“If there is ever a time to talk, it is now”
As turmoil spreads through the Middle East, American Jews and Muslims have been forming alliances to build trust and seek solidarity in more ambitious ways than in the past – a sharp contrast to the violence engulfing their homelands last week.
Muslims and Jews have dispatched members into mosques and synagogues to learn about each other’s faiths, made a joint trip to tour civil rights sites and formed partnerships involving CEOs of major corporations.
Leaders of the groups said that the challenging world events have provided impetus for the outreach efforts, including violence in Gaza, the Trump administration’s moving of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the travel ban from mostly Muslim countries and deepening concern about hate crimes.
WE REFUSE TO BE ENEMIES
“We refuse to be enemies” is an inscription on a boulder at a farm southwest of Bethlehem.
At first sight, it is an unremarkable farm with a strange name – Tent of Nations. Comprising some 100 acres, it is situated on a hilltop nearby the village of Nahalin. It is not easily accessible as the road into it is usually blocked, meaning that access is on foot. This is no easy option in the heat.
People from all over the world visit the Tent of Nations farm – some to visit, others to learn and yet others to volunteer. It has one main building where hospitality is given.
The land – known as Daher’s Vineyard – was purchased in 1916 by Daher Nassar, the father of Bishara, and grandfather of the Nassar family. Since then, many family members have worked the land by day and slept in caves by night. The land produces olives, grapes, almonds, wheat and other crops.
In 1991, the Israeli government declared the surrounding area including the Nassar’s portion as Israeli ‘state land’. The Nassar family has all the original land registration papers and has cultivated the land throughout the Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli governances; clearly demonstrating that the Israeli government has no right to declare it theirs.
Since that time, the Nassar family have fought through the courts to hold on to their land. Apart from the court battles, they have experienced endless struggles, including destruction of their crops, refusal of planning permission on their land as well as difficulties of access. They still have their land.
The Tent of Nations has become more than a farm. Motivated by Christ, they are also doing something
remarkable. As well as trying to run their farm and hold onto their land, they now run summer camps, educational and volunteer programmes. They describe their farm as “a centre where people from many different countries come together to learn, share and build bridges of understanding and hope.” Their mission is “to build bridges between people, and between people and the land. We bring different cultures together to develop understanding and promote respect for each other and our shared environment.”
It is hard not to feel a mixture of admiration for the activity of the Tent of Nations and the heart with which it is done. There is also a sense that their desire to be peacemakers is coming at a terrible price, as it did to Christ.
We are living through unsettling times, at home and across the globe. It is a time when it is impossible not to feel outrage and heartbreak at what we see locally or in Gaza, Syria, South Sudan, Myanmar – the list is endless. Globally and locally, the fracturing and disagreement between people seems ever more pronounced and damaging.
On Christmas 2012, the Tent of Nations website noted: “With the end of this year, we complete 21 years of legal battle to prevent our farm from being confiscated in a nonviolent way, taking the teachings of Christ as our example with the message: “We refuse to be enemies … The message of the Tent of Nations is to transform the hopelessness, the frustration, the pain and the fear into a positive power that is able to change lives and motivate people.”
As Christ demonstrated: crucifixion is no easy road.
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Letters to the Editor
Eighth Amendment referendum
For my part, reflecting on a story from Scripture has informed my decision. In the story of the annunciation (Luke 1) – how do we regard Mary’s ‘Yes’? Was it a word of docile obedience, or was it a full, free, informed, authoritative consent?
If the former, then Mary was nothing more than a walking incubator, embedded in a culture where women – and any contents of their wombs – were the property of their fathers or husbands.
If the latter, then we must accept that behind Mary’s ‘Yes’ was the possibility and consideration of saying ‘No’ … not consenting for her eggs and her womb to be utilised by God. Refusing. In her ‘Yes’ Mary partnered with God to bring something new and wonderful to our world, but that partnership can only be regarded as authentic if the consent was not a dumb submissive response.
The decision to carry a pregnancy to term – to enable the ‘potential’ to become the ‘actual’ is not one that can be forced upon women; it is for them to make the decision based upon their circumstances and their beliefs.
We may grieve the loss of the ‘potential’ – but as a community and nation we simply cannot have punitive legislation against this.
Too many of the voices I hear appear to focus only on bringing a pregnancy to term and birth, and ignore the enormous challenges of parenthood that inevitably follow.
I shall be voting ‘Yes’.
Marie Rowley-Brooke (Canon) Nenagh
In 35 years, the Republic has moved towards being a secular state and what is proposed by the ‘Yes’ lobby would allow the normalisation of abortion, not just on medical grounds but also for social convenience.
Around the country, posters calling for a ‘Yes’ vote are all focused on women, some aggressively so. The main thrust is compassion for women. Not one poster calls for compassion for the unborn child and none have regard for the father in
And why has no one focused on the prevention of an unwanted pregnancy? Various safe methods of contraception have been available for decades.
Going further, where is the cry for moral teaching that says liberal sex is an abuse of our bodies, which are a temple of the Holy Spirit?
If the Eighth Amendment is repealed, the responsibility for the legislation on abortion falls on the Oireachtas, current members of which include Clare Daly, who has reportedly called the prayer used at the start of each session of the Dail “offensive”; Joan Collins who has declared “I have not been sent by the people of Dublin south central to have my words and actions directed by Jesus Christ”; and Ruth Coppinger who I believe has stated, “There should be no prayer in the workplace.” These are among the representatives of the people we would have to rely on to frame the legislation should the amendment be removed.
I will not be voting for the repeal of the Eight Amendment. Peter Hanna (Revd)
Innishannon Co. Cork
As matters stand this Friday 25th May, there is no mention of abortion in the Irish constitution but, merely, an acknowledgment of “the right of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to the life of the mother,” and a guarantee to respect and “as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
There is no mention of the A-word. Neither is there any mention of 14-year jail sentences. The proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment is a proposal to introduce abortion into the Irish constitution via a new Amendment (the 36th) as follows: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”
On this matter, I am inclined to trust (some) politicians to do exactly as they said they would if we give them the means.
Skerries Co. Dublin
Gender and the Church of Ireland
Take the Representative Church Body, for example. It has 62 members, only 15 of whom are women. Its Executive Committee is made up of
15 men and no women. It has seven other committees, comprised of 60 members, 52 of whom are male and eight are female. All those committees are chaired by men!
The outgoing standing committee is not significantly better – just 16 of its 72 members are women. When one examines the gender make-up of those in leadership in our Church, we see a similar pattern. There is just one bishop who is female, the dean of just one of our cathedrals is female and
all our archdeacons are male. Adding further alarm is the – unexplained – report to General Synod of a drop in the proportion of women exploring ordained ministry in the Church.
We need to have an open conversation about the barriers that exist for the many highly capable women, who could and should be serving our church, both in ministry and in leadership capacities.
Greenane Co. Wicklow
No new Church
Thus, these churches developed their own characteristics, especially with regard to liturgy. The Celtic Irish Church, founded by Patrick, and the English Saxon Church founded by Aidan and Augustine, developed even more peculiar characteristics, being so far from the centre.
The continental churches were gradually restored to Roman jurisdiction over the centuries. The English Church came under Papal jurisdiction at the Synod of Whitby in 665.
However, it was as late as 1111 at the Synod of Cashel, that the Irish Church lost her independence. It was then that the diocesan and parochial system, which we still
operate, was formed.
I point out these facts in order to correct two grievous errors in the article ‘Justin Welby breaks ground on new library’ (Gazette 4th May). The first is that Henry remained Roman Catholic until his death in 1547. The second is that he did not ‘create’ the Church of England, or Ireland for that matter.
At the Reformation, the ancient Church of England, and her older sister, the Church of Ireland regained their independence and continued their existence. They were not created then.
David W. T. Crooks (Canon) Carrigans
Mary Magdalene film
Did you ever have a book read to you by your class teacher at primary school, which enthralled you – only to be disappointed when a version of it appeared later on television or film? It was, in my experience, rarely half as good.
Having said that, we all have our favourites. Robert Powell is still, for me, the best screen Jesus – but perhaps he was made up to resemble many traditional images of our Lord. Then there is Pasolini’s ‘The Gospel according to St Matthew’, but I think it is the film as a whole, as much as Enrique Iraqi’s performance, that grasps the imagination. Charlton Heston appealed to me as Moses – but I was young and impressionable when I saw him in Cecil B de Mille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’.
Meanwhile, to me, Sherlock Holmes is Jeremy Brett, and vice- versa. But, having devoured all the Just William books I could lay my hands on when I was a boy, complete with the original illustrations by Thomas Henry, I have never yet seen a television version that met my expectations.
Sometimes then, the book is inevitably better than the film – and never more so than in the case of the Bible.
John Budd (Canon)
Lisburn Co. Antrim
Trump’s decision on Jerusalem
Embrace does not initiate any project, but enters into partnership with Christian work in Egypt, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine, whose work is based on need, not creed or nationality. To criticise Embrace is to criticise the churches, including our own Jerusalem archbishopric.
However, one ministry supported by Embrace is Aviv Ministry, working in south Tel Aviv since 2005. It helps rough sleepers, addicts, alcoholics and prostitutes return to normal
life. Approximately 20 to 30 people, both native Israelis and migrants, use their drop-in centre each day. They are helped to return to their families. More can be read on their website (http://avivministry.com/ en/), as they give help to people in need, with no government support.
The statistics I gave are from Whose Promised Land by Colin Chapman, a recognised Christian expert on the Middle East. I recommend this book to those who wish to fully understand the situation.
John Sutcliffe (Revd)
Authors: Brendan McManus SJ and Jim Deeds
Publisher: Messenger Publications; pp.128
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