Our March Newsletter

shamrockHere are the opening words from our Project Peace Newsletter for March.  Please click on the link at the end to see the full newsletter.

Many Moments of Learning
It’s not quite here, but perhaps March has never been anticipated so keenly during my lifetime. This frigid February has brought about new feelings for me. I know I’m not the only person in this corner. The work of Project Peace has gone on—no “frozen” muscles here! January had emphasis on Guantanamo, and February felt like a training month for me. The children’s nonviolence skills classes went on whenever there were classes at Tiffin Middle School and Calvert, and I continued to teach about 6 classes of yoga each week as a great way to promote health and inner peace. Hopefully these classes have helped.

In addition, however, I experienced a great conversation with Ken Butigan from the national office of Campaign Nonviolence whose optimism and creative mind excited me to keep dreaming up new ways to promote nonviolence skills through the students. The work of Project Peace is never completed. I know this in a more profound way these days.

Then there was the transformation training for 35 of us Sisters here at St. Francis. This training centered on working through conflicts without judgment. All of us are urged to speak to each person as though for the first time and to always go to that person wanting to be influenced .
Exercising these two skills alone will wipe away biases and prejudgments before the actual encounter and will give great honor to the other person in conversation—even to the “enemy.”
I left these days of training so very GRATEFUL.  –Sr. Paulette

Download Newsletter March 2015

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Delegation to the West Bank and Israel, 2015

Travel photo 1 We invite you to join us this fall! From Sept. 14-24 Project Peace of the Sisters of St. Francis, Tiffin, Ohio will lead their annual delegation to the West Bank and Israel to promote understanding, community, and friendship. Delegation Highlights

  • Meet with leaders of the nonviolent resistance at Bi’lin
  • Learn about the Israeli Occupation from both sides of the Wall
  • Meet with the Rabbis for Peace and a representative from the Knesset
  • Stay at the Tent of Nations, Bethlehem, to witness settlements
  • Meet with leaders from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths
  • Work with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron
  • Possibility of visit to Gaza
  • Visit the Baka Valley to understand the importance of water to the region

Travel photo 2Price of the delegation is $2500-$2800 and includes flight from Ohio, accommodations and meals, and transportation on the ground. If you are interested or have questions, please contact Sister Paulette Schroeder at 419-447-0435 ext. 136 or pauletteosf@hotmail.com Download flyer: West Bank Flyer 2015 2

Bishops Call for Human Dignity as Basis of Peace…in the Holy Land, Jan. 2015

We came to pray with and support the Christian community and to promote peace and human dignity in this divided land.We witnessed the tragic consequences of the failure of both local and international politicians to advance peace. Human dignity is given by God and is absolute. The ongoing conflict assaults the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis, but in a particular way our commitment to the poor calls us to lift up the suffering people in Gaza. A year ago, we called Gaza “a man-made disaster, a shocking scandal, an injustice that cries out to the human community for a resolution.” In the wake of the terrible destruction caused by last year’s war, our presence reminded the small Christian community that they are not forgotten. Many tens of thousands of families in Gaza lack adequate shelter. In the latest freezing weather, at least two infants died of exposure. The continuing blockade dramatically impedes rebuildingand contributes to desperation that undermines Israelis’ legitimate hope for security. It also creates intolerable levels of unemployment and pushes ordinary people into deeper poverty. Despite the devastation, the appalling scenes of destruction we saw, and the fears of another war we heard, hope is alive in Gaza. We saw families resolutely rebuilding their lives. We witnessed a small Christian community that has enormous faith. We admired the tenacity of many volunteers. We visited Holy Family School where Muslims and Christians study and play together in harmony. We met with the Holy Rosary Sisters, who true to their co-foundress Marie-Alphonsine, to be canonized a saint this year by Pope Francis, exercise a prophetic ministry of education. We celebrated Mass with the Sisters of the Bethlehem Carmel. Their foundress Mariam Baouardy, another Palestinian whose life testifies to the holiness that still emanates from this Land, also will be canonized. Political leaders must defend the human dignity of the people in Gaza. One student poignantly told us that he received an email during the war asking if he needed food or clothing or shelter. Without bitterness, he replied that what he needed was dignity. People of good will on both sides of the conflict want the same thing, a dignified life worthy of the human person. In the coming months we will continue to oppose the building of the proposed wall in the Cremisan Valley. It would result in the loss of the lands and livelihoods of many Christian families. This situation is tragically a microcosm of the reality of the land issue. We will also continue to oppose expansion of the settlement program, illegal under international law, which we witnessed acutely in Hebron. Its impact on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and the confiscation of lands is simply unjust. After the failed negotiations and ensuing violence of 2014, we urge public officials to be creative, to take new approaches, to build bridges, not walls. We must humanize the conflict by fostering more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. Peace will only come when all parties respect the fact that the Holy Land is sacred to three faiths and home to two peoples. Aware that this year we walk in the footsteps of Pope Francis, we take to heart his recent statement to the Diplomatic Corps: “My thoughts turn above all to the Middle East, beginning with the beloved land of Jesus which I had the joy of visiting last May, and for whose peace we constantly pray. We did this with extraordinary intensity, together with the then President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, inspired by a confident hope that negotiations between the two parties will once more resume, for the sake of ending violence and reaching a solution which can enable Palestinians and Israelis alike to live at last in peace within clearly established and internationally recognized borders, thus implementing the ‘two state solution’.” The path to peace demands respect for the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. Our prayer nurtures the hope that makes peace possible. We call on all Christians to pray for the Jews, Christians and Muslims of this Land we call Holy. Bishop Stephen Ackermann, Germany Archbishop Stephen Brislin, South Africa Bishop Raymond Browne, Ireland Bishop Peter Bürcher, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden Bishop Oscar Cantú, United States of America Bishop Christopher Chessun, Church of England Bishop Michel Dubost, France Archbishop Ricardo Fontana, Italy Bishop Lionel Gendron, Canada Bishop Felix Gmur, Switzerland Archbishop Patrick Kelly, England and Wales Bishop William Kenney, England and Wales, COMECE Bishop Declan Lang, England and Wales Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Ireland Bishop Thomas Maria Renz, Germany Archbishop Joan Enric Vives, Spain

New York coalition makes noise to politicize free Israel trip

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By Alex Kane on Mondoweiss.net

Every few years, New York politicians jet off to Israel on the dime of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to tour the region–including West Bank settlements–and bolster New York-Israel ties. The trips garner attention in the local press, but there is usually no visible opposition.

On February 15, a group of New York City Council members, including members of the Progressive Caucus, will go on what has become a ritual trip. But what has changed this year is that activists are trying to make the free tour of Israel an issue.

A vocal coalition has arisen to call on New York City Council members to spurn the free trip organized by the JCRC, an influential communal organization with close ties to government officials.

40 groups ranging from Jewish Voice for Peace to Al-Awda NY to the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence have held press conferences on the steps of City Hall and sent letters to legislators to denounce the trip in an effort to generate public pressure.

The activists say it is unseemly to tour Israel following the summer attack on the Gaza Strip, and have pointed out the history of partnership between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Israeli security forces at a time of national ferment against police brutality, protest sparked in part by the death of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a New York cop. A separate letter from the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition urges City Council members to stay away from the trip because of the JCRC’s endorsement of anti-Muslim practices, like the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities.

The campaign is trying to politicize support for Israel–a heavy lift in New York (and the U.S.), but one that is gaining traction, particularly among Democrats and young people. 

“We think that it is inappropriate for people elected in New York City to act–for whatever level of government–to act as if part of their job is to defend Israel, when in fact there are many points of view in New York City on the Israeli occupation,” said Leslie Cagan, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which is part of the coalition. 

None of the five City Council members I contacted for an interview agreed to one. The members going on the trip are: Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal, Darlene Mealy, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and James Van Bramer

The coalition of groups has, at the very least, shone a light on the trip.

But it is unlikely they will have much of an impact on the City Council members who plan to go on the trip–including the progressive members that are a particular target of the demonstrators. Some activists involved in the campaign have met with a small number of City Council members to talk about the trip. But no legislator has heeded the call to not go.

The City Council members who accepted the trip likely see no upside in being the first politician to spurn a trip to Israel. The movers and shakers in New York are fulsomely pro-Israel, a stance reinforced by an equally pro-Israel press. Donations from pro-Israel donors to local campaigns are also commonplace.

And some coalition members say that an action held on January 22nd did not help in furthering their goals. Outside City Hall that day, demonstrators held forth on why legislators should not go on the trip. Inside, protesters from the Direct Action Front for Palestine disrupted legislative proceedings. Demonstrators shouted “Palestinian lives matter, ”dropped a banner and yelled at the legislators for going on the trip. The disruption came as the City Council was voting to commemorate the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, though the protesters say they had no idea that was happening at the moment. Watch a video of the disruption here:

The reaction among City Council members was swift. City Council Democrat David Greenfield garnered the most attention for an impassioned speech on the floor denouncing the protesters as “anti-Semitic.” 

“I have to tell you, I’m still shaken to my core. I am upset. I am angry,” he said, adding later on that he was “pleased that we finally see what this is all about: good old fashion Anti-Semitism.”

Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Speaker of the City Council and the leader of the Israel trip, also blasted the disruption in a statement sent out later that day. “At a time when the Council was voting on a resolution commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, this outburst was offensive, outrageous and counter to the values of the City Council,” the statement read.

The activists part of the coalition offered differing statements in the aftermath of the City Council disruption, opening a window into tensions within the coalition. Jewish Voice for Peace’s New York chapter was contrite, saying in a statement that the timing of the disruption was “completely unintentional. JVP-NY regrets disrupting this vote, as we respect without qualification the solemnity of the Holocaust and honor all victims of genocide.” Cagan told me that the action “did give the David Greenfields of the world an opportunity to blast us” and that “the timing was unfortunate.”

But the recently formed Direct Action Front for Palestine said in a statement that while the disruption’s “timing was purely coincidental,” the action honors “the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and their memory by reminding politicians that when we say ‘Never Again,’ it means ‘Never Again for Anyone.’”

Amin Husain, a member of the Direct Action Front, told me that the criticism of the disruption from fellow activists like Cagan was “nonsense” because they would have been called anti-Semitic anyway. Still, Husain said he understood that JVP’s and the Direct Action Front’s tactics may differ.

Husain said he planned to continue organizing against the trip.

“We need to keep up the pressure and be as persistent as the occupation is–and hold politicians accountable,” he said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to continue and make them pay a price. We think the mood is such that it

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/02/new-york-coalition-makes-noise-to-politicize-free-israel-trip?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=3fc751e2ef-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-3fc751e2ef-398481365#sthash.8ijOn4PT.dpuf