Wednesday 16 May 2012

Palestinia​n Prisoners Galvanize the World's Attention Through Nonviolent Action!

This historic action and at least its short-term result might very well be later viewed as a key turning point in the long hard struggle to end the apartheid occupation policies of the state of Israel. Palestinians as a whole now realize the tremendous power they have ignited and harnessed to make a real difference. By uniting together in this collective non-violent action they have finally galvanized the attention of the rest of the world. This action put tremendous pressure on Israel after its leaders realized the implications for a world-wide solidarity hunger strike on May 17 was looming.

A big part of the problem all along resides in the United States which has been pumping incredible amounts of monetary subsidy into Israel for many decades, thus providing essential endorsement -- and, in essence, chiefly aiding and abetting these abhorrent and immoral policies.

Just one example: Did you know that Israel routinely detains and imprisons - and in many cases tortures - hundreds of young Palestinian children each year? Does that shock you? It's been going on for many years. Go here for some well-founded documentation. 

It is high time for churches everywhere to get serious about involvement in the international non-violent BDS movement. As today's news release about the Palestinian prisoners' victory says, "Emphasizing imprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations have called for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeli prison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law."

Churches and their members' inspired involvement in both the American Civil Rights movement and the South African Anti-Apartheid movement made huge differences, though direct involvement in that was considered controversial. And the situation in Israel is far worse, according to South African leaders who have visited Palestine/Israel.

So, what are some practical steps you can take?

First, I suggest absorbing this critique/commentary and others like it.  Take the time to check out some of the important background content available at the (red) links within that article, to get a handle on the facts, and reflect on how you are feeling and what you are thinking.

Next, get a proposal in front of your congregation's board to at least discuss it. It shouldn't be hard once the facts are clear.  Or find out if it could be put on the agenda of your next annual conference. It only takes a little bit of initiative to overcome the inertia of doing nothing. The courage required is nothing compared to what the Palestinians in West Bank have to muster up every day simply to exist.

Alternatively, go take a first-hand look for yourself: sign up for a delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams or with EAPPI (the ecumenical version which got started using CPT's delegations as a model.)

As the prophet Micah declared, "What does the Lord require of you, but to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God."

Clair Hochstetler, Canberra, Australia
Member of AustralAsia Working Group of Christian Peacemaker Teams -and-
Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand

P.S.  At the least, consider sharing a copy of this - or a link to this blog post - with your own network of colleagues and friends.

Saturday 21 April 2012

O Happy Day!

Here are my two grandsons with their daddy.  Benton seems to be in a pensive mood - probably not sure what to make of his new baby brother Sawyer being cuddled by Justin on the day of his birth.  My daughter Megan gave birth to Sawyer on April 19 at 4:30 pm in Chicago but it was already the morning of April 20 here in Australia and I was doing a bit of grieving about my brother Donald - it being the 15th anniversary of his death - when I got the happy news about Sawyer having joined our family!  Another grace-full example of the big ongoing CIRCLE OF LIFE.  Wish I could hold the little guy right now but it will have to wait a while...

Click on the photo at the top of the right hand column of this blog 
to see the photo stream my daughter Megan has been posting at her Twitter account.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Excited to be attending the Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra Easter Holiday (Thurs eve through Mon)

No fooling!  I've finally blocked out the time to serve on the volunteer staff full-time at the Australian National Folk Festival here in Canberra at the Epic (fairgrounds) during the holiday next week.  I got matched to work 20 hours with the Kids Festival (see detail below) from Friday through Easter Monday - four hours each day, which allows me to still participate in things happening on Good Friday at both Canberra Baptist Church and also at the Canberra Hospital before the noon hour.

Saturday morning I'm scheduled at Silver Wattle Retreat Centre, a 40-minute drive away to the edge of Lake George, doing a clowning session with the children and an experiential learning workshop for all the participants on the theme of the "Nonviolence of Jesus."  This involves mostly Quaker families/children attending their annual Easter Weekend Family Retreat at Silver Wattle.

Well, a busy but fulfilling weekend is definitely coming up!  I'll be able to take in any performances and activities that I desire at the NFF each day and evening for free - with a pass (arm band) I'll have worth about $300. 

And...there is a LOT more than folk music going on there.  In recent years it has been appealing to all ages; the youth and young adult crowd is rapidly expanding. The full program of this five-day festival - now in its 45th year - includes descriptions of over 200 acts and 1500 performers at 20 stages - lots of stuff happening simultaneously!  Here is a rundown of this year's "Highlights" from Thursday evening through Monday.

A taste of folk - National Folk Festival 2011 from Annette Cohen on Vimeo.
(Click on to view this in a larger format.)

* Here is what I'll be helping kids create during the Kid's Festival (2-hr) Workshops: 

Lanterns - The lanterns will be of simple construction but if kids want to expand on these ideas, then great!!! The lanterns when complete will be kept for the parade. 

Puppets - Kids can make some simple parade puppets that will be used in the festival parade.   Younger kids could make finger and glove puppets and hopefully perform with them at the end of the workshop.

Hats - A range of patterns for hats will be offered from simple bonnets to more elaborate parade hats. 

Tin Whistle - Kids can come along and have a go at learning the Tin Whistle and get a bit of an introduction from a couple of talented musicians.

...or helping to provide safe supervision during their "Free Play!"  The following activities will be set up and kids can come and go as they please exploring and trying the activities on offer.

Box City: For kids of all ages.  A giant city of skyscrapers and towers will be created with cardboard boxes and paint.  The city will be large enough that kids can run around it and sit in the buildings that they have just created.

Jewellery: For kids aged from 5 – 12 yrs.  Kids can make their own necklaces and brooches from plaster moulds that can then be painted and decorated.  Kids will paint and make their own beads from old magazines.

Bandanas: For kids aged 5 – 12 yrs.  Kids can create cool bandanas by using printmaking and drawing techniques.

Weaving: For kids 5 – 12 yrs. By using simple cardboard looms kids can create beautiful mats or scarves.

Play Doh: Kids can create some fun sculptures with the old favourite.

Painting and Drawing: Materials will be available for those who feel the urge and can’t resist a bit of finger painting.

Sand sculptures: Can be created and destroyed and redone using the wonderful materials of sand and water.

I guess you can tell that I'm getting kind of excited!  Carole Anne doesn't seem to be, but that's not my problem - nor does it seem to be hers, either.  She has plenty of other things on her mind.  Oh, well - I plan on reclaiming some of my childhood - at least some of the memories, soaking up the energy, and getting my free spirit all reinvigorated!

I'm also hoping to meet up with some friends I know are coming, and perhaps make some new friends, as well.   I'll find out tomorrow during our staff orientation session if they'll let me pitch my tent at the grounds with the hundreds of others - so I can keep that spot as my "home base" throughout, in the midst of all the coming and going.

As they say in Oz: "Yep, it'll be a rippa!" (ripper)

-Clair de L'uni

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Blessing the Bombs - Father George Zabelka's Confession

Last evening a group of us here in Canberra who regularly gather to discuss books and articles that provoke moral and theological reflection, were engaged in a very lively discussion of "The Song of Nagasaki" and the issues it raises for our contemporary situation.  At one point we were reflecting on the difficult and challenging role of military chaplains (one among our group has served part-time in such a capacity.)

I recalled reading about the significant change of heart and mind undertaken by the chaplain with the US Air Force - Father George Zabelka - who had earlier given his "holy" blessing over the American pilots and crew members who flew on the Enola Gay (on the Hiroshima mission) and the Boxcar (Nagasaki) just before they dropped the atomic bombs over those Japanese cities in August 1945, obliterating thousands of innocent inhabitants in an instant, and consigning the survivors to die of radiation poisoning.

Over the next twenty years, Fr. Zabelka gradually came to believe that he had been terribly wrong, that he had denied the very foundations of his faith by lending moral and religious support to the bombing.  He died in 1992, but was most remembered for a speech he gave on the 40th anniversary of the bombings at a Pax Christi conference in August 1985 at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana -- not far from where I grew up. (A tape of his speech is archived there.) 

Father George Zabelka's own powerful soul-searching words below need to be taken very deeply to the heart, because even today it is a great temptation for pastors and chaplains to bless the bombs and the bombers for "our side."  (Economic security plays a big role in all of this since all chaplains in the various Australian Defence Forces get their paycheck from the government.  So it takes great courage to exert a dissenting voice while in service, though I learned last evening that at least in the Navy the chaplain automatically takes on the same rank as to whomever he/she is talking with.)  -Clair