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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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

Iraq War Veteran Paul Chappell to speak in Tiffin

Join us as we hear veteran Paul Chappell on the topic, Why Peace is Possible: Exploring the Anatomy of Violence and War.  Paul  has reflected on  his experience as an army captain in the Iraq War to develop ideas about waging peace in his work at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.  He will speak at St. Francis Convent on Monday, Oct. 6, 7:00 pm.  He will also appear earlier in the day at Tiffin University Chisolm Hall at 11:00 am and the following day at Heidelberg University Campus Center at 7:00 pm.  All events are free and open to the public.  Learn more about Paul at www.paulkchappell.com.

Paul Chappell poster

Public Call to Fasting for Gaza

” …in prayer I have peacefully come to hear what I believe is a public call to Fasting, to allow God’s unconditional love for each human being—you, me, Palestinian, Israeli—to come through more purely, more intensely for all who suffer this horror in Gaza.”  –Sr. Paulette

A letter from Sr. Paulette

Dear friends,

The situation is now desperate in Gaza. In so many ways we have pleaded with Congress and  the President to have the guts to speak the truth about Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, about the “truth on the ground.”  No matter how many marches, demonstrations, risks for arrests people have taken throughout the world in huge numbers to beg for human compassion and justice toward the Palestinians, the people who are supposed to represent us to the world have failed in courage, in human rights, in common sense.

Therefore, in prayer I have peacefully come to hear what I believe is a public call to Fasting, to allow God’s unconditional love for each human being—you, me, Palestinian, Israeli—to come through more purely, more intensely for all who suffer this horror in Gaza.  The greater love and energy of God must empty me out, all of us who choose to fast, to be better, stronger, larger receptacles for God’s grace and love to pass to the Palestinians and to all involved in the peace negotiations.

This first week of liquid-only-fasting (or any form of fasting meaningful to you) is not meant to be a political statement.  This week of fasting is not begging any admiration or pity from anyone.  It is begging for truth and justice to drive our country’s relationships with Israel and Palestine.

Please join me if possible for any part of this liquid-only-fast or for the whole fast beginning Sunday July 27 1:00pm. until Sunday August 3 1:00pm.  If anyone wants support or more conversation about this effort please call sr. Paulette 419.447.0435 ext. 136.

There will be a prayer hour on Tuesday 7:00 pm. in St. Francis Chapel for justice and peace and end to all violence in Gaza.  Please join us for any/all of the hour.  Most of the hour will be in silent prayer.

If you will be joining in on this fast on any level, please respond (pauletteosf@hotmail.com), and I will try to write once or twice to you during this time with pertinent material or articles on the situation.  Thank you.

Sr. Paulette Schroeder osf/Tiffin

STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on the violence in the Middle East

This statement comes from Pax Christi USA, the parent organization of Tiffin Area Pax Christi, one of Project Peace’s supporters and partners.

PAX CHRISTI USA

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.”

~Pope Francis, June 8, 2014

As the number of dead and wounded continues to rise in Gaza, Pax Christi USA calls for an immediate cease-fire by all parties in order to open the possibility for negotiations to end the senseless violence and address the underlying causes which fuel the decades-long tragedy in the Middle East.

Pax Christi USA mourns the loss of life on both sides of the conflict. We stand with all those who have been victimized by violence. Our hearts are broken over…

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Mazin Qawasmeh Speaks of Gaza

Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery

Ali al-Halabi just wanted to focus on learning French. He graduated high school this fall, and dreams of one day seeing the Eifel Tower for himself, but on his first day of French lessons the bombing started. Ali, 17, is from Al-Zahraa in the Gaza Strip, and for the past week he hasn’t been able to leave his home, let alone attend French lessons. Leaving the besieged area alive feels more and more unlikely as each bomb is dropped.

For young people in Gaza, whom make up over 50 percent of the population, this latest military assault on the Gaza Strip is the third in their recent memories—but that does not make it any easier. 

Operation Protective Edge has already killed over 170 people in seven days, and the Israeli bombings remain relentless across the strip. Mondoweiss spoke to three young Gazans about their new daily reality.

Lara Abu Ramadan

Lara Abu Ramadan, 22, lives in the center of Gaza city. The last few days have been filled with a feeling of complete helplessness and terror, as she hopes an Israeli airstrike will avoid the houses of her family and friends.

“We don’t sleep well, we wake up suddenly because of huge bombings here and around the city, we see the smoke of bombings everywhere,” Lara told Mondoweiss. “We are scared not only because of the sounds but also because we’re afraid to lose our beloved ones from family and friends. Yesterday night Israeli warplanes bombed heavily in our area and it was so close and we were so close to death. We were laying on the ground and the sky was lightened as if we were in the middle of the day.”

Staying inside in the hope of staying safe has become routine for Gazans now. Dalia Zuhair Lababidi, 21, is also from Gaza City. Her room has become her safe place during the latest Israeli military aggression, although she is well aware that civilian houses are also under threat from Israeli air strikes, and that in reality her room isn’t so safe at all. 

“I’ve been sitting in my room since the beginning of the aggression,” Dalia said. “People here can hardly go to mosque during this holy month because they’re being targeted too. Everywhere you can expect a bomb so I prefer to stay at home hoping to not get harmed. I miss the smell of the streets.”

Ali al-Halabi with a younger relative.

Ali also admits he is terrified of what could happen, aware that civilian areas such as houses and mosques have been targeted by Israel since the beginning of the military campaign.

“They are bombing civilian houses, farmlands, and people when they are together, mosques when people are praying in them, any civilian place. I am scared. It’s possible for a bomb to happen any time. I can’t sleep knowing I am might not stay alive for tomorrow.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with other Israeli officials have defended the practice of targeting civilian homes due to Hamas’ alleged practice of launching its homemade rockets from civilian areas. According to the United Nation’s OCHA, 77 percent of all deaths have been civilian. 

The belief that anyone could be killed at any point is a real one for Lara, Dalia and Ali, having lived through Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Their flirtation with death and destruction is well established. All three believe Israel is targeting all Palestinians in Gaza and punishing them, rather than targeting certain individuals.

“They bombed an NGO institute for the disabled and two women were killed, I don’t see how they can be seen [by Israel] as terrorists when they can’t move,” Lara said. “And 36 children were killed by bombing their houses and that doesn’t make sense. They bomb whatever they want, we’re like toys for them.”

Ali also believes Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza is due to ulterior political manoeuvrings, rather than protecting Israeli citizens. Like many Palestinians, Ali told Mondoweiss that he thinks Gaza is being bombed in order to but a wedge in the recently formed unity government between Hamas and Fatah. 

“They are hurting us because there was a plan that the West Bank and Gaza would combine again in a unity government.” Ali explained, “I guess Israel didn’t like this so they are bombing Gaza and trying to say that Gaza started this war, to make the world believe that we don’t want peace, but in fact we want it but Israel doesn’t.”

The fervour for war in political and social circles in Israel has not gone unnoticed in Gaza. Especially in the online sphere, where there have been a spate of Facebook pages set up advocating the death of Palestinians, and thousands of pictures and statuses calling for similar on individual pages—including the encouragement of a genocide of Palestinians on a Facebook status of an official in the Jewish Home party, part of the ruling coalition in the Knesset, which received 5000 ‘likes’.

“I saw many posts from Israeli people about wanting Israel to “Kill Arabs” who are living in Gaza,” Lara told Mondoweiss. “I think their government and military have the same principles. They see Gaza as a terrorist land. They don’t differentiate between civilians and militants. I feel sorry for saying this because I’ve never thought about Israeli civilians the way they think about us. I see that we’re all humans. But they seem to hate us.”

With Israel gearing up for a possible ground invasion, having called up 40,000 reservists, Ali fears that in the coming days things will only become more dangerous.

“I think it will get worse. It will be more mass destruction and massacres,” Ali said. “Maybe the soldiers will come in, I’m not sure but that would be so bloody and the war would get worse.”

These young Gazans are all part of the Internet generation. Like most young people their age, they follow what the world is saying about their country, they are aware of the news around the world, and they know whether people care about the images coming out of Gaza. Like any millennial would in their situation, Ali, Dalia and Lara watch from Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as people gather together around the globe to protest against the Israeli assault on Gaza, but as the death toll continues to rise, the frustration with the outside world, continues to build.

“As long as the whole world keeps watching and condemning without acting, nothing will be changed,” Dalia said. “It’s getting worse. Many people from different countries are standing with us and praying for Gaza. But I’m fed up with people and governments who watch and condemn what’s going on here without acting. Shame on everyone who has the power to change something and is still sitting silent, and who condemn what’s going on here without acting. Shame on everyone who has the power to change something and is still sitting silent. So I call on everyone, wherever you are in the world, it is time to mobilize for Gaza. Please do what your governments don’t do, please act, please boycott Israel.”

5 Steps to Help Stop the Killing in Iraq

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When we say no to military intervention in Iraq, it’s good to be able to say yes to some alternative steps.  Our Quaker friends at FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) offer 5 Steps to Help Stop the Killing in Iraq.   FCNL excels at promoting positive action for peace.  Read the full article for explanations of the following steps.

1. Reject more U.S. military intervention, which would increase violence.

2. Publicly support a comprehensive political settlement between the key parties to the conflict, inside and outside of Iraq.

3. Halt unconditional military aid to Iraq.

4. Convene a conference to establish a comprehensive arms embargo to Iraq and Syria.

5. Increase and better allocate humanitarian funds to address humanitarian crisis.

You can express your opinion to President Obama by calling the White House hotline at 202-456-1111 (business hours) or email at www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Click here to find your members of Congress and let them know where you stand.

 

Drone warfare

ImageImage Slowly I am learning about the awful presence of drone warfare in our world.  The fortunate thing is that many peace groups are rising up in horror about this latest phenomenon to make war more acceptable to the ordinary citizen. Recently, Global Research News reported that only the U.S., UK and France voted against the UNHCR (U.N. agency helping refugees in urgent need) resolution to probe the legality of drone strikes.

Likewise, research drones will now begin to fly over North Dakota the week of May 5. Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, will also begin flight testing soon after.  Four other sites also exist to test:  Nevada, Texas A&M University’s Corpus Christi campus, Virginia Tech University, and the University of Alaska.  Each site will focus on different aspects of drone development in preparation for more widespread usage of drones.  This development needs citizen input.