Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Post 65--Palestine/Israel: Dispelling the Myths

The following article comes from a Christian Reformed pastor, James Dekker.  It is a report on a short conference in which the two main speakers were a staff member of my favourite Canadian Christian monthly and a Jewish Rabbi.  Many readers, having their minds poisoned about Christians by mainline media, will expect an anti-Palestinian harangue. What else can one expect from a Christian monthly and a Jewish rabbi?  

Well, taste and see. I am no expert on the subject, but I'm all for reconciliation and peace, provided it is realistic.  There are those who will consider the report idealistic, not realistic. However, with the God of peace behind it, I see nothing unrealistic about it. I have experienced a national impasse like this in Nigeria many years ago. God just waded in and took the people responsible for the impasse on both sides out of it within the space of a week--and everything settled down. So, why not?


On February 3, Brock University hosted its tenth annual Social Justice Forum in the Marilyn Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts in St. Catharines, Ont. Once producing train seats, that repurposed factory now showcases the humanities. A conference dealing with environment, human and labour rights found the renovated venue a fitting place for the 12 workshops.
The session “Palestine/Israel: From Zionism to ‘Boycott, Divest and Sanction:’ Challenging the Rhetoric; Dispelling the Myths” drew some 50 attendees packed into a classroom for 30. Leading the popular conversation were Rabbi David Mivasair and Christian Courier’s own Ineke Medcalf.
Rabbi Mivasair’s credentials build on four years’ residency in Israel, where he both attended university and taught school. These days he travels there as an activist for Palestinian rights. Currently two adult children live in Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Ms. Medcalf goes to Israel/Palestine often. From October, 2014 to January, 2015 she participated in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel, a World Council of Churches’ effort. During a recent trip, Medcalf suffered in an unprovoked tear gas attack by IDF soldiers on the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem.
Framing the issue
After brief personal introductions, Medcalf began the 75-minute workshop reciting important basic facts of Israeli and Palestinian history since Israel’s 1948 founding. Though almost all attendees were clearly “members of the choir,” the brief slide presentation set the stage for personal anecdotes by the rabbi and her, ending with 25 minutes of questions and responses.
Starting in Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea, Medcalf showed images from lives of the 1.8 million Palestinians crammed in the tiny “strip” measuring 10 by 51 kilometres – among the planet’s densest populations. Gaza, a place with virtually no green spaces, receives electricity about four hours a day.
On the other side of Israel lies the West Bank. There high walls separate Palestinian families from relatives in villages sometimes located just across the wall. Yet travel to time-consuming security checkpoints in the walls adds hours to visits. Walls also split farmers from fields. When they are not permitted to cross, they return home without working. In Hebron and elsewhere, children must pass checkpoints to attend school.
Describing a Catch 22, Medcalf showed West Bank Palestinians whose homes have been destroyed time and again; they were built without permits. When people apply, though, they can’t get permits, often pitching tents, which too are frequently demolished. Ancient olive groves are regularly ripped out to expand settlements in the West Bank.  No matter the reasons, it is jarring to see pictures of Palestinians, officially called “Arabs” by the Israeli government, living in shacks or tents without power or water. Israeli settlers occupy solid masonry homes metres away.
Looking for action
After Medcalf’s introduction, Rabbi Mivasair switched gears.
“We don’t need more information. People who come here know enough. What are 10 things you’d like to talk about to do something to improve Canada’s policies in Palestine?”
The audience didn’t immediately bite on that ripe question, asking instead, “How much of the Palestinian-Israel issue is driven by religion?”
Mivasair’s response: “A lot. As a child I learned that all Jews had the right to live where Abraham and Sarah went, where David strummed his harp. Yet remember, our faith also commands justice: Don’t cut down fruit trees; don’t remove boundary markers from your neighbour’s property. But that’s precisely what the Israeli government keeps doing.”
Moving toward the action question, several people asked about the history and effectiveness of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement (BDS).
Mivasair’s clear answer: “About 10 years ago Palestinian civil society organizations in Palestine organized BDS to pressure Israel to give freedom, justice and equality to Palestinians. To calls it BDS was really a PR mistake. They should have called it the movement for freedom, justice and equality.  Still, BDS is patterned after anti-Apartheid tactics in South Africa. The United Church of Canada supports BDS.”
What about BDS’s effectiveness? The rabbi continued, “It has some impact on Israel’s economy, but the economy’s strong. Not buying an Israeli hummus or halvah won’t make Israel leave Bethlehem. Still, it is an effective way to engage people, but the impact is like a flea in an elephant’s ear. The elephant will notice the flea, will be bothered, but not hurt. Still, some corporate pension plans [not named] have withdrawn investments from Israel, so there is some impact.”
Audience participation
At that point Rami, who grew up in Palestine, spoke: “BDS draws attention to injustice, one example of which is the Israeli practice of giving biblical names to settlements that aren’t historical, but settled after 1948. In 1990 we could visit Israeli friends. After checkpoints were set up, friends lost contact; many haven’t entered Jerusalem since. A generation of Palestinian kids knows Israelis only as occupying soldiers.”
Another attendee asked, “What about Canada’s $30,000,000 aid to Palestinians?”
Mivasair answered, “Those funds support the Palestinian Authority’s Security Police. Their officers quell demonstration, thus oppressing their own people.” He suggested that people lobby MPs to support programs to meet real human needs instead.
Medcalf added that, “Since the Liberals took office, Canada has provided $20,000,000 to support education, health and social services for vulnerable Palestinian refugees, as well as urgent humanitarian assistance.”
What does the Ecumenical Accompaniment project accomplish? Here Medcalf spoke from experience: “Participants do basic, grounded work assisting Palestinians. We take kids to medical appointments or school. We run errands for families who need assistance.”
Finally, one person asked about Canadian support of a two-state solution. Mivasair replied, “A two-state solution is a delusion; Israel will never permit it. The idea simply maintains the current oppression. God doesn’t want us to be separate. Let’s aspire to one nation state with different people, different languages. Canada continues to build a nation with many ethnicities, two official and many unofficial languages. Why couldn’t that happen in Israel-Palestine?” Why indeed. 

(Christian Courier, Feb. 26, 2018).
Jim Dekker is a semi-retired Christian Reformed pastor living in St. Catharines and chair of the Citizens for Public Justice board.

Post 64--Algerian Restrictions

Statement: Algeria steps up restrictions against Christians
Yesterday, 4:57 AM

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Post 63--The Story of Binta and her Dreams

Today's entry is part of a sermon a friend of mine, Dr. Ronald B. Rice of West Side Presbyterian Church in Seattle, preached recently. It is the story of Binta, one that I also wrote about in my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, an eight-volume series about these relationships in Nigeria.  Rice takes the story further than I did. So, without further ado, please "listen" to my friend Ron:


 How does God communicate with us? Does he still speak to us through dreams and visions, like he did to Peter, or send angels, like he did to Cornelius?

About a dozen years ago, I met a young woman in Nigeria with an incredible story. I was so amazed that I set up my video camera and asked her to look into the camera and tell her story. Binta Faruk Jalingo was from a royal Fulani family and of course a Muslim, as almost all Fulanis are. Her father was a retired high ranking military officer. She was a university graduate and a television producer with the national television network. She was married with 1 year old twin sons. She hated Christians, and generally did what she could to make life miserable for them.

One night as she and her husband slept, suddenly a bright light appeared in the bedroom, and a mighty wind swirled around and blew the pictures off the wall and threw everything on the shelves to the floor. Of course they were terrified. Her husband got up, got some folk Muslim charms and put them on hot charcoal he got from the kitchen to make smoke and drive the evil spirits away. Then a voice came like thunder, “You have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, go and be a Tabitha to my people.” She asked her husband if he could understand what the voice was saying, but he said he didn’t hear a thing. He accused her of belonging to a secret cult and kicked her out of the bedroom to sleep in the guest room.

The same thing happened the next night and again 3 nights later. Each time was an invitation “to come and serve.” She told her husband that she would be disobeying God if she did not heed his voice, and would rather die than disobey God. She told him she was going to become a Christian and was going to go to church the next Sunday. She said she would only follow Islam again if her husband could take away what Jesus Christ had given her. But she said that was impossible, because no one could take away the joy and peace that had flooded her heart. On Saturday she went out and bought a Bible and on Sunday got in her car and drove to the nearby Baptist church. When she got home, her husband beat her and struggled to tear up the Bible. She told him the danger of tearing the Bible, that he could do anything to her, but not with the Bible. He stomped out the house.

On Monday her husband called her father who arrived late Tuesday evening. As she went out to greet him, he started beating her so severely that she lost consciousness, and they finally had to take her to the hospital. On the third night in the hospital, about 2:00 in the morning, she felt someone touching her feet, and woke to see a figure standing at the foot of her bed, with a face shining like the sun, so bright she couldn’t see his face. She screamed for help and when the nurse came she told her what she had seen. The nurse said it must have been Jesus, and to not be afraid, and if he came again to ask him what he wanted from her.

Sure enough a couple of hours later, he appeared again, touched her feet and woke her up, and said, “Be bold, for this is temporary; you will overcome the temptation.” When she got out of the hospital, her husband gave her a divorce letter, kicked her out and she never saw her twin babies again.

Binta’s father and some Islamic fanatics took her to a house and chained her feet and hands. Two days later they freed her hands, but left her feet chained for seven more days, threatening to kill her if she went to church again. Her mother’s brother came to reconcile her to her father, but her father picked up a gun and fired at her. She flinched at the sight of the gun which overturned her chair and she fell to the floor, while the bullets hit the wall.

Next her father was able to have her thrown into prison on false accusations, where she sat for six months without trial or bail. In the 7th month she was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment. She fasted and prayed for 3 days and a month later she received a pardon from the president of Nigeria. She told me more stories of her persecution and some amazing narrow escapes and how God had protected her.

In the prison she heard the voice again in the night, calling her to be a Tabitha. Tabitha or her Greek name Dorcas, was the woman in chapter 9 of Acts who had died, and she was the reason Peter had come to Joppa, where he had this vison of the unclean animals. Tabitha had a ministry to widows and Binta realized God was calling her to establish a safe refuge for former Muslim women who had been kicked out of their homes and marriages after they became Christians. I gave her some money to help her buy property in a safe Christian area not far from Jos. If you Google her name you’ll find at least a dozen websites that have picked up her story, which is amazingly courageous and bold, as Jesus told her to be in the hospital, because her life is constantly at risk and most Muslim background believers (MBB) certainly don’t want their names on the Internet. At last report she is married to a pastor, raising a family and running her Tabitha refuge.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Post 62--The role of Africa and Africans in Islam

The following article comes from Sound Vision / Radio Islam.  It is an interesting article that brings up historical issues that are worthy of our consideration. Whether the article is 100 per cent correct, I do not know, but neither it is 100 per cent false. If you're interested, you can google all the persons and places mentioned to check the veracity of it all.  I, for one, enjoyed reading it, which is the reason I pass it on to you.


The role of Africa and Africans in Islam
Yesterday, 2:16 PM