Readers write: December 15, 2023

December 15, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 25
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Advent in light of current events

Will Braun’s December 1 editorial (“What kind of peace church are we?”) asks what Palestinian Christians would think of our various statements and actions related to the Gaza war. That question gets to the heart of what we as a church need to grapple with.

It may be helpful for us to ask ourselves a related question: Whose voices are we listening to the most when it comes to Palestine and Israel?

Is it the voices of the strong—the soundbite quotes from Israeli military leaders and of our own political leaders who “stand with Israel”? Or is it the voices of grieving victims we hear quoted nightly in the news?

Are we resonating with North American preachers on the airwaves who believe that God sides with the state of Israel? Or can we hear the cries of Palestinian Christians, who experience Israel’s actions as oppressive and an affront to God’s way of justice and peace?

What roles do our racial, ethnic, class and religious biases play? How does our Christian discipleship influence what we hear?

The Mennonite Church Canada Palestine-Israel Network, mandated to help implement our church’s 2016 resolution on Palestine and Israel, is listening to the voices of occupied and suffering siblings in faith, and seeking to amplify them.

We are thrilled that Canadian Mennonite is doing the same during Advent. This is a season when we remind ourselves that God became flesh within a context of military occupation, siding with those on the margins. As pregnant Mary sang: “He has shown strength with his arm . . . He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:51-52).

We are singing and proclaiming that drama this season. Will we also live it in our prayers, our solidarity, our advocacy for a just peace in the land of Jesus’ birth?

—Byron Rempel-Burkholder, Chair, Mennonite Church Canada Palestine-Israel Network

Four points

Thank you for the article, “Attending to war” (November 3). It was helpful and clear.

My perspective on the Palestine-Israel conflict consists of four key points:

1. The status quo in Palestine-Israel is that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land is a system of Apartheid (as declared by all major human rights organizations, including Israel’s) and this occupation is a violation against Palestinians and against international law.

2. The state of Israel continues its Palestinian home evictions, stealing more and more land for Israeli settlements on land that was set aside for the Palestinian state. Also, there are hundreds of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons at any given time. The occupation continues to be a daily violence against the Palestinian people.

3. From time to time, some Palestinians (like Hamas) resort to violence to fight back against this system of oppression. I am not in agreement with this violence. However, let’s remember that the small strip of land we call Gaza is internationally recognized as the largest open-air prison in the world. The people of Gaza are frustrated and act out.

4. Israel responds with more violence and destruction against all Gazan people. (This time around, Israel has cut off electricity, food and water.)

Western world leaders and media seem to go back to the third point and disregard the first two points.

The Canadian government’s response is disappointing to say the least. Saying “Israel has a right to defend itself” doesn’t address the root causes of the conflict.

We need to keep this in mind. Peace in the region will not come unless a just solution to these root causes is achieved.

—Alvin Thiessen, Winnipeg, Manitoba (Charleswood Mennonite Church)

Thirty-five years later

“Statement by Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College” (October 20) reminds me so strongly of the prayers requested by the Palestinian people that I met during a six-week study tour in Israel-Palestine in 1988.

I have a newspaper clipping from that year. It describes a session of Israel’s legislature called by a leftist faction, deploring Israel’s failure to seek dialogue with the Palestin- ians and its tough tactics in quelling an uprising in which at least 239 Palestinians and four Israelis died.

According to the article, the deposed mayor of Gaza said that people in the Gaza Strip had reached a point where they didn’t see much difference between life and death under the degrading conditions of military occupation.

Note that this is 1988—35 years ago!

The people voicing this despair, if still alive, have spent all of their lives frustrated by Israel’s restrictions. Today, their children and grandchildren are being called terrorists for having existed in the densely-populated land that is Gaza, which many call an open-air prison.

As I move about freely—choose my profession, buy a home, travel to visit friends and family—I often think of my Palestinian friends who are not free to live their lives. They are walled in.

How long would my patience last if my home was destroyed and my gardens taken away?

—Margot Fieguth, Waterloo, Ontario (Waterloo North Mennonite Church)

Online comments

A powerful story

Thank you for sharing this article on Standing Together (“Battle for the character of Israel,” December 1). This is a powerful story.

It demonstrates so clearly that the call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and for negotiations toward a just peace, is in the interests of Israelis as well as Palestinians.

Durable justice, peace and security cannot be achieved through hostage-taking, killing, genocide and ethnic cleansing; it can only be achieved through the difficult but necessary work of negotiations toward a reality of coexistence.

We, as Mennonites, know this. We need to be sharing this message much more widely and boldly.

Thank you, Canadian Mennonite, for urging us to do that.

—Esther Epp-Tiessen

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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