On Saturday 16 July, Sabeel met with the interim World Council of Churches general secretary in Beit Sahour. During the meeting with Reverend Professor Dr. Ioan Sauca, we thanked him for his service. We spoke about the challenges Palestinians face and stressed how important it is for Palestine to remain on the agenda of the WCC. The WCC played an important role in exposing and fighting the apartheid regime in South Africa. But in the case of Palestine, it has played less of a role.
Dr. Sauca, a priest of the Orthodox Church in Romania, has served as Professor of Missiology and Ecumenical Theology at Bossey since 1998 and as its director since 2001. He has served as a WCC deputy general secretary since 2014. WCC is a fellowship of 352 churches from more than 120 countries, representing over 580 million Christians worldwide.
On Saturday 16 July, Friends of Sabeel Australia held a virtual webinar with Nora Arsenian-Carmi. Nora spoke about her work as a long-time advocate and activist for the Palestinian-Armenian Christian community in the Holy Land. She was born in Jerusalem, a few months before the founding of Israel in 1948. She has been a permanent resident of East Jerusalem since 1967, when the occupation of the city began. Her family also survived the Armenian genocide in 1915. Nora has been a community builder in many religious and civil society organizations and groups. For more than 37 years, she worked with Sabeel, the YWCA, and Kairos Palestine. She remains closely connected with the World Council of Churches assemblies and events, and participates in several global church networks .
Sabeel joined several Christian organizations and community leaders in Jerusalem in writing a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr. The organizations and leaders asked the U.S. to put pressure on Israel to improve the daily lives of our Palestinian people and our local Palestinian Christian community throughout Palestine/Israel. The letter specifically asked for the Biden administration to address the issue of family reunification and Israeli laws restricting this basic right. The coalition also noted that the Palestinian Christian community “continues to dwindle and shrink amidst extremist Israeli policies in the Holy Land. All efforts must be applied to maintain indigenous Christian presence and identity in the city of Jerusalem.”
On Wednesday 13 July, Sabeel held a special meeting to honor Rosemary Radford Ruether, feminist theologian and friend of Palestinian liberation theology. Reverend Naim Ateek, Marc Ellis, Nora Carmi, Kathy Bergen, and others from the Sabeel family spoke about the past, present, and future of liberation theology in the context of Palestine/Israel. They spoke about this in relation to the life and work of Rosemary. On top of being one of the most important theologians of recent memory, Rosemary was a dear friend and deeply important to Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) and the global Sabeel movement as a whole.
On Monday 11 July, Sabeel Director Omar Haramy participated in a webinar organized by Sabeel and several partner organizations. The webinar, ‘Where is Palestine? Listening to voices from Israel and Palestine and responding to ‘Cry for Hope’’, was held in partnership with B’Tselem, Christian Aid, Tent of Nations, and Sabeel-Kairos UK. Omar spoke about the current situation for Palestinian Christians living in Palestine. Launched in July 2020, Cry for Hope is a global coalition of Christians issuing a call to churches, ecumenical institutions, and Christians around the world to stand with Palestinians in our struggle for liberation.
On Saturday 9 July, Sabeel Nazareth participated in a one-day symposium at the Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa. The symposium, called ‘Crises Affecting Christian Families: Are There Solutions?’, focused on the challenges that Palestinian Christian families experience inside Israel. The speakers included: Father Aktham Hijazin, a priest with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi, a professor of anthropology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Rana Mansour Odeh, a psychotherapist. They discussed the serious social and economic challenges Palestinian Christian families are facing. During the symposium, the participants agreed that schools are the biggest engine of educating children and young people, and more efforts should be made in strengthening schools.
On Wednesday 29 June, Sabeel participated in a workshop held by Bread for the World about monitoring and evaluation, planning, and assessment. Bread for the World invited all of their partner organizations to join the workshop and share their experiences and best practices. The workshop took place in Ramallah.
On Sunday 26 June, Friends of Sabeel France held a virtual meeting with the French Development Agency, Agence Française de Développement (AFD). Hani Kort gave a presentation about AFD’s work in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The agency focuses on water and other development projects. AFD funds, supports, and accelerates the transtitions to a fairer and more sustainable world. Focusing on climate, biodiversity, peace, education, urban development, health, and governance, AFD carries out projects around the world.
Since last year, Sabeel has held meetings once every two months in French for our French speakers in Palestine. Many Palestinians speak languages in addition to Arabic and English. This gives us the opportunity to connect in many ways with our local community and our partners. The next meeting will be held on Sunday 18 September about the Palestine Museum of Natural History.
On Tuesday 21st of June, a group from the St. Olaf College Alumni visited Sabeel. They came to hear a Palestinian Christian voice and to learn about how Sabeel is contributing to a just peace. Rev. Naim Ateek and Sabeel’s Director Omar Haramy spoke to the group, emphasizing Sabeel’s core message of justice, equality, and inclusivity. They stressed the point that any just peace should be based on international law and UN resolutions.
On Tuesday 21 June, Sabeel held its weekly Kumi Now meeting about Palestinian refugees and the right of return. Sandra Khoury, President of the Sabeel Board, shared the story of her family and how they became refugees from Jerusalem in 1948. This Kumi Now was organized in commemoration of Refugee Week, which is held during the week of World Refugee Day, June 20.
Refugee Week is a festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in 1998 and held every year around World Refugee Day on 20 June, Refugee Week is also a growing global movement.
According to the UN, there were about 750,000 Palestine refugees in 1950. Now, there are approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in other parts of the world. The Palestinian people are still fighting for recognition, for citizenship and social services in the places where they currently live, and for the right of return to the homes and land their families were forced to leave in 1948 and 1967 by the Israeli military and, before the state of Israel was founded, by Zionist militias.