From Ohio: Thoughts on ‘Walking with Palestinian Christians’ event
The subject at hand could not be more timely, nor more urgent: this week, concerned United Methodists from all over the U.S., including friends from the larger church universal, are meeting to discuss how to work with Palestinian Christians in the ongoing struggle for peace. As Israeli and Palestinian leaders begin to negotiate peace after their most recent round of violence, there is tension between the three Abrahamic religions in the land seen as sacred by all three groups.
The two-day event, entitled “Walking with Palestinian Christians for Holy Justice and Peace,” started off with a keynote address from Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church. Also, the three General Secretaries of GBOPHB, GBCS, and GBGM gave short addresses.
In the afternoon, the large group separated into small breakout sessions dealing with topics ranging from Christian Zionism, to student and young adult action and involvement, to divestment and Global Methodist initiatives.
One of the highlights of the first day was hearing from Palestinian Christians living in Bethlehem: Zuoghbi Zoughbi, Wisam Salsaa, and Grace al-Zoughbi. The three speakers put a human face to a devastating conflict that is often reported in numbers only.
“We are asking the world to take responsibility and bring Israel to its senses, not its knees,” said Zoughbi Zoughbi, Founder and Director of the Palestinian Conflict Resolution and Transformation Center in Wi’am in Pakistan.
Another highlight of the day came in the evening: a cultural connection. A number of Palestinians, described as being mostly computer engineers from the Dayton, Ohio area, took the time to prepare a meal of traditional Palestinian foods, such as humus and pita bread, olives and pickles, and beef-stuffed grape leaves for the attendees. Dinner was followed by a time of sharing personal experiences through story, poem and song. When the time of sharing was finished the Worship Center of the Ginghamsburg UMC emptied into the parking lot as emotionally weary participants headed to bed to rest for the next day’s activities.
Among those in attendance at the two-day summit are a nine-member contingent from the Upper New York Annual Conference: Linda Bergh, Beth Woolever, Dianne Roe, Karen Peterson, Alice Trost, Leah Mae Carlisle, Tom Carlisle, the Rev. Alan Kinney, and myself.
For more information on the conference, visit umcmission.org or check out the Twitter hashtag #PalChristianConf. If you’d like to be a part of the conversation about future action when the team returns, contact Karen Peterson via email at email@example.com.
Pastor Benjamin O'Connor is a local pastor appointed at the Lycoming United Methodist Church. He submitted this piece on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. You can read a United Methodist New Service article about the current month-long conflict in Gaza here.