The new year has already brought two snowstorms and with them snowball fights and the death of five babies who froze to death in their blown apart homes in Gaza. There is no peace process to speak of, Palestinian youth are killed daily in clashes, homes are demolished routinely, and war planes still fly overhead. This is life under a military occupation. It gives me new insights into what Jesus was trying to tell us as he lived and resisted the Roman Occupation.
Here at the YWCA of Palestine, life goes on however. We are celebrating the completion of our report on our international conference on Women’s Freedom, Peace, and Dignity in Palestine. This conference on United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 was attended by people from all around the globe who are working on issues related to women and violence and women’s leadership. A number of staff and board members from Global Ministries as well as in the Executive Minister of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries attended this historic conference and help contribute to its success. The 35-page report not only chronicles the proceedings from the three days but includes information about the global movement on UNSCR1325 and the work done on Palestine’s National Action Plan. As the Y’s Communications and Advocacy Officer I am happy to report “It is done.” I am also working on our new electronic newsletter called “Between the Hammer of Occupation/Colonialism and the Anvil of Patriarchy” that is a compilation of news stories about how the occupation or settler colonialism is affecting women’s lives, and how women are standing up for their rights under patriarchy. The second volume will be completed in time for International Women’s Day on March 8th. I am continuously exploring new ways to tell our story and call for advocacy. This past summer I helped make a small film on three generations of women from the depopulated Christian village, Iqrit, in the northern Galilee.
It is Lent and soon Christians from around the world will descend upon Jerusalem to walk down the Mount of Olives, remember Christ’s passion on the Via Dolorosa, and celebrate his resurrection on Easter. Most Palestinian Christians however will not be able to come to Jerusalem however as permits are few. And once here, their movement will be restricted so some will not be able to access their holy sites. This too is part of what it means to live in occupied East Jerusalem.
I would like to end with an excerpt from a reflection I wrote about a typical Sunday in Jerusalem. It reminds me of why I am here, why you sent me:
Coming down the Via Dolorosa just before Station 8 I stopped to buy three little Hebron pottery bowls to replace the ones the cats and I broke. After paying the shopkeeper, my friend, I was asked if I would do a favor. I said of course. He wrote down a name of a Christian man and asked that I pray for him. He said they were friends of the family and that this man is very sick. They had already gone to Holy Sepulcher and lit a candle. Could I do the same at St. Andrews?
This circle of love of Muslims praying for Christians doesn't make it into the news but it happens all the time, naturally. We are of one family not just Christ's body.
Accompaniment takes many shapes and forms if I am open to Spirit's calling.
*You can find our Conference report and video on the YWCA of Palestine’s website at www.ywca-palestine.org.
Rev. Loren McGrail, a member of Lyndale United Church of Christ, Minneapolis, Minnesota and an associate member of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois, serves our Mission Partner the YWCA of Palestine. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciple's Mission Fund, Our Church's Wider Mission and your special gifts.