From Occupation to Justice

United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine/Israel is a cross Canada network of people associated with the United Church of Canada.

Once a year we gather together to learn and to make plans for our work for the coming year. Sept. 8-10 we are meeting in Winnipeg. Our theme is “From Occupation to Justice in Palestine-Israel: Mobilizing our Churches and Communities for Action”.

Since 2003, the United Church of Canada has evolved in its understanding of what has been happening to Palestinians following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The focus of this year’s gathering in Winnipeg will be on the campaign launched in August – No Way to Treat a Child. It has been developed by a Palestinian partner of the United Church – Defence for Children International. Their mandate is to offer legal support to children who have been interrogated, arrested and imprisoned by the state of Israel in contravention of international law.

We will learn how we can involve the wider church in this work and clarify messages which will encourage people to work for human rights in Palestine and Israel.

Each person in the church and each congregation can become involved. A petition addressed to Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland asks the government to hold the Israeli authorities accountable for widespread and systematic ill treatment and torture of Palestinian child detainees.

Why have I spent 5 years of my retirement educating people about what is happening in Palestine/Israel?

My call began in 2000 when BC Conference sent out a link to the Holy Land Today blog describing the violence of the second intifada. I read Mitri Raheb’s book, “Bethlehem Besieged”. He describes Israeli tanks invading Bethlehem in April 2002. A tank fires right outside his home. While his family cowers news comes of the deaths of 2 people in a neighbouring home.

In 2010 in Hebron I met a boy of 9 or so who had just been arrested by Israeli soldiers for walking on a Jewish only road. He was lucky that he had been let go yet he was clearly frightened. Is this 16 year old still alive and safe?

On the other hand, there is Sam, an American Palestinian, who returned to Ramallah to grow the economy through his business skills. Out of his wallet he pulls card after card, showing the arbitrary regulations that increasingly restrict his right to travel the “theoretical 20 minute journey” to Jerusalem to pursue his consulting business.

In Nazareth we met the mayor. When asked what we could do he replied, “tell our stories”.

Coming home the first sermon I heard was based on “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” And so I am committed to the work of UNJPPI and I educate wherever I can.

– Reverend Marianna Harris leads the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine/Israel (UNJPPI)