On April 6, some members of Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ) attended a conference of the Friends of Sabeel at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, entitled, “Justice and Only Justice.” An international peace movement, the Sabeel organization was founded in 1989 by Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem as a grassroots effort to seek a just peace in the Holy Land in accordance with international law and UN resolutions. Its founder, Rev. Naim Ateek, in his book A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, writes that the Sabeel movement was “founded in the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of love and nonviolence.”
Sabeel International works in over eleven countries cultivating the support of churches and institutions through co-sponsored educational conferences, pilgrimages and international gatherings in the Holy Land. It supports the call of the “Kairos Palestine” document to end Palestinian suffering. It supports the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, as well as other nonviolent projects that promote Israeli compliance with international law. It supports equal rights and access to such resources as land and water for all inhabitants of the region, based on principles of social, economic, and political justice. It supports an end to U.S. government policies that uphold and perpetuate the Israeli occupation and supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with international law and human rights.
One of the most riveting talks of the Sabeel conference was that of Jewish American author and activist, Dr. Mark Braverman. In his clarion call to all Christians, Jews, and people of faith and conscience to take action, he showed that the roots of the Kairos Document are in the Gospel, and that there is a clear parallel between the document’s call to action and that of the Good News spread by the disciples of Jesus, despite fierce oppression. Braverman asserted that both Christians and Jews around the world bear responsibility for their failure to act in face of ongoing injustices done to the Palestinians. He placed the onus on Christians to act in accordance with the Gospels and emulate the courage of first century Christians whose faith we inherited.
It is evident that the new bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, thinks along these same lines. On March 30, he urged members of all religions and those belonging to no church to unite to defend justice and peace and not allow one’s value to be reduced to "what he produces and what he consumes." He said members of all religions and even non-believers need to recognize their joint responsibility "to our world, to all of creation, which we have to love and protect. We must do much for the good of the poorest, the weak, and those who are suffering, to favor justice, promote reconciliation and build peace.”
On April 15, Pope Francis was paid an official visit by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, along with his delegation of bishops and priests from the Holy Land. During the visit, the focus of their conversation was the current struggle of the Christians of the Middle East and the growing wave of emigration. Noting the pope’s keen interest in their plight, Patriarch Twal says that his awareness is understandable, since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, home to many Catholics of Middle Eastern origin.
Members of EOHSJ should share the Holy Father’s concern for justice. On the weekend before Easter, during President Obama’s trip to the Holy Land, the Jerusalem newspaper, Al Quds published a letter to the U.S. president from Dr.Bernard Sabella. A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Sabella is a friend of EOHSJ and in 2007 was a guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Western Lieutenancy in Tucson. His letter includes these words: “Compassion is not a question of financial aid…for which we are thankful - but of working to have justice and fairness applied. Some of our parents passed away with tears in their eyes as the United States and Europe, who champion human rights, have not delivered on the basic rights of our people…Our parents taught us that dignity is imperative to live as proud and free people. We will continue to live with dignity irrespective of the impediments placed on us by the Israeli occupation and its control and restrictive methods and measures…The unresolved problem of our refugee parents lives on and we carry their feeling of unfairness and injustice within us. Is it too much to expect from a person of your stature and from your nation, instilled with the principles of justice and fairness, to understand our pain and that of our parents?”
A good question for all members of EOHSJ to ponder…
(Compiled by Lady Da’ad Makhlouf, LHS; Rev. Sir Richard Van De Water, KHS; and Estee Chandler, JVP)