Raise Hell for Justice in Palestine

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“Are you willing to raise hell for justice?” This was the challenge that Palestinian peace activist, Father Elias Chacour, issued our group of six on the Holy Land Learning Tour with Resonate Global Mission a few weeks ago. Father Chacour is the author of Blood Brothers, an autobiographical account of the 1948 Nakba (or "Day of the catastrophe") when Israel declared statehood and drove approximately 750,000 Palestinians out of their homes in what is today the country of Israel. Father Chacour was one of those whose ancestral towns was forcefully taken over by Israeli militia.

Today, Father Chacour is 77 years old and semi-retired. In addition to advocating for peace between blood brothers, Israelis and Palestinians, Father Chacour founded the Mar Elias Education Institutions in Ibillin, Israel, that today enroll about 3,000 children, including Muslims and Christians.    

What I find compelling about Father Chacour’s teaching is his insistence on nonviolent resistance and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. As I listened to Father Chacour describe the oppression the Palestinian people experience under the Israeli occupation, I was convicted by his challenge. Am I willing to raise hell for justice in Palestine?

Honestly, and much to my chagrin, I don’t think so. I have a comfortable life. I read about and even cry about and pray for the injustices I see in the news every day. I occasionally sign a petition or add my name to a letter to my congressional leaders. I’ve even participated in a few demonstrations and rallies and donated money to groups advocating for peace and justice. But I have never raised hell for justice.

I thank God for people like Father Chacour and many others who have the courage to live out their convictions and raise hell for peace and justice in Palestine.

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Participant

It’s probably just me, but I don’t think of peaceful anything when I hear the call to “raise hell.” Could you provide some context – maybe some examples of what Fr. Chacour was organizing and participating in that would be considered “raising hell?” I’m curious how to inform my congregation about organizing to promote justice without wearing facemasks and breaking windows.

Community Builder

I write a lot of letters to radio hosts who continue to use  words " ........." in their programs. Especially words that offend Christians. My standards comments are that people doing that lack the vocabulary to express themselves properly. I have had some success.

Turning to the article itself and main character, it is worthwhile looking him up. Father Chacour is quite the man. If you dig deep enough he does have a tradition. """"The KD (Kairos Document) is a prime example of contextual theology and liberation theology - or "theology from below" - in South Africa, and has served as an example for attempted, similarly critical writing at decisive moments in several other countries and contexts (Latin America, Europe, Zimbabwe, India, Palestine, etc.).""

This is simply to point out a worldview that Father Chacour holds.  How he does things is an example to others.  

Thank you for taking the time to do some digging into Father Chacour, Harry.  He really is quite the man.  To have experienced what he went through as a child and the oppression he continues to experience every day as a Palestinian living in Israel and yet remain committed to nonviolence, peace, and reconciliation is an amazing testament to his faith in Christ. 

I’m with you, Michael.  I would not advocate for violence - wearing facemasks or breaking windows – or suicide bombs or home demolitions.  And I don’t believe Father Chacour would either.

What I think he means by raising hell is not settling for the easy way out or giving up in the face of adversity.  He told us a story about trying to get a building permit for a classroom at his school.  The Israeli government had buried the request in the bureaucratic process.  But that didn’t stop Father Chacour.  He flew to the house of the US Secretary of State to ask him to use his influence to get the permit.  The Secretary ended up writing to the Israeli government and a permit was eventually issued.  He didn’t give up or settle for the easy out.   

It’s easy for me to sign a petition or give money or even write a blog.  That doesn’t involve much personal cost or take much effort.  Though it’s a great place to start, and it would be wonderful if you could encourage your church to participate in those things for the cause of justice for the Palestinian people. 

But what’s the next step?  How can we actually make a difference and get things accomplished.  I think raising hell means upsetting the applecart or the status quo or those in power.  When you do that, forces may rally against you. 

In 2014 while on a trip to Israel-Palestine I participated in a Women in Black demonstration at a major intersection in Jerusalem.  Women in Black is an Israeli group advocating for Palestinian rights. The demonstration was approved by the Israeli government.  But just by holding signs advocating for justice for Palestinians, we raised a bit of hell.  Drivers in some of the cars that went by gave us the Israeli equivalent of the finger and swore at us (it was in Hebrew so I didn’t really know what they were saying…but it didn’t sound very welcoming.)  Some of them spit at us.  Some pedestrians were yelling at us and calling us terrorists and trying to stop us from demonstrating.  The police came to tell them that we had a legal right to be there and made them leave us alone.

A great example of raising hell through nonviolence in the U.S. is Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.  He advocated for justice through nonviolence.  But because he upset the status quo and went against those in power, a lot of hell was raised against him and his movement.

I’m glad you want inform your congregation about advocating for justice.  I encourage you to read Father Chacour’s book Blood Brothers as well as new Calvin Seminary professor Gary Burge’s books Whose Land? Whose Promise? or Jesus and the Land.  Also, check out the CRCNA Office of Social Justice for more information and ways to advocate - http://justice.crcna.org/middle-east-peace.  Download their biblical advocacy guide - http://justice.crcna.org/action-center.

 

You quoted Father Chacour, a well-known Eastern Christian priest,  who represents one view of a Mideastern problem.  May  I suggest that, for the sake of balance, please read an  article by the late Dr. Shaker al-Nabulsi, a Palestinian scholar, "sixty Years of Lost Opportunity." The Arabic text was published on Elaph, an  Arabic-language online journal.

(Rev) Bassam Michael Madany

http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/thomas/lost_opportunities.html

Thank you for pointing out another view of this very complex issue, Bassam.  This is helpful for those who want a fuller picture of the issues.  I think it is important that we make the effort to look at a variety of viewpoints.

I appreciate the author’s point about lost opportunities on the part of Palestinians (and greater Arab world) to accept the division of Palestine and to establish the country of Palestine alongside the country of Israel.  A question I would ask the author, however, is when does grace run out?  Do we say, sorry, you had your chance and you blew it?  Now you have to live with the way it is.  Or, do we look at the current situation and ask, is this situation just right now?  Is the treatment of Palestinians by Israel just?  I appreciate the historical situation and it is very important to look at how a situation developed and what has transpired throughout history.  But I’m not sure the historical situation, or missed opportunities, or mistakes made in the past should prevent us from practicing justice in the present.  I don’t think grace has run out for the Palestinians.

Participant

I appreciate your admission that this is a very complex issue, Bill.  My irritation with the issue as it relates to the CRCNA is that the CRCNA (via OSJ and otherwise) rather consistently takes a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli position.  Its not that I want the CRCNA to be pro-Israeli but rather to stay out of political side-taking and lobbying its members to take sides.

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