Blog Post by the
Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
(I’m writing this blog from Jerusalem as I am coming down the home stretch of my clergy study trip to the Holy Land. The trip is sponsored by the group, Interfaith Partners For Peace. The focus of the trip is to explore relationships between major religious and cultural groups. I am helping to lead the group of 14 African American pastors representing four denominations, four rabbis representing each branch of the major Jewish faiths, and one member of the ELCA. Our goal is to explore relationships between these major groups, along with Israeli and Palestinian conflict.)
We spent Sunday morning in worship at St. George Episcopal Church. The rector, Canon Naoum, met with us to describe the theological, political, and social challenges he faces as he does ministry in Jerusalem. Naoum talked about the challenge of being a peacemaker in the midst of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Palestinian threat of perceived violence, and Christians, Muslims, and Jews living uncomfortably side by side. He said, “Perhaps our goal is not to be peacemakers, because we cannot make peace in this region. But we can build systems that lead to peace.”
What does it mean to build systems of peace?
This trip takes place in the shadow of racial violence in Charlottesville, VA and the rise in expressions of hate groups in the United States. My brother lives in Ypsilanti MI. His daughter wrote on her Facebook page, “My Father just called to tell me that he saw a group of neo-Nazis dressed in full regalia, arm bands and all, marching down Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti, MI before noon. He’s lived in Michigan for 40 years. He said he’s never seen anything like it.”
I can only imagine the shock and pain my brother experienced while watching this horrific sight; a sight that is meant to intimidate him and other African Americans and Jews living in the community. And it doesn’t stop there. It is my niece, his daughter, who is relaying the story. Hate has reached the next generation.
Building systems of peace means bringing people of good will together and finding commonality that create bridges to connect and strengthen one another. Only then can we find and become allies of support, and together we can combat the sin of racism.
While in Israel I have met with several organizations who are building peace. These include:
The Sikkuy Partnership, an organization of Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel.
Eco Peace, a collaboration between Jordanians, Palestinian, and Israel environmentalists, working together around water issues.
Shalom Hartman, an institute of scholars dedicated to Middle-East peace.
Kids4Peace, a group that focuses on children and educating them for peace and coexistence.
The Roots, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians who are separated by walls of fear.
Atachlit Farm, a community empowering program that helps Ethiopian Israelis connect with agricultures.
Lod, providing services to Arab and Jewish communities.
Natal, The Israel Center for Victims of Terror or War.
Each of these organizations have been created with a vision of building systems of peace. May the Sprit lead us to find ways to support and do similar work in our own country and community.
Rev. Craig M. Howard (Photos of my journey can be found here)