said, also clearly went against principles of distinction and precaution when identifying military targets.” (For the full article and video, click here.) (Click here for an article in The Guardian.)

Commissioner Pillay ended her statement with the following: “I, and my predecessors and successors as High Commissioner for Human Rights, can only offer the facts, the law, and common sense. This we have done, and — I am sure — will continue to do, however much we are criticized for it.

We, as the International Community, the United Nations, the Human Rights Council, States, and as human beings, are obliged to do everything in our power to protect all civilians and ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled worldwide.

In Israel and Palestine, the politics of conflict, peace and security are constantly leading to the downgrading, or setting aside, of the importance of binding international human rights law and international humanitarian law. International law is not negotiable. No individual or state can be considered exempt, if they violate the law.” (for Pillay’s full statement, click here)

I am glad that Commissioner Pillay is speaking out. I am glad that Mary Robinson continues to speak out.

I was asked recently about why I blog, why I participate in EAPPI. If people like these women hadn’t spoken out, I might not exist. Surprised? Well, one of my sets of grandparents and my parents had, in some people’s eyes, “mixed marriages”. From extreme perspectives in the midst of the Irish Troubles, news of a Catholic woman and a Protestant man could set off violence (click here). For most of my life, I’ve grown up wondering how I could have both identities within me. Thankfully, with immigration to Canada, my family members could choose to marry. When I visited Palestine and Israel in 2009, I recognized some dynamics in that conflict that were familiar to me, from what I knew about the Irish Troubles. I realized that I could choose to respond to what I saw, to help someone else. It’s about looking and learning, and choosing to act. Here’s another helpful article about the conflict in Palestine and Israel (here).

Thanks for being there. We, as humanity, do impact each other and the rest of this amazing planet. Together, we can flourish.