Thursday, November 09, 2006

Faith and Protests (and talking about Israel)

Last night I was at a planning meeting for ECAWAR, the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism. One of the topics we discussed was how to get more people out to our protest marches. An idea was to reach faith communities and bring them out. We already have Quakers who come out visible in small numbers, as well as occasionally Catholics, Mennonites (Project Ploughshares folks tend to be Mennonites), and members of various alternative faith groups like the Unitarians. I am surprised there are not more United Church people myself, since United does have an emphasis on social justice.

What would stop people of faith from coming to a peace march? Probably similar sorts of issues that would stop members of the community at large. Fear of a riot starting or getting arrested. The belief that peace activists are freaky people and not wanting to be freaky by association. In general, people are often scared to speak up, even when it is something they believe in.

The more conservative religious denominations would definitely be concerned about image -- after all, some of us are freaky looking, many are non-Believers, and frankly, the whole event is outside of the safe comfort zone. Yes, the peace movement is laced with bleeding heart liberals whose values may stray from Biblical values when it comes to certain moral issues. And yes, the Evangelical Christian and mainstream Jewish communities tend to be pro-Israel and not very sympathetic towards the plight of the Palestinians. Peace folks are usually pro-Palestinian and not very sympathetic towards the plight of the Israelis. And here, we have the dichotomy.

Working with the peace movement is an excellent way to share different ideas and beliefs. Most people tend to be very respectful and open to dialogue. Just like between different churches, there is a variety of beliefs and positions within the peace movement. I am there because I believe in working towards peace and understanding between diverse groups of people and not just staying within my safe community. I am learning a lot from the people there, and they are learning a lot from me (I hope). I don't have to agree with everything that is presented, and they certainly don't have to agree with me (in fact, I *know* they don't). But my life is enriched as a result.

I can live with the fact their their official position on Israel/Palestine is that occupation is wrong. How to deal with this issue varies from person to person. For the record, I am in favour of a two-state solution, with secure borders for Israel. I don't believe in occupation and causing the general Arab/Palestinian population to suffer for the acts of a few extremists. Israel's security is not helped by this, because it breeds a culture of hopelessness and desperation, and ultimately suicide bombers -- who still manage to blow up innocent Israelies despite walls and guards and checkpoints.

OK, now that we have gotten that out of the way, we *need* more people of faith to come ot our events. People of faith bring with them ideas, hope, and legitimacy. If we are to be salt and light to the world, we need to start spicing up places outside of our comfort zones. The cross-cultural, socio-economic, and political areas for dialogue are huge. We talk about Muslims, but how many of us actually know any on a first-name basis. We want to show our joy and love for G-d to others, but do we actually ever hang out with anyone who is unsaved? Yeshua is the ultimate peacemaker and we are His emissaries on earth. Would Yeshua come to a peace march?

I think so.

No comments: