From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: Churches sponsoring advocacy days on US policies in Africa and the Middle East
Fri, 24 Jan 2003 18:34:07 -0500
January 24, 2003
Episcopalians: Churches sponsoring advocacy days on US policies
in Africa and the Middle East
by James Solheim
(ENS) Church-related advocates working for just US policies in
Africa and the Middle East are sponsoring an ecumenical
gathering in Washington, DC, February 23-26, to pressure
Congress and the Bush administration to develop more just and
peaceful policies in those critical regions of the world.
On Sunday night, before the official program begins,
participants can view the US premiere of a video, "Judgement
Day," that compares the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict
with the previous struggle for liberation and democracy in South
Africa. According to the Cinema Guild, its USA distributor, the
video "makes a universal statement about war and the effects of
war on young people on both sides of the conflicts," through the
experiences of two young South Africans who discuss how they
were brutalized in the South African conflict and who explain
their current search for healing.
After tracing the 1967 occupation by Israel of the Palestinian
territories and examining the viewpoint of the Israeli settler
communities, the video examines the consequences and
perspectives of concerned Israeli citizens and Palestinians
affected by the current situation of "closure" and "collective
punishment." According to the distributor, the video
"interweaves these two stories, providing reference points in
South Africa's history of apartheid that resonate with the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict today."
Enormous challenges and crises
The program will run on parallel tracks with a wide range of
speakers, issue briefings, and advocacy training workshops. "At
a time when Africa faces enormous challenges and crises, many
rooted in decisions made by powerful outside forces and
institutions, U.S. priorities toward the continent are glaringly
inadequate," said the Rev. Leon Spencer, director of the
Washington Office on Africa. The Africa track will focus on
issues such as HIV/AIDS, debt, African conflicts--and related
issues such as landmines and child soldiers, and economic
"The Middle East remains an area of concern for the U.S.
Christian community as the ongoing tragedy of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation with Iraq
continue to spiral out of control," according to the Rev. Mark
Brown of the Lutheran Office on Government Affairs.
Presentations will focus on U.S. policies and the role of the
religious community in shaping that policy for the common good.
"There will be opportunities to speak with your senators and
representatives in Congress or their key foreign policy staff on
Africa and the Middle East," according to Tom Hart, director of
the Episcopal Church's Washington Office for Governmental
Relations. "There will also be common times for fellowship and
networking, a keynote address and reception, and a special
ecumenical service of worship for participants and the public."
Convinced that the advocacy approaches share similarities across
several regions, several of the key church-related agencies
joined to plan the event--including the Washington Office on
Africa, the Africa Faith and Justice Network, the Stand with
Africa Campaign, Churches for Middle East Peace, Church World
Service, and Peaceful Ends through Peaceful Means, an ecumenical
coalition of churches working for peace in Palestine and Israel.
The meetings will use two prominent local churches, National
City Christian Church and Luther Place Memorial Church, as well
as the United Methodist Building near the Capitol which is used
by many churches for their government relations offices.
A wide range of issues
The morning plenaries on February 24 will feature a speech by
Rogate Mshana of the World Council of Churches on justice issues
facing Africa and one on a vision for Middle East peace by the
Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church and
director of the International Centre in Bethlehem. The afternoon
will be dedicated to a series of policy workshops.
The Africa track workshops will deal with funding and access to
treatment for AIDS; debt, "an unfinished agenda"; the continuing
civil conflict in the Sudan; and economic justice--African
development versus the US trade agenda.
The Middle East workshops will deal with interfaith relations;
an update on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; the facts
and politics of the Israeli settlements; religious and social
dimensions of Jerusalem; evangelical Christians and the
Christian Right; an update on Iraq; and peacemaking programs in
congregations and communities. The day will end with a worship
service for peace. The Rev. John McCullough, executive director
of Church World Service, will preach and music will be provided
by the Saint Camillus Multicultural Choir and the National City
Messages for Congress
Tuesday's plenary will feature an address by Rep. Maxine Waters
of California on alternative visions for US policy in Africa,
joined by Imani Countess of the American Friends Service
Committee. In the afternoon, both Africa and Middle East tracks
will discuss the status of issues before Congress and the Bush
administration and preparing participants for advocacy visits on
On Wednesday participants will fan out across Capitol Hill to
bring the churches' message on justice and peace to both the
House and Senate. Participants will make use of these
congressional contacts after they return home, activating and
resourcing their church advocacy networks to pressure
policymakers on these key Middle East and Africa issues. To
support those efforts, the African track is offering advocacy
training workshops, grassroots organizing, and one on "engaging
For information on the program, housing and registration check
the Web site at www.loga.org/advocacy2003.htm or contact Anna
Rhee at the Churches for Middle East Peace office,
--James Solheim is director of Episcopal News Service.
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