2017 is almost here. Here is a round-up of recent stories from the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network. We also want this chance to say Happy New Year.

The Future of Christians in Palestine:
Presence rather than existence

We all know that Bethlehem is central to the Christmas story. However, as illustrated by the above cartoon and highlighted by this article from Kairos Palestine, modern Christmas celebrations gloss over the huge difference between past history and present realities and tensions. In the article Rifat Kassis reminds us of the importance of the Christian presence in the Holy Land. He highlights the significance of the continuous Christian presence in the following ways:
  • The existence of Christians has expanded and continued since the birth of Christianity two thousand years ago. It has not diminished in any way and has remained steadfast, powerful and influential.
  • This existence is original and was founded locally among Arabs. It was not a sudden event and did not originate from the West, as some people like to believe or as is cited erroneously in some Palestinian textbooks. Christianity was born in Palestine with the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, and then moved to the West and other parts of the world.
  • This is an institutional presence: it is organized, systematic and solid. Churches, ecclesiastical and community institutions, and other structures have existed for a long time and continue to exist. Christian institutions are major employers and employ more than 20,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim Palestinians, in their projects and organizations.     
  • This presence is political, economic and community-oriented. It is a participatory presence rather than passive, although the extent of participation may vary according to the conditions.
  • This presence is broad and community-based. It is open to everyone without discrimination on the basis of sect or gender.
  • Finally, this broken and wounded church, like other Palestinian institutions, is still capable of inspiring hope in people’s hearts and offers much more than it is capable of. This vibrant, unique and unbreakable presence will never cease to exist. 
The article is another good reminder of why we need to stand with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. The complete article can be read here.



Some Christmas in Palestine Stories
 

There have been a number of stories in the media recently about unusual and creative commemorations in Bethlehem, Ramallah and other places. They highlight that resistance to occupation continues and despite the suffering that Palestinians endure, lots of people still find poignant and sometimes humorous ways to highlight the injustices they face. We particularly liked these stories:

From Christ at the Checkpoint, a video that puts a modern perspective on some of the characters in the original story. Click here and choose the Little Town of Bethlehem video

There is also this excellent article from Palestinian Israeli citizen Yohanna Katanacho, who describes the political, legal and theological issues in travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. His article is on the "Come and See" website and can be found here.

Some creative protesters staged a race involving 24 Mary and Josephs running from Nazareth to Bethlehem, all to highlight the imposition of the occupation. Aljazeera have video coverage of Mary and Joseph vs The Occupation on the AJ+ Facebook page which can be found here

Also interesting to note is the coverage in the Washington Post, which highlights some of the realities for the town at the heart of some of the most popular Christmas carols. As the article says, "The existence of Palestinian Christians, and the difficulties they face under Israeli occupation in their homeland, is a blind spot for American Christians." The full article can be found here.

Lastly, and definitely in the category of light, seasonal entertainment, there is this little video of Santas doing the traditional Palestinian dabka dance in Ramallah. Happy watching!
 


Coming soon: formal membership of PIEN Inc


Over the last few months, a number of people in the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network have worked hard to transform the organisational structure of the network. As a result, PIEN is now officially an incorporated association, incorporated in Victoria under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act (2012). The Model Rules of PIEN Inc can be found here

Becoming an incorporated association provides many benefits, including a better ability to raise and manage funds, legal protection and clearer accountability to all those who are part of the network. It also provides a strong base for growth and further development in the year ahead.

As part of this development, we will be soon sending out information about how to become a financial member of the organisation. There are clear benefits of membership, including the chance to contribute to the financial and strategic growth of the organisation, the chance to vote for office bearers and to be involved in the committee of management. 

More information about how to join PIEN as a financial member will be sent out shortly, however, in the meantime, please contact PIEN if you have any initial comments or questions.

 

From Under the Rubble: Gaza Documentary Crowd Funding project
 

Film maker Anne Tsoulis and her team have been awarded provisional funding from Screen Australia to make a full length documentary about the effect of the 2009 Cast Lead military campaign in Gaza, particularly on one family, the extended Samouni family. However, in order to proceed with the film, they need to raise some matching funds.

If you would like to contribute to this documentary, please follow this link.

More information can be found on their facebook page , which includes a short trailer.

Report from Kairos Palestine December Conference

Kairos Palestine held their seventh annual conference on December 8-9th, at Dar-Annadwa International Center in Bethlehem.

Titling the gathering as “Faith, Sumud and Creative Resistance,” the time spent together was intended to approach the injustices of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine from the context which encompasses these themes.

Born out of the Kairos Document which was drafted in 2009, Kairos Palestine is conveyed as a moment of truth in faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering. A report on the conference is here


Possible Visit from Israeli PM to Australia

The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network has advised that there is likely to be a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Australia in February 2017. Australian supporters of Palestinian human rights are concerned about this visit, given Israel's existing policies, particularly the continued growth of illegal settlements in occupied Palestine. The Israeli Prime Minister's rhetoric and actions highlight his lack of interest in a just and meaningful peace for all parties.

If you are interested in being kept informed on planning and activities which might be put together in response to this visit, please follow this link to register your interest with APAN.

Alternatively, please contact PIEN if you are interested in any specific, church based responses which might be developed.


Settlements explained

The recent UN Security Council Resolution has brought unparalleled prominence to the issue of Israel's settlements. This video from the US TV network MSNBC provides a helpful explanation of the issue. It might be a useful tool to pass on to others who are not aware of the issues.

You can find the video here.


A reminder on the Sabeel 2017 Conference

Sabeel will be holding its 10th International Conference on March 7-13, 2017. They are looking ahead to 2017 with a sense of anticipation and urgency, aware of the symbolism of the coming year: 100 years since the Balfour Declaration; 70 years since the UN Partition Plan; 50 years since the occupation of the state of Palestine, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip; 30 years since the beginning of the first intifada, and 10 years since the beginning of political divisions among our Palestinian people. 

If you are interested in this conference, click here for more details
 

Australian Christians who seek lasting peace for the people of Palestine and Israel. 

We aim to equip and 
inform Australian churches, inspired by Christ’s vision for universal reconciliation.

www.pien.org.au

Executive Officer
Tim Budge
0412 051 574 
contact@pien.org.au








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Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network · PO Box 561 Flinders Lane · Melbourne, Vic 8009 · Australia

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