On August 17, nearly a hundred people gathered at St. Francis of Assisi to watch Budrus, a feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. This is an inspirational story of how success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary chronicling this movement from its infancy, Budrus shines a light on people who choose nonviolence to confront a threat. The movie is directed by filmmaker Julia Bacha (co-writer and editor of Control Room and co-director Encounter Point), and produced by Bacha, Palestinian journalist Rula Salameh, and filmmaker and human rights advocate Ronit Avni (formerly of WITNESS, Director of Encounter Point).
Fr. David McBriar, OFM, with the help Kathleen Owen and many delegates who traveled with him to the Middle East, organized this event. Before viewing the film, St. Francis parishioner Marianne Williams offered a brief overview of the complex and important history of this region, especially noting the points of conflict in recent history. After the film, a panel of five people led a discussion about signs of hope in this region and ways that we can take action in the efforts of creating lasting peace. The panelists included: 1. St. Francis parishioner Dana Bauman who has been to Palestine a number of times reflected on her experiences of traveling and living with families struggling to save their land and villages. 2. Arab Muslim Jihad Shawwa born in the Gaza Strip shared his impassioned reflections on meeting men and women of good will all over the world who desire to come together and find common ground to work for peace. 3. Jewish storyteller and inspirational speaker Rachel Galper witnessed about her returning to her Jewish roots and finding rich Biblical passages and imagery suggesting the call for peace. 4. Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Or Lucy Dinner shared her hopes for a future peace as well. 5. Miriam Thompson who is active with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Coalition for Peace with Justice called all participants to get involved in peace work in the Middle East, particulrly to write their legislative respresentatives. As participants engaged in Q&A with the panelists, there were many who named the United States’ role in this conflict, especially noting our history with the region and our military/defense support of Israel. Participants finished the evening by writing and signing letters to members of the North Carolina legislature asking for a renewed commitment to securing peace in the Middle East. Over 100 letters were sent.
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On April 3, The Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace hosted Jesus Emilio Tuberquia from the village San Jose de Apartado in Colombia as part of its Sojourns for Justice Speaker Series. With more than four million internally displaced people, Colombia is home to the Western Hemisphere’s greatest displacement crisis. Jesus Emilio described how the homes and lands of indigenous, Afro-Colombians and small-scale farmers in Colombia continue to be violently and illegally seized by paramilitary and guerilla groups who often profit from the sale of these lands to multi-national companies.
Gail Phares, who heads CITCA and serves as the director for Witness for Peace Southeast, added to the conversation by commenting that Colombia has rich reserves of oil, coal, gold and other minerals and thus targeted by the above groups. She also urged us to work to stop passage of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, as well as to stop further US military assistance to Colombia.
Phares noted that over the past decade the U.S.government has given more than $6 billion in military aid to Colombia and thus she sees that we cannot waste any more time or taxpayer dollars on a strategy that not only does not work but also has contributed to the country’s protracted humanitarian crisis. The community San Jose Apartado alone has had over 190 people killed mostly by Colombian army forces or connected paramilitary groups over the past fourteen years. Many in the community continue to try to protest these atrocities through non-violent means.
Following the evening’s presentation and activities, one person commented that “ . . . it allowed me to see the dramatic reality of what we don’t see in our everyday lives” and others suggested the need for “more programs like this in the future . . .so that we have a better understanding of what is happening in our world.”
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Last week, the Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace Sojourns for Justice Speakers Series hosted two men who sailed on the Jewish Boat to Gaza in May 2010 – Glyn Secker and Reuven Moskivitz.
Secker, the captain of the boat, told us why, as a Jew, he felt compelled by his moral calling to protest the collective punishment of Gazans by the policies of the Israeli government. Mr. Secker also gave an account of the civil disobedience actions from sailing the boat into the Israeli restricted waters, the boarding of their sail boat by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), to their arrest and deportation.
Dr. Moskivitz, an 82 year old holocaust survivor, emphasized how we cannot continue to look backward at history, but evaluate what is currently happening in Israel/Palestine and work for justice and liberation for an oppressed people, the Palestinians. He also expressed that he does not like to be thought of as a hero. Rather, he said the Torah calls us to turn our enemies to friends; this is God’s holiness. He led the participants in a couple meditative musical interludes on his harmonica as well.
Secker and Moskivitz had several other speaking engagements in the Triangle area last week as part of this speaking tour sharing their stories and continuing their work to protest against and challenge the continuing blockade of Gaza. They believe that this blockade constitutes an illegal, collective punishment of the whole population and a grossly immoral act. See their website here
Sixty-five individuals attended this event at St. Francis. It was clear that not all participants were of one mind. Some were clearly opposed to the message, some received hope that others are working for the same cause that they have been working on for years,
and some were hearing about the situation for the first time. All observed the passion and knowledge of these two amazing individuals. This event was also sponsored by Coalition for Peace with Justice
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