On 21st May, around 50 young adults gathered at All Hallows on the Wall Church in London for an evening with Mark Braverman and the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, two figures at the forefront of the movement for justice and peace in Israel-Palestine.
Young adults already familiar with the effects of the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories were joined by those hearing an account for the very first time. Both speakers brought the situation alive by sharing their life experiences of the conflict from childhood to this point.
‘My story is Naim’s story’ said Mark Braverman, ‘it is the story of what is being done by my people in my name to another people, and it is a story of dispossession and ethnic cleansing’. He spoke about the need for Christians to not be afraid of speaking out against Israeli injustices against Palestinians, as well as the fact that movements for justice have almost always had strong origins in the church.
Naim reminded the audience that Christianity is not a Western phenomenon and some of the earliest Christians were Palestinians. He spoke about the daily reality of life for Palestinians under occupation, the restrictions on travel, house demolitions and a story of a young man and his new wife who could not live together due to Israeli ID policies. He explained the basis of Palestinian liberation theology was founded in reading the gospels and following Jesus’ example of peaceful resistance whilst living under an occupying force. He invited all present to come and visit Jerusalem to see for themselves what he and Mark had been talking about, and would give a free copy of his book to whoever accepted this offer!
Both speakers were keen to look towards the future, and towards actions and solutions that will bring about an end to the occupation and lasting peace. In response to the question ‘What can we do here in the UK?’ Mark identified the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and Naim called upon the church in the UK to be braver in speaking out against what is one of the most long-lasting injustices of our time.
For those of us already active in the campaign to end the occupation of Palestine, it was an inspiring reminder of the urgency of the situation. For others hearing about the occupation for the very first time, it challenged and raised awareness of what is going on, many attendees buying copies of Mark’s book, Fatal Embrace, and signing up for future information about Friends of Sabeel’s work.