World Student Christian Federation Europe Region Ecumenical Journal, 2016/Culture and Higher Education
Religion/s and Politics: How is Multiculturalism Possible
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Mozaik (established in 1992) is the ecumenical journal of the World Student
Christian Federation (WSCF, 1895) Europe Region, published two to three times a year. It aims to reﬂect the wide variety of opinions and viewpoints present among the different Student Christian Movements (SCMs) in ecumenical dialogue. You can ﬁnd us Online at wscf-europe.org.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission and the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. This publication reflects the
views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Editor-in-Chief: James Jackson (United Kingdom) Art Editor:
Zuzana Marhefková (Slovakia) Proofreaders:
David Cleary and Charles McKinney Address:
Storkower Straße 158 #710 D-10407 Berlin, Germany
European Youth Foundation of the Counsel of Europe
“The construction of Europe is an art. It is the art of the possible.” ― Jacques Chirac “With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile you cannot achieve.” ― Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan “Every empire tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but educate and liberate.” ― Edward Said
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Europe is currently experiencing the greatest mass migration since the Second World War. Refugees from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and elsewhere are making perilous journeys to attempt to reach safety, and at the same time forcing us to confront our own values in the relative safety of Europe. We have come face‑to‑face with the way that our societies engage with and welcome the other. Sometimes this has been a touching, warming experience, and in other cases we have learnt things about our fellow countrymen and women that we may have not wanted to.
For this issue of Mozaik I’m proud to present a wide variety of articles that truly express our own diversity as a global federation. We have articles from all over Europe, and some from much further afield. After a conference in Litomysl, Czech Republic, entitled “Religion/s and Politics”, this issue presents many different ways of engaging with other cultures respectfully. We have Sofie Eriksen’s account of how refugees triggered a very Danish national conversation, while Pavlina Manavska pinpoints the brutal reality of their journey in “Via Macedonia”. Mirjam Meindl then provides an excellent introduction to how the legal rights to practice religion publicly are interpreted across Europe, a topic more relevant now than ever before. WSCF Global members Loi Almeron, Luis Khan and Irfan share stories of the diversity within their own countries, and problems faced by multicultural societies all over the world. Loi’s personal journey to the indigenous heartland of the Philippines makes her realize a dark secret within her home city of Manila, while an interview with Irfan, human rights activist, tells us about his experiences
defending minority rights in Pakistan, and reflects on what causes discrimination and how to stop it. Luis Khan gives a history of “Pentacostalism in Chile”, a minority denomination that is steadily growing in numbers and influence. After this we have a debate about possibly the most famous inter‑cultural conflict in the world: Israel and Palestine. WSCF voted at our general assembly in Bogota in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, but the president of our partner organization in Litomysl, the European Union of Jewish Students, argues against BDS, whereas I have argued in favour of the tactic. We have printed the WSCF statement for context.
We also have WSCF members and affiliates sharing their cross‑cultural experiences; “A Burkinabe in Ukraine” tells Patrick Vokouma’s story of leaving his homeland in search of education, while “Blessed are the Peacemakers” is the tale of a young African‑American volunteering overseas with the eponymous organization, and sharing what he has learned so far. Irish poet Pip Sides proposes an art project to greet refugees while tackling climate change in his native Ireland, and Ellis Tsang gives an account of SCM Britain’s recent work. All of this content is chronicled by the brilliant photography of Valentina Birgaoanu. James Jackson Editor‑in‑Chief
1 Europe 6 14 22 28 32 34 38
The Spitting Man – Sofie Eriksen Religious Freedom and Human Rights – Mirjam Meindl Blessed are the Peacemakers – Charles McKinney Pip’s proposal – Pipe Sides A Burkinabe in Ukraine – Patrick Vokouma The Third Space – Hadje Sadje Via Macedonia – Pavlina Manavska
2 Global 42 Pentecostalism in Chile – Luis Aranguiz 48 Indigenous resistance in the Philippines – Loi Almeron 56 Human Rights Defender! – interview by James Jackson 60 WSCF’s Position Paper on Palestine 66 In Favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – James Jackson 72 Against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – Benny Fischer 78 SCM Britain – Elis Tsang Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
1 Europe 6 The Spitting Man – Sofie Eriksen 14 Religious Freedom – Mirjam Meindl 22 Blessed are the Peacemakers – Charles McKinney 28 Pip’s proposal – Pip Sides 32 A Burkinabe in Ukraine – Patrick Vokouma
38 Via Macedonia – Pavlina Manavska 4
34 The Third Space – Hadje Cresencio Sadje
“We are asking the nations of Europe between whom rivers of blood have flowed to forget the feuds of a thousand years.” – Winston Churchill
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
The Spitting Man: A Discussion on Neighbourly Love and a Movement of Kindness Denmark reacting to the refugee situation Sofie Eriksen
In September 2015 big groups of refugees began to cross the border from Germany to Denmark. Though it should have been expected it seemed that Danish politicians were unprepared. Slightly chaotic situations occurred where refugees, in order to avoid being registered in Denmark, walked on the highways to get to Sweden. Why? On the 7th of September the Danish Minister of Integration (!) had published ads in Lebanese newspapers announcing that social benefits for newly arrived refugees had been reduced by 50% and that foreign nationals granted a temporary permit would not get their family to Denmark within the first year. The goal was to “objectively” inform about the conditions for refugees in Denmark. Denmark “simply can not keep up with the current influx” the minister said.12 However, the ads were not factual, but actually rather misleading. This was at the time when most Syrian refugees were quickly granted a residence permit following the Refugee
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Convention and could immediately apply for family reunification. In general, the processing time was shorter for applicants in Denmark than most other countries in the EU, because of the low number of asylum seekers. 3
The ads resulted in headlines in the international media reading that refugees were not welcome in Denmark, contrasting with messages coming from the neighbouring country, Sweden. While it was mentioned by several commentators that refugees fleeing hardly read newspapers and that the ads would harm Denmark’s international reputation, the message that did get across was that Denmark was not welcoming refugees and that it could get difficult for asylum seekers to get reunited with their families. Refugees, fearing for the lives of their families left behind in war zones, tried to escape Danish authorities to get to Sweden which caused these—by Danish standards—chaotic scenes.
Two events became iconic for in September and have later often been referred to in later discussions. On the 7th of September, the same day the Minister for Integration launched her ads in Lebanese newspapers, a picture of a spitting man went viral. The picture, taken by a journalist from the Danish newspaper “Information,” shows the man standing on a bridge crossing the highway where refugees were walking in the hope of getting to Sweden. He is spitting down on them and apparently yelling at them to go home. He later denied that he had been spitting, but did express that he was upset that he had found three towels when he was out biking, that had been left behind by refugees. He was later charged with accusations of violence and racism.4 Though his behaviour was extreme his frustration resembles that which many people expressed on social media; frustration that traffic was stopped for some hours that day and that trash was left behind (“It doesn’t exactly promote their cause”).
The Spitting Man I Sofie Eriksen
Also, on the 7th of September the media reported that Lisbeth Zornig, writer and former chairperson of the
National Council for Children, had driven a family of refugees to Sweden. She had driven by them walkingon the highway and had room in her car. It spiralled a discussion on whether or not what she did was legal, but more than that it caused outrage and accusations that she was “flashing her goodness”. This accusation came from among others Marie Krarup, a member of parliament. Based on a fundamental understanding of Martin Luther’s dogma on the justice of deeds she saw Zornig’s deed as a matter of self‑righteousness; wrongly believing that your deeds can make you a better person. The commentator Georg Metz noted:
“The little history in the testamentary repertoire tells nothing of whether the good Samaritan felt good or self‑righteous. It also doesn’t matter. The injured, who had fallen among robbers and violent men, was helped. What else counts?” 5
It gave rise to a discussion on what neighbourly love means. Marie Krarup was interviewed to an article published in the newspaper ”Kristeligt Dagblad” titled ”The Syrian refugee is not my neighbour” clearly stating her definition of who her neighbour is; somebody with whom she is close and can be in a close relationship to. ”It would be insane to require that I should love them, because I don’t know them”6 she said (my translation). This point of view – that “my neighbour” is only the person so close to me, that I can touch him or her was expressed by several theologians inspired by the Tidehverv theological movement (English: Turn of times). They are much inspired by the famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and one of their main arguments is to show the hypocrisy of liberal Christianity when it claims to work for the “Kingdom of God” through political actions and engaging in charity. It seemed important for them in this debate to clarify how it is wrong to understand neighbourly love as something that goes beyond the close Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
“Neighbourly love makes you think a bit further. It makes you invite the beggar for dinner and talk with him.”
stressing the point, that while we are donating millions to charity we forget the lonely or sick neighbour living next door. Marie Krarup’s point of view, though, seemed more extreme than other viewpoints of Tidehverv, since she rejected that neighbourly love concerns strangers. Normally, Tidehverv “just” reject their ability to really do anything for the stranger. The opposing position in the debate seemed to reduce neighbourly love to charity. “Neighbourly love makes you think a bit further. It makes you invite the beggar for dinner and talk with him.” 7 (my translation). Marie Krarup’s point of view was by some seen as cynical and directly opposing the love and charity lived and preached by Jesus. The position of Tidehverv would stress, that we cannot and should not try to live like Jesus did. He is the Son of God and therefore completely different from us. We should take care of those close to us, and the moment we extend our care to those, who are not in our direct proximity, we fail to love those, we are called to live with. The opposing argument was, that neighbourly love is to act in favour of others and help those in need, pointing out, that every human being (or living thing) is my neighbour. The extreme side of both position in the debate took the concept of neighbourly love hostage and seemed to leave very little room for actual debate, with a prejudiced view of each other. The same can be said about the general debate in Denmark 10 The Spitting Man I Sofie Eriksen
on the refugee situation. It has been defined by the extreme viewpoints and has lacked vision and responsible leadership. On both sides it seems it has been a matter of holding political ground, rather than working towards a sustainable solution. “Venligboerne” On a very different level a quite unique movement of volunteers started seeking to bridge the gap between asylum seekers and Danish people. Many asylum centres were opened in small villages but often they weren’t connected to the local environment at all. “Venligboerne”“the friendlyboers”- became a network of people who wanted to overcome this gap through relationship building and practical help, both ways. The vision is to meet every refugee as a source of inspiration, new insights and joy and to meet them (and each other) with an open mind, with friendliness and in trust. The movement became a concrete way forward for many people who wanted to reach out, but didn’t know how. The small local Venligboer‑groups functioned as platforms for people who wanted to arrange visits to asylum centres, organize BBQs or help somebody get
a computer or a closet. It has created many unique moments and meetings during the past three years and will continue to do so. It has made integration concrete and accessible for everyone who has time to spare and that is deeply needed, especially in a time where it is not a political priority. A challenge to the network has been its flat structure (which is also its great strength). It has been stated over and over again that Facebook groups are not a place for political discussions and the way people interact should be kind. It has been a big task for the administrators to keep the vision present and clear to all who use the network. With that being done, it seems like a solid way forward; to let kindness be the denominator of every encounter.“Venligboerne” was started three years ago in the north of Denmark as a facebook group and has turned into an actual movement, which now counts more than 75,000 members and has spread to other countries. ***** The strongly polarized climate of debate on the refugee situation contrasted with the concrete action that was taken on the grassroots level. The political response to the situation appears to have been characterized by a day ‑by‑day approach, where statements and legislation has changed week to week and month to month. Since I started writing this article, the government has announced further changes to the laws concerning refugees and asylum seekers, changing the conditions for family reunification for people granted a temporary residence permits, among other things. They will now have to wait three years instead of one. In an act that was heavily criticized by Danish Red Cross, male refugees and asylum seekers have since last week been accommodated in camps, in order not to make Denmark “look more attractive” than our neighbouring countries. 8 Yesterday a camp was evacuated because of a storm. Bizarre statements from different politicians, that Germany and Sweden have lacked solidarity by respectively opening its borders to refugees in Hungary and introducing border control on the Danish‑Swedish border, has been part of the political Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
scene too. The schism seems to be a basic disagreement on whether Danish society has any responsibility for non‑European refugees and whether this possible responsibility is compatible with or a threat to the maintenance of the cohesiveness of the Danish society.
***** The refugee situation is changing the soul of the Danish people. Not because of the number of refugees, but because of the reactions and precautions towards the refugees who actually come to Denmark, and because of the discussions on how to cope with refugees, that might come in the future. The situation challenges and changes the Danish self‑understanding. The cohesiveness, that was taken for
granted, is now being tested, paradoxically not by the newcomers but by our own divergent reactions to them, and by our inability to act constructively as a nation. It is being said that we cannot house all the refugees in the world. While that is obviously true, we fail to discuss practical solutions to a new world order, where we will have to house more refugees. It is no longer self‑evident for the Danish people that we should be caring and welcoming towards the stranger because we fear for our own identity. Denmark is a small nation, and the fear that the soul of this nation could be flooded with foreign thoughts and values is strong among many Danes. In that process, the soul of the nation will inevitably be flooded before anything by this fear itself. �
2 From January to August 2015 only 5.120 asylum seekers had applied in Denmark, compared to 48.800 in Sweeden and 245.735 in Germany (DR’s Undersøgende Databaseredaktion). 3 www.refugeeswelcome.dk/bcknd/wp-content/uploads/Asylum-in-Denmark_English.pdf
4 www.politiken.dk/kultur/medier/ECE2833340/fra-spyttemanden-til-politimandens-varmejakke-fem-markante-medieoejeblikke/ 5 Metz, Georg, “Den flashede godhed”, Information, 18.09.15
6 Pedersen, Anna Rask,“Marie Krarup: Den syriske flygtning er ikke min næste”, Kristeligt Dagblad, 06.10.15
7 Poulsen, Marie Louise, “Næstekærlighed er at elske andre i en handling”, Kristeligt Dagblad, quote by charity worker Kasper Thorskov, 09.10.15 8 www.politiko.dk/nyheder/regeringen-vil-indkvartere-asylansoegere-i-teltlejre
Sofie Bonde Eriksen served on the ERC from 2009 to 2013. She has recently finished her theology
studies with a thesis on the personal image of God. She lives in Vejle, Denmark, with her husband and little twins.
12 The Spitting Man I Sofie Eriksen
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Europe Mirjam Meindl
'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.' Article 9 Â§â€Ż1 European Convention of Human Rights Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
The right to religious freedom The more diverse a group of people is, the more the potential for conflict exists. Previously homogenous European societies are now challenged by a growing diversity in culture and religion which creates massive potential for conflict. If Christianity was once the major religion in Europe and other religions nonexistent or small, this has changed now. Minority rights have a growing importance and this has entered the public mind. Also, the concept of 'negative freedom of religion’ as the right to be free from religion (e.g. the right not to participate in religious activities or the right to withhold one’s religious beliefs in front of authorities) is a concept that is rather new.
These changes bring new questions:
What are the rights of religious minorities? What are the rights of people without any religion? What can be counted as a religion? How can people organize themselves in a religious community and under what requirements does the state recognize them? What about religious holidays? Are there rules on how and where they can build their places of worship? What about religion in public space?
16 Religious Freedom and the Human Rights in Europe I Mirjam Meindl
“Minority rights have a growing importance and this has entered the public mind.”
Another issue is the individual’ s right to religious freedom – a person’ s religion is a very important aspect of a human’s identity;it touches and influences his or her innermost convictions, conscience and behavior. An insult to their religion can be felt as an insult to one’ s innermost self, and restrictions on how to practice one’s religion are therefore felt more deeply than restrictions in other aspects of life. A person that believes in a religion will want to act upon their belief – if this is forbidden by law it can result in a massive inner conflict that can lead to conflicts with law and – if more people face this conflict – also in conflict in society (examples could include be the obligation to swear a religious oath, compulsory military service, questions of religious symbols in public places, and prohibitions of ritual slaughter or circumcision). The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is granted by law in the European Convention of Human Rights. In legal cases concerning the application of this Convention people can apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Can you display a crucifix in a school? One of the most discussed cases of the ECHR is the case 'Lautsi and others vs. Italy' that concerned the display of religious symbols in public school classrooms. Mrs. Lautsi was a citizen of Finland as well as Italy whose sons went to school in Italy. In this school a crucifix was fixed to the wall in each classroom as it is customary in Italian public schools. Mrs. Lautsi felt that the school should be a neutral space to prevent a certain religion being imposed and that crucifixes in a public school were an infringement of the principle of secularism. Her request to remove the crucifixes was refused in Italy and she applied to the ECHR. The lower Chamber of the Court voted unanimously that there had indeed been a violation of Mrs. Lautsi’s (and her son’s) 'negative' right to freedom from religion. The Chamber argued that it was impossible not to see Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
lead to indoctrination, the scope of the state’s margin of appreciation should be wide.
the crucifixes that were displayed in an exposed place in the classroom. The crucifix, they argued, was a Catholic symbol and not a symbol of pluralism, as Italy had claimed. This could lead pupils to believe that the state preferred one religion over another or over not having a religion. They stated that the “negative freedom from religion” includes also the right to be free of religious practices and symbols and it is a state’s duty to remain neutral towards religions when it comes to public schools. Italy had therefore failed in its duties.
Italy then applied to the Grand Chamber, being supported by almost half of the member states of the Council of Europe, who either joined the case as third parties or wrote to the Court asking to revoke the decision of the lower Chamber. After this, the Grand Chamber eventually dismissed the case (it voted 15 to 2), stating that there had been no violation of the ECHR by Italy. The Grand Chamber argued that, firstly, there was no evidence that the crucifix may have an influence on pupils. Secondly, it found the matter of religious symbols to be a matter falling within the“margin of appreciation” of the state Italy. As long as the display of religious symbols did not
To put it simply the legal doctrine of the 'margin of appreciation' allows the states to interpret the ECHR 'in their way'. France, with its strong form of secularism known as laicite, has forbidden the wearing of any headgear on pictures on the passport, including all religious headgear like headscarves or turbans. Austria, which follows a cooperative neutrality of religion, has forbidden to wear any headgear in pictures, except if it is for religious purposes and the face of the person can be seen – so in an Austrian passport you can wear a headscarf or turban. Both countries' rules comply with the ECHR as even though their basic ways of approaching religion are different they are still allowed to interpret the ECHR according to their own ways of dealing with religious headgear. The arguments between governments and the courts in 'Lautsi vs. Italy' lead to a lot of questions that will have to be faced in future cases:
How should one find evidence that children are influenced or even indoctrinated by a religious symbol? And what about the argument that a cross/crucifix is not so much a symbol of religion but of the history, traditions and values of the respective country and therefore should be visible in schools? Claiming, as some have, that the cross/crucifix is foremost a symbol of cultural tradition seems feeble to me – if one would ask children what they thought a crucifix meant, they would probably not answer 'it is a symbol of the foundations of our democratic and diverse Western society'. The question of crucifixes/crosses in public school classrooms has not proved to create discord between different religions. In the majority of the cases concerning this question the complainants have been non‑religious. The Islamic faith community of Austria has stated several times in cases of crosses in Austrian
18 Religious Freedom and the Human Rights in Europe I Mirjam Meindl
kindergartens and schools, that they see the installation of crosses/crucifixes as something positive – it is their view that a religious symbol, even if it is from a different religion, is better than giving no public space to religion at all.
The Headscarf in Public Schools
Concerning a pupil wearing an Islamic headscarf the Court stated in 'Lautsi vs. Italy' that 'according to the indications provided by the Government, Italy opens up the school environment in parallel to other religions. The Government indicated in this connection that it was not forbidden for pupils to wear Islamic headscarves or other symbols or apparel having a religious connotation; alternative arrangements were possible to help schooling fit in with non‑majority religious practices; the beginning and end of Ramadan were “often celebrated” in schools; and optional religious education could be organised in schools for “all recognised religious creeds”. However, when it comes to a teacher wearing a headscarf the decision could be different.
In 'Lautsi’ the Court pointed out, that the crucifix on the wall was 'an essentially passive symbol' that did not influence pupils much. A teacher wearing a headscarf, as in the case of “Dahlab vs. Switzerland ”could be something different. In this case, the Court pointed out that the Islamic headscarf worn by a teacher is a 'powerful external symbol' and suitable to have a proselyting effect on young children (in this case, the children were primary schoolers, whereas in the case of Lautsi they were 11 years old and older). The prohibition of wearing an Islamic headscarf while teaching was intended to protect the interest of the pupils and to protect the principle of denominational neutrality in schools enshrined in Swiss domestic law. Why were these decisions different? The decision in Dahlab was issued in 2001 and Lautsi in
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
2011. In the ten years between these decisions European societies underwent many changes, and some arguments would probably not be proposed today as they were then. The headscarf in Dahlab was described as 'imposed on women’ and ‘ hard to square with the principle of gender equality,' an argument which would probably not be delivered like this today, due to louder the voice of Islamic feminism.
Secondly, although Switzerland and Italy both have a similar relationship between the state and religion, their legal systems are different. According to a decision by Swiss Courts in 2005, crucifixes in public schools violate the state’s duty to religious neutrality, while in religious neutrality in public schools is not provided by Italian law. This does not mean, however, that a case of a teacher with a headscarf would lead to a different conclusion in Italy – the argumentation of the ‘passive symbol’ of the crucifix and the ‘powerful symbol’ of the headscarf that was issued by the Grand Chamber in Lautsi still remains. However, the lower Chamber in Lautsi saw the crucifix and the headscarf as equally powerful – so you can see that the Court doesn’t have a uniform opinion on this. Also here, questions remain: Why should a child be more indoctrinated by a teacher with a headscarf than by a crucifix on the wall? All children are influenced by their teachers in some way, but you don’t need religious headgear to promote certain beliefs. I once had a teacher that believed in the existence of fairies living in trees – she would tell us of them often and of the conversations she had with them. I liked the teacher and her stories, but I still don’t believe in fairies. In 2015 in Germany this debate resulted in a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court, stating that a general prohibition of religious headgear like headscarves was unconstitutional. Only in the case of a concrete endangerment of peace in a certain school or school district could a ban be possible. A general ban would not only violate the teacher’s right of religious
20 Religious Freedom and the Human Rights in Europe I Mirjam Meindl
freedom but also hinder the goal of gender equality as it would mainly violate the rights of Muslim women who would be hindered from taking a job as a teacher.
Whatever one might think about the arguments by the courts and applicants, the question of religious symbols in public space is one that will be discussed a lot in the future. It is my opinion that these cases will have to be discussed in a very careful manner – the more culturally and religiously diverse Europe grows, the more challenges will arise for our societies. The rise of secularism on one hand and the rise of a more religiously diverse society on the other will challenge us in the future.
When looking at the controversy it is important that just and equal decisions are made here – whether it is that religious symbols have space in public or not, the rules should apply to all religions equally to prevent discrimination against religious minorities. I will conclude this article with a quotation of one of my professors in a lecture about discrimination: 'One cannot ask the majority if the minority is being discriminated. Even if the majority wants to, they would not be able to give a truthful answer.' �
Mirjam Meindl studies law at the University of Vienna focusing on religious and technology law, and is the Chairperson of SCM Austria.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Blessed are the Peacemakers Charles McKinney
The Road to Joining the Peace Corps Far away in a foreign land known as the Kingdom of Thailand, reclining on the bed in my humble abode as a study abroad student, I watched a ceremony on YouTube. It was the 2014 graduation ceremony at Webster University Thailand, my alma mater. The honoured speaker recalled her Peace Corps Thailand experience and how it shaped the path her professional life would take. Peace Corps, Peace Corps, Peace Corps. The name kept circulating within my brain until I visited the website to see what this organization entailed. There was chemistry at first sight. I was dazzled by the awesome humanitarian work of this unique federal agency..
The thought of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer became a realistic goal for me. Joining the Peace Corps as a first ‑generation volunteer within my family would enable me to blaze a new trail of servant leadership in a global capacity. I would have the privilege of taking on some of the world’s most pressing issues by offering my piece of America–knowledge, skill set, cultural background –to the people of my host country (wherever that would be). Indeed, what an honor it would be to stand on the shoulders of over 200,000 Americans who have answered the call to national and international service all while doing my share to leave
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a sustainable footprint behind for those to succeed me. Interview day came. I met the recruiter face to face, who provided me with insight into her own Peace Corps adventure. The longest job interview I’ve ever encountered ended on a positive note; I left it with a confident expectation of a favorable outcome. Some months later the recruiter asked me to select one country (from the list of countries that had education projects feasible for my qualifications) where I’d want to serve. Not really knowing exactly where I wanted to go, I went out on a limb and chose Macedonia.
Preparing for Service
Finally on December 31, 2014, I received possibly the best news of my life. Peace Corps officially extended an invitation for me to serve in Macedonia as a Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL) volunteer. Getting this email from the Peace Corps Placement Office proved to be God’s confirmation that this was the next chapter He would be writing in the story of my life. Two thousand and fourteen could not have ended on a brighter note, and I literally wanted to leap through the ceiling. Crossing the threshold of 2015 was the best feeling in the world. I excitedly matriculated into Peace Corps University, and from January I’ve relentlessly immersed myself in all things Peace Corps, combing through tons of digital training literature as required of all prospective trainees.
The Volunteer Experience
Now that I have been in Macedonia for over four months, I have gained insight into the culture, language, and history of the country through the mandatory 11-week pre‑service training that is meant to prepare future PCVs or trainees for a successful and rewarding service. Living with a home stay family has proven to be an enjoyable experience because I immediately get to practice the intensive language skills gained in class while building a friendship that surpasses cultural and racial barriers.
24 Blessed are the Peacemakers I Charles McKinney
It’s a perfect chance to debunk myths and stereotypes associated with my ethnic identity as an African American male; and forming these unbiased, meaningful relationships is what the Peace Corps mission (which is to promote world peace and friendship) is all about. Furthermore, Peace Corps has three goals set in motion when it was first created by the late President John F. Kennedy in 1961. According to the Peace Corps website, these goals are as follows: • • •
help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
In my opinion, Peace Corps represents America’s best foreign policy initiative because it works at the grassroots level in overseas communities to implement projects that will have a sustainable impact on the local people. We are invited to serve in the 60+ countries where volunteers work in the health, educational, agricultural, environmental, youth and community development sectors. I’ve heard from the former Peace Corps Macedonia Country Director who quoted another dignitary saying that “Peace Corps volunteers are America’s best diplomats.” We come in peace, stay and work in peace and leave in peace, with the intention of solidifying an everlasting bond between the host country national and foreign volunteer. Having no idea of what to expect when I came to Macedonia, I quickly discovered that I had won the jackpot in this Peace Corps country of service as the Peace Corps staff emphasized to my cohort of 45 volunteers during our orientation week prior to training. The training staff have been really supportive, always there to address our questions and concerns. Once the home stay experience started a week after arriving, it became evident that Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
I was going to have a phenomenal experience. My home stay family of five (mother, father, sister, brother and grandmother) generously welcomed me into their home with their lovely Labrador dogs. They cooked delicious meals every day, provided a warm and comfy bedroom, helped with my Macedonian language homework, and took a genuine interest in getting to know me and to learn about my American family. From the first day I moved into their home they encouraged me to relax and to feel at home. And from that point forward I did just that. My Macedonian language
26 Blessed are the Peacemakers I Charles McKinney
ability improved drastically thanks to their eagerness to communicate with me on a daily basis. I was the first Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) they ever hosted and they didn’t care about my age, race or faith. They accepted me for me, which made me all the more comfortable to express my individuality. My host brother spoke English so he played a helpful role in facilitating the language barrier during our initial weeks together. He also shared his passion for hip hop music, asking me if I liked hardcore American rap music like artists such as Method Man, DMX and NWA. I told him that I enjoy all kinds of music from jazz to KPOP to world music. I see traveling and cultural immersion as
a way to expand not only my perspective of the world, but also the world’s perspective of me.
When the time came to depart from my first homestay family the day after officially becoming a Peace Corps volunteer at the swearing - in ceremony in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, it was difficult to leave them. My host grandmother, Baba (Baba is the Macedonian word for “grandmother”) Tana and me really developed a close ‑knit friendship during those two months, laughing, talking, attending church and breaking bread together. It was comparable to the relationship I have with my grandmother in the States, who I also had a tough time parting with before my departure. I’m thankful for the warmhearted memories I made with my new Macedonian grandma and I can always go to visit her while I’m staying here.
Answering the Global Call to Teach
Macedonian children and teenagers have been a joy to teach and to interact with ever since I stepped foot in a school. My first encounter with them began when I started my language classes in my training community. As the only African American in my training group, I easily stood out to them, especially since I had interesting hair (braided dreadlocks or “lovelocks” as I prefer to call them). They usually smiled at me and over time they started saying “hello”. Then when I completed my weeklong teaching practice at a high school, the students displayed their enthusiasm toward me with smiles, giggles and friendly conversation. Teaching them for that week was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had because they were very respectful, attentive and diligent.
Peace Corps Macedonia assigned me to serve in a primary school in a southern village known as Novaci. This primary school has eight satellite schools in neighbouring villages, and I will get to teach at these schools as well. Most of these satellite schools are small with about two classrooms,
a small teacher’s office and a bathroom. The student population ranges anywhere from 10 to 20 pupils, which means that my English classes will be even smaller. From my observations thus far, these students take an ardent interest in their education with the huge advantage of receiving more personalized instruction and enhanced teacher ‑ student rapport.
Having taken a hiatus from teaching English overseas [in East Asia] full‑time in order to earn a graduate degree, I am exuberant to be in the classroom again. Education is an authentic and fierce lifelong passion of mine, one that I am blessed every day to be able to share with others (through writing, tutoring, and general conversation), especially with the next generation of world changers. Now that I have moved to my permanent work site in rural [Deep South] Macedonia, I desire to maximize this special opportunity for all it’s worth. I am proud to be a PCV! �
Charles McKinney relocated to Macedonia in Sept. to
teach English to primary education students. He already
has multiple ideas in mind for secondary projects that he
would like to test out at his permanent site. Globetrotting is one of Charles’s greatest interests along with playing tennis, spending quality time with family/friends, and communing with the Creator amidst nature.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
â€œWe are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction on this planet but it is the first time that it is being caused by an actual species, humanity.â€?
Pip’s Proposal Pip Sides Climate change has developed so fast that even some of the most prosperous and poor in one of the world’s wealthiest cities, New York, are now vulnerable to severe storms. This message came home to Ireland in January 2014. The house I was living in with a small family had the sea flow over our sandbags, destroying the floor. We had to live elsewhere for the next month. The roads were blocked for months as severe tides and winds had destroyed them. These high tides are said to continue to rise and the winds that come with them are becoming more severe. Ireland is a tiny pebble on the edge of Europe vulnerable against the full force of the Atlantic. We know climate change is happening but we are taking an ostrich in the sand approach. I have images from a kayak, taken while I kept the boat steady enough to take pictures with electric fences for cattle and fields submerged two feet below me. The most vulnerable, people such as the many Islanders in the South Pacific, do not have the many resources a wealthy country like Ireland has for such emergencies and their islands are gradually losing out more to the sea in man’s futile attempts to defeat Mother Nature. We must share the stories from the many African and Middle Eastern migrants moving to Europe who are not only fleeing the darkness of extremism but also, like the first homo sapiens millions of years ago, searching for good soil, air and clean drinking water,
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
the fundamentals for human survival. Climate change has made clean drinking water increasingly scarce and more land is becoming desert at astonishing rates. On top of this we have the darkness of the mining and energy companies telling our governments what to do. David Cameron recently bowed to the Saudi King who is currently serving lashes to journalists for exposing truth, and lashing or executing gay men for simply being gay men. Cameron also recently courted the President of China and they signed a deal for a new nuclear power plant in England, the first nuclear plant to be planned since the Fukushima disaster and a Chinese energy company is funding a third of the operation. Journalists in China cannot expose the darkness of their system as they and their families would simply disappear. We are lucky as our ancestors fought and died for democracy where men and women can vote and have their say publicly, however critical of government it is. We live in a democracy, it is time we acted like it.
I propose that we use music, poetry and visual art as a medium to celebrate our differences and focus on our similarities as humans, working towards a better understanding of the Oikumene, the one inhabited Earth.
My strategy is simple: I would like interview migrants and ask them what they think about the three issues of climate change, migration and religious extremism. The most vulnerable people in the least economically privileged parts of the planet are on the front line of climate change and religious extremism. My aim is to work with refugee centres in Ireland asking the refugees to tell their stories of their homeland and the journey they took to make it to Ireland. I have been running photography workshops in Ireland for the past 15 years, including smartphone workshops
30 PipÂ´s proposal I Pip Sides
with students. The message I want to share is, we are all photographers now, we are all social media journalists, and with our phones (if we take a bit more time on the fundamentals of light and composition) we can all make powerful images. These images can bring a message of hope to fight the darkness of religious extremism, raise awareness about the urgency of climate change and help spread awareness of the fruits of diversity that can be shared with refugees.
Ireland has a long history of migration. The Irish were exiles for centuries and now there are millions of people worldwide who claim their Irish heritage, culture and music with pride. We built our own migrant Irish communities throughout the planet and thrived. It is clear that we should support our new neighbours who are fleeing all kinds of horrors. We should welcome them with open arms and focus on the many positives that come from migrant communities. We are in the midst of the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, however now we have the means of production in our hands to document and share our news and values, no longer dependent on editorial control that bows to the
whims of their advertising peers, and that prioritises advertising revenue over truth.
This project gives people a chance to learn how they can become their own press photographers, and film makers, and how we can consolidate ourselves from the pain of the world’s darkness with the dazzling light of music. Music healed a broken, wounded community in Northern Ireland, when the three institutions, the Church, State and Pub, had separated. My generation met the religious other in the illegal dance floors high on ecstasy dancing to electronic music until the dawn. This new understanding was influenced by a substance but people who were brought up to hate each other realised in the afterglow of the after parties that we were not so different after all. This realisation became real with the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Stormont, Northern Ireland 1998. Music healed us, there are other examples of movements from the “Love Music, Hate Racism” gigs that were held successfully in Dublin and throughout Europe in the 2000s.
The Kilrush Campaign- Putting it in Action
The IMF wanted the Irish government to sell off what’s left of our national forests. Poets, artists and political activists got together and organised walks in the forests throughout Ireland with local poets and musicians. We spent a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in Kilrush forest with our 1 year old daughter and people from all ends of the community in all age groups strolling around the forest and stopping under certain trees for a poem or a song a talk or a wee chat. I photographed this with a smart phone, sent the images along with a story on the day to the Clare Champion, our county newspaper and the image and story was printed (footnote). Not only did we share the story via Facebook but we were able to reach the more traditional members of our society who read newspapers. Such pressure was put on
the government from the news that we shared throughout the Island of our outrage that we were going to lose access to our woodlands that the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney reversed his decision.
This project will empower people from all walks of life to do likewise, from the heroes of Taksim Square who managed to save it, to Greenpeace, to Ghandi, to King, people throughout history have changed the world by getting people to organise and stand up for themselves against their oppressors. Now it is the private corporations serving the god of profit who are our common foe as our time is running out on this planet. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction on this planet but it is the first time that it is being caused by an actual species, humanity. We have the tools of production, with cameras as our weapon, words our bullets, and truth our bomb. This one page is only the seed of something that with the right support, resources and most of all people, we can do something for the Oikumene before it is too late.
Pip Sides is currently studying music in the Drumshanbo school of traditional Irish music. He has an MPhil
in Ecumenics and is planning a PhD on how music heals and transforms divided communities.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
AÂ Burkinabe in Ukraine Patrick Vokouma
Four years ago, my life was about to change. I was about to have one of the most powerful experiences that I ever will. In one sentence, I had to leave my parents, my family and even my continent because of education. Most of my friends went to France or the USA, but I had to go to a rare and unknown country for us, the Burkinabe. I went to Ukraine. Well, first of all, when you leave a warm country like Burkina Faso and go to Europe, especially to Ukraine, the first thing you notice is that it’s really cold. When you leave +35C to -35C, it’s a big shock.
The second thing you notice is that you have trouble communicating. I could just let you imagine how I had to explain in the shop to the seller that I needed toilet paper with gestures. Overcoming these two factors is the key to accommodating yourself to Ukrainian daily life. So, to combat the second I took classes in the Ukrainian language the first year before enrolling at University, and believe me this language is quite complicated. Learning it in 6 months is not easy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, we no longer had any Burkinabe students there apart from a few people that had chosen to stay in the country.
Ukrainian culture is, to me, very strange and beautiful. The population is majority orthodox and religion plays a really big role in Ukrainian daily life. Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of December and on this day there is an obligation to have 12 vegetarian dishes. There are some funny superstitions, such as that saluting someone through a door could lead to bad luck. You both have to be on the same side of the door. When you come across things like this, you have to respect and live with it.
So, for me it was culture shock and that’s amazing, to see how far we can be different but, at the same time how similar, because here there are some beliefs and some attitudes that do not differ.
As in every country, there is dark side and Ukraine is not an exception. First of all alcohol is a huge part of Ukrainian culture and it’s impossible to imagine any celebration without it. And it’s sad to see how this can destroy people and sometimes even a whole family. Corruption in Ukraine is the main scourge that contributes to poverty. You have to pay a little bit more to get everything done here and this is sad because Ukrainians are very hardworking people.
There have also been some racist acts (as anywhere) but I believe that Ukraine will overcome this and built a society that respects the beauty of diversity and the joy of living together.
In the last four years I have made big changes. I speak Ukrainian freely and have adapted myself to the weather. I have many friends here and I have to say that the journey has been much better than I could have imagined. I think it’s been one of the best things that will ever happen to me. It’s always great to encounter other cultures, religions and behaviours with mutual respect. And remember, when you go to someone’s house and he says “in my house we do not wear shoes” then you have to take your shoes off!∎
Patrick Vokouma is a Masters student of Biomedicine in Lviv, Ukraine but originally from Burkina Faso. He is the first boy of a family of 4 children and really enjoys
sleeping music, soccer and travelling. Those last years, he discovered in himself a new passion in socio
‑religious interaction and started to read a lot about it and take part in events relative to the topic.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
The Third Space When societies demand on a third space as a place for interreligious dialogue Hadje Cresencio Sadje The international media covered the multiple terrorist attacks across Europe, Africa and Asia in 2015. Indeed, terrorism is undeniably a global crisis nowadays. It implies many things; individual choice, religious extremism, and social polarization. In such a scenario, the role of interreligious dialogue is vital these days. Religious people are responsible for bearing the proclamation of justice and peace to the world. The crisis of war in different parts of the world demands a proper response by the religious community worldwide. One of the most crucial issues of contemporary social criticism is the issue of whether religion is a blessing or a curse. In the debates of academics, policy makers, technocrats and the mainstream media the various forms, faces and representations of world religions have been continually scrutinized as a blessing or a nightmare. Hence the role of religion has been studied relatively extensively. As the world is fast-changing, world affairs show religion still shaped by the everyday patterns of religious knowledge and wisdom. A careful study by Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson in their widely read book Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft argues for the possibility of using religion to address social conflict in spite of its ambivalent, diverse, complex and unquestioned claims. In this new perspective, religious communities have become aware of the demand for a conceptual framework to address multi-religious audiences, and to promote interreligious dialogue.
I propose using the contribution of postcolonial thinker Homi Bhabhaâ€™s concept of the third space in the vocabulary
of religious language. Bhabha contends that this concept opens up a (third) space for the articulation of alternative worldviews, alternative common grounds and a place for discussing important issues. It is an encouragement to organize an alternative social movement, the recreation of new possible meaning, understanding and solution. It is an invitation to rethink, reconsider and act beyond familiar ways of addressing social realities. This concept tries to get rid of the habit of describing different patterns of thought in terms of black and white. It avoids simplification and generalisation of a particular concept, claim or event. It goes beyond traditional ways of seeing things. Appropriating this third space concept takes up the challenges felt in religious communities, for the religious community in general can count on a new tolerance and celebration of diversity. The third space provides a powerful symbolic gathering and a space that everybody can express their sentiments, worldviews and visions. In this article, I will provide two examples that I consider as a third space activity that promotes interreligious dialogue. Firstly,organizing an interreligious dialogue conference. Secondly, a faith-based organisation. Following Nancy Fraser, the social capital generated is special responsibility for creation and recreation of subaltern, counter-public spaces for the voiceless. It is a place for those unheard voices.
â€œSecular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict that those characteristics in religion are also present and can be observed in the secular ideology of communism.â€?
Recently, I attended an Interfaith Conference on 14 November 2015 held at The Hague, Netherlands. Definitely, it was an overwhelming experience for the participants from different sectors and places who attended the event. I was personally transformed by the messages, testimonies, and stories from those people who strive to combat the distorted representation of religion in the public domain. Some individuals assumed that religion is the main cause of crisis in the modern world. However, William T. Cavanaugh contends in his book The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict, that those offending characteristics Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
in religion are also present in and can be observed in the secular ideology of communism. In short, secular ideology can also have this tendency to commit violent acts toward humanity.
Moreover, to recognize the multicultural world, I consider the conference as a space or place to address these debatable issues. The conference as a third space provides renewal of our understanding, dialogue, and active faith in a multicultural and multiracial society. In the third space, it is important to postpone your own negative, preconceived notions toward other religions. It is critical of privileged positions or feelings of superiority over other religious truths. These conferences require the individual to struggle for self-reflection. They are a place where you recognize individual biases and viewpoints, a place of self-criticism or an event that calls for humility and hospitality from both sides, and to denounce hostility toward other religions. The third space, however, should not be confused with doctrinal consensus; the third space is not agreement about religious truth or even a new form of religious syncretism. It is rather a shared agreement to disagree, and to address social problems. Most of all, it is a place of meaning-making and liberation, hence a place for a call to question violent acts related to religion. In the third space it promotes love, respect, humility and complementary. In the third space, we speak of openness, love, respect, humility and celebration of diversity. Both camps learn to respect each other instead of reordering themselves in some privileged position. The second institution I consider as a third space activity is the faith-based organisation. This faith-based organisation provides social capital by facilitating communication about and responding to things such as global terrorism or climate change. These non-state actors have a unique understanding and practice of faith in world affairs. The integration of faith and social action is not a new subject and may be uninteresting
36 The Third Space I Hadje Cresencijo Sadie
“Most of all, it is a place of meaning‑making and liberation, hence a place for a call to question violent acts related to religion.”
to some, however, it remains a popular subject among religious communities, particularly Christian churches. For some, the benefits of fulfilling the prophetic call of Christianity and a sense of enabling believers to grow in his or her understanding of religion in the contemporary world are provided through these organizations. The subject has been addressed by philosophers, theologians and social scientists from different viewpoints. If we recognize Faith-based organisations as a third space, we acknowledge our limited views and diversities, and we demonstrate divine love towards the other. For the last 69 years, we have witnessed the work of the World Council of Churches in promoting interreligious dialogue and in facilitating East-West dialogue. It has enlarged its vision and mission to promote justice and peace. We witness its consistent faith-praxis to fight the apartheid system in South Africa and to combat racism. The WCC also epitomises the commitment to promote mutual understanding among world religions.
Aside from this, the World Student Christian Federation expresses and demonstrates the same nature of being a third space. The spirituality that is expressed by WSCF clearly meets the definition of being a third space for Christians who seek to express their passion to change the world by providing an alternative public space, theologically and practically. Christian faith can be realized and lived and can even flourish in the third space. From this perspective, it allows the ethical framework and direction of Christian engagement in interreligious dialogue. The Christian community should be always open to temporal affairs and sensitive to people’s needs. In this third space metaphor, the Christian should learn to dismiss its superiority complex over other religions. Christians should be reflective to the feeling of privileged position. It a place of recognition of individual biases and viewpoints. Again, the Christian should consider this space as a place of reflection and self-criticism. It is a place to transform our superiority complex and
to call for humility or hospitality on both sides and to denounce hostility to ‘the other’. Needless-to-say, this conceptualisation and framework would not only be crucial for Christians for engaging world religions but also the non-religious individual or community. A first small step to achieve this goal would be to form and promote intra-interreligious dialogue, and also reaching Christian and non-Christian communities. The third space is where the God’s presence dwells, and is active to remind all religious and non-religious people around the world to withhold judgement and promote unity, diversity, peace and justice.
Hadje Cresencio Sadje is the current vice‑president of Philippine International Studies Organisation (PhISO) and associate member in the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS, University of London. Presently,
he is taking a one year Master of Arts in Theology
specialising in Intercultural Theology at the Protestant Theological University, Groningen, Netherlands.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
VIA Macedonia Pavlina Manavska Romans once constructed roads paved with large polygonal stone slabs, covered with hard layer of sand, primarily so that they would mark the territory of Roman colonies but most importantly they were a direct connection to Rome. “Via Egnatia” is a significant part of our history, passing through several countries and one of them is Macedonia. It’s not the same route and it might not be the same goal, but today, we constructed a road paved with humans, sacrifices and fear. “Via Macedonia” is the road I am talking about. Because of its perfect location, it serves as the biggest chain in transition for the refugees coming from Greece. As Macedonia is a small country, and most importantly a developing country, there were no laws about regulating their status until this summer 2015. As they enter the country, they are registered and they have a permission to stay for 72 hours. They get all the basic help they need and have enough time to continue. The number of people entering the country varies, depending on how many people are passing through Greece, for one day it can be from 1000 up to 5000. However, in the past few days the situation has changed. Only people from certain countries at war like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan can cross the border and enter Macedonia, as a result of the new EU policy. But there are a lot of people coming from other countries that find themselves isolated and stranded, just sitting on the ground at the Greek-Macedonian borders not knowing what to do. Some of the refugees, who are left to wait until God knows when, have gone on a hunger strike. They don’t accept food or drinks offered to them from the volunteers but instead they have sewed up their mouth. As the weather temperatures are getting lower, it’s getting colder and they sit on the railroad tracks, watched by the police officers. 38
As Christians we believe we are all God’s children and it’s our responsibility to help each other in need. I pray for these people as well as for wisdom that governments and leaders in this world find a way for how we can all live together in peace.
The United Methodist Church in Macedonia (Diaconia Macedonia) is regularly visiting the boarder in Gevgelija, helping the refugees and providing them with food, water, clothes and blankets. The person responsible for this is Martin Konev. If you wish to help and support the mission your contributions can be made to the following account. EVANGELSKO-METODISTICKA CRKVA Strumica DIACONIA MACEDONIA SPARKASSE BANK MACEDONIA AD SKOPJE Account: 4715519 IBAN: MK07250008000416842 SWIFT: INSBMK 22 in Macedonia
Pavlina Manavska is a 25 year old Methodist from Macedonia. She is currently living and working in Cologne, Germany.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
2 Global 42 Pentecostalism in Chile – Luis Aranguiz 48 Indigenous resistance in the Philipines – Loi Almeron 56 Human Rights Defender! – interview by James Jackson 60 WSCF’s Position Paper on Palestine 66 Against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – Benny Fischer 72 In Favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – James Jackson 78 SCM Britain – Elis Tsang
“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I want to change myself.” – Rumi
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Pentacostalism in Chile Luis Aranguiz
What is Pentecostalism? A perspective from Chile Pentecostalism is a widespread Christian movement. It is one of the biggest religious movements in the context of the Global South, and in Latin America it is widely known due to its strong growth. However, what is it exactly? I would like to answer this question focusing on Chilean Pentecostalism, one of the stronger regional manifestations. Pentecostalism is a religious phenomenon which started in the beginnings of the twentieth century. It grew up in a context of a highly socioeconomically divided world. This is not a coincidence: Pentecostalism first appeared among poor people. In the case of the United States, the revival of Azusa Street is known because it started in a stall, led by the poor black preacher William Seymour. The movement then was a religious space for excluded persons.
“What stops us being like the early church?” The case of Chile has similarities and differences from the US. Though today Pentecostals are close to 20% of the Chilean population, with large organizations, they didn’t start out that way. The local founder was Willis Hoover, an American doctor and member of the Methodist Church who initially wanted to be a missionary in Africa. This plan didn’t work so he was sent to Chile. At the end of the 19th century he was a pastor in a church in Iquique, a little town in the desert in the north of Chile. There he was a teacher and then the director of the Methodist school established to support the mission. However, things
changed when he became pastor at the Methodist church in Valparaiso in 1902. This was a port city, a place for business, cultural exchange, and so on. But, it had another side too: poverty, bad job conditions, alcoholism, and so forth. And the people who belonged to the Methodist church were the poor ones.
The year of the Revival was 1909 but there was interest in having one started in 1902. Hoover began to speak about the Acts of Apostles, and people asked “¿Qué impide que seamos como la iglesia primitiva?” (What stops us being like the early church?). This is where Pentecostal spirituality started. Since then and up until today, Pentecostals are regarded as crazy people. In Chile they preach on the streets, they speak in tongues, they are very conservative about clothing, etc. But the fact is that in the beginning their spirituality was not marked only by charismatic experience. It is true that the Pentecostal revival pursued the experience of spiritual gifts like in early church (as mentioned in 1 Corinthians by the apostle Paul); they wanted to speak in tongues, to heal the ill, and so on. But it only was the signal of an interior process of sanctification. Hoover was a follower of Wesleyan theology, so he had a sharp concept of personal holiness. For Hoover, the revival was an answer to what he considered a decadent Methodism of his time. We have to remember that in those days liberal theology was at its peak, and a rationalistic way of understanding the Bible led people to deny things like miracles or divine inspiration of the biblical text. In this sense, Hoover wanted to return to the earlier Methodism of John Wesley. When the revival was at its peak in 1909, the Methodist Church called Hoover in for an explanation. He was going to be removed, so finally he resigned.
Within years, the movement spilled over all the country. Other churches like Lutheran, Anglican or Presbyterian didn’t have presence among poor people, so it was easy to Pentecostals to engage in this kind of community with its strong sense of mission. They were not rationalistic; Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
this emphasized the emotions, to feel God inside. This proximity to the peoples’ feelings was fundamental. They didn’t preach doctrine, but experience. This has a bad side, of course. As Hoover rejected liberal theology, Pentecostals rejected theology of all kinds. They didn’t develop a systematic theology or engage in biblical studies. They just believed in the inspiration of Holy Spirit to interpret Biblical texts. So, in some way, they developed their own oral theology, denying the rational way of understanding their own faith. The lack of an intellectual development, in my view, is one of the core reasons why Chilean Pentecostalism has developed the way it has. They rejected rational knowledge, and so they responded to changes without critical thinking. Pentecostal churches were a refuge for the masses that came from the countryside to the city and a refuge for excluded, but at the same time they were organized as a very authoritarian institution where the pastor had almost total control over his congregation.
In political terms, Pentecostals have a certain way of thinking that resembles the Lutheran theology of the two kingdoms. As they are the church of God and want holiness, they cannot mix with the customs and thinking of the “world”. They consider themselves citizens of the City of God, so they don’t care about things that don’t concern a citizen of the holy city. Politics, for instance, is a matter that should not concern the church. Nonetheless, they have taken some very marked political positions historically. In the time of the dictatorship that began in 1973, some Pentecostal churches brought ideological support to the Pinochet government. It was mostly because, even though the proposal of Allende’s government was a “Chilean way” to socialism, churches were scared of the atheism that Marxism was perceived to carry with it. However, it must be said that even though this support existed, there were Pentecostal churches, leaders and congregants that took position against this authoritarian government. More recently, during the democratic period, some Pentecostal
44 Pentacostalism in Chille I Luis Aranguiz
groups have been very emphatic on their position against legal issues like abortion and civil union for couples (a project that benefited first unmarried straight couples and, now gay people). The last few years have shown that the relation of Pentecostalism with politics has changed: they want to be more relevant in the public sphere.
On the one hand, Pentecostal identity in Chile is framed by two aspects. As we said before, it began among poor people, mostly uneducated. Although this factor is important for the Pentecostal identity, there is another one that deserves attention, and it is the big difference between Pentecostal and Catholic influence in the country. When we look back on the history of Pentecostals and Protestants in general,
mainline Pentecostal churches that have reached a strong economic and political position, and have become an important way of gaining votes.
“It is the largest Protestant movement in Chile, and its growth is a sign.”
it is possible to note that from the beginning of the State they fought against the Catholic Church. For instance, before 1925 the State and the Catholic Church were united, so Protestant Churches of all kinds were second‑class religions. Pentecostalism defines itself as an anti‑Catholic movement, so they reject ecumenism of all sorts. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule. In this competition among denominations, Protestants obtained a public holiday, whereas the holidays were previously reserved for the Catholic Church. This was meaningful because it shows socially or politically recognition. Pentecostal churches today are not what they once were. Even though it is a very fragmented movement (they have had a lot of divisions since the beginning), today there are some
On the other hand, we have to mention that, along with this socio‑political claims and empowerment, Pentecostals have developed a very important role in helping people in hospitals and prisons. They have been recognized as being influential in changing the behaviour of criminals. The government and sociologists have also noticed this phenomenon. Pentecostal missions inside prison produce unexpected results and churches convert criminals to the Christian faith when they come back to society. This is remarkable considering that Catholic work with prisoners does not have the same results.
With what I have already said here, there are a number of main tools to criticize and think about Chilean Pentecostalism. As Chilean Pentecostalism has not developed a solid intelligentsia like Pentecostals in North America, they are frequently criticized theologically and are often not prepared to give an answer. They are criticized for their political opinions, for weak theology, for the bad administration of churches, and for the power the pastor has over believers. However, it is necessary to also recognize their contributions to society. It is not only a conservative movement; it gives space for building relationships. It is not only a gathering for crazy people; it gives sense to their lives. It is the largest Protestant movement in Chile, and its growth is a sign. Why do some Catholics become Pentecostals? Why do some non ‑believers choose to become Pentecostals? Why it has it grown so rapidly? In some way, these questions have, if not the same, a similar answer. And this answer could be a key to figuring out the future of Pentecostalism too. It is interesting to note the relationship between Pentecostals and the Mapuche indigenous community in the south of Chile. They engaged in strong missional work with that kind of community. However, there is Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
another topic to mention, that is the relation between Pentecostalism and indigenous spirituality. Some charismatic expressions are very close to Mapuche rituals. In some way, it is possible thanks to something that both groups share. If we consider that Pentecostalism to be a reaction to rationalistic faith and that indigene beliefs are not linked with modern rationality, then we can assume that that’s why they can blend. In some way, I would say that, among other factors, Pentecostalism has been so strong due to it being near to popular Latin American culture. In this sense, I would say that Pentecostalism as a particular manifestation resembles and can be compared to and described as a “magic realism” and a concept that belongs to Latin American literature. Classic Pentecostalism is coming up to a challenging time due to generational change. By its side it has (neo ‑Pentecostalism) as a new competition partner. This is a new movement that preserves certain Pentecostal beliefs but with strong emphasis in topics like material prosperity, the so‑ called “prosperity gospel”, and “spiritual warfare” i.e. exorcism of demons and spirits. On the other side it has the historical churches, which offer a strong theology. Many people, especially younger ones, are seeking answers. So they have these two main options and they usually leave behind their Pentecostal background seeking answers. The old Pentecostalism has the challenge of improving its traditional learning and focus more about its origin not only in a historical way but also theologically. Other Christian confessions and non‑believers demand answers. Perhaps the main question for Pentecostalism today is: what does it mean to be a Pentecostal? Some people answer saying that a true Pentecostal is a person who has a specific moral position, who dresses in a certain way, and so on. But if we consider the core of the question, we have to ask about what makes Pentecostalism different from other Christian confessions, and the answer for that is beyond moral issues or behaviour. The main
46 Pentacostalism in Chille I Luis Aranguiz
difference between Pentecostalism and other churches is that they offer a particular spiritual experience that the others don’t. It’s not only speaking in tongues, yelling or jumping for joy. This special experience was only a step to reach something deeper: to have an inward knowing of Christ (a desire that is not only theirs), to live in holiness not because of morality but because Christ is everything for the life of the believer, to have the power to preach the gospel and see more saved or changed people, or to put it in their language: “to let the world know how good Jesus really is”. If Pentecostals nowadays can’t rediscover their own roots, perhaps some theorists would be right to say: Pentecostalism will stagnate. Indeed, it is stagnating right now according to some statistics. Pentecostals have made a contribution to society, and they continue to do so. However what do Pentecostals have to share with the whole Christian tradition? This is a question that has just started being answered. As the Calvinist theologian James K. A. Smith has noted in his book Thinking in Tongues, their implicit theology has a lot to contribute to Christian thinking, more than we could have thought. In an ecumenical sense, we have to consider that if they don’t have the open mind to be ecumenical, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take something good from them or even work to engage with them. In fact this is, perhaps, the next step to accept Pentecostalism not as a strange sect, but as a very particular part of the whole Christian brotherhood that has something to say. ∎ Luis Aranguiz is a member of SCM Chile. He is
a member of the Lutheran church, has a degree in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics. Luis enjoys little pleasures of life, like drinking tea, reading poetry, and riding bike
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Indigenous resistance in the Philipines Loi Almeron
Fear I met Aidyl. She had just turned sixteen when I lived with her family. She is one of the countless indigenous youth in a tribal community of Manobo Pulang-ihon in the province of Bukidnon, Philippines. Talking to her, it became apparent that her level of maturity was already beyond her years. It made me reflect whether I was as critical as her when I was her age. Perhaps not. I would like to believe that I thought reasonably when I was younger, but the minds of the youth here are molded differently - deeper.
She has seen and experienced violence committed by private security forces harassing them off their ancestral lands. Her voice sounds commanding, yet it revealed the hardship that I thought I would only hear from their elders. I felt the truth about my homeland.
The author with children she met in Mindanao.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
I grew up in Manila and was used to the non-stop lifestyle of studying, working, or going out with friends and family. But ever since I first went to Mindanao in 2007, it always brings up something unexplainable inside me. Every time I flew to Mindanao I was constantly reminded to be careful of rebels and conflicts there. Every single time I pack for trips there, I carry fear somewhere in my bag. But then, as soon as I land there, I always feel a sense of relief.
I believe my recent return to Mindanao was destiny working its magic. One morning, I received an email from Rev. Kit Novotny, a friend and minister here at First Congregational Church of Berkeley-United Church of Christ. Along with the programme on the International Solidarity Mission in Mindanao was her simple curiosity of whether I was familiar with it. Even before I got up, I was laughing so hard. I was ecstatic, and just smiled at the realization that this is another surprise that God planned for me, as He always does. I immediately answered her saying that though I was not fully aware about the situation, I was interested in participating, especially since I had been aiming to tackle the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a peace agreement between the Philippine Government and Muslim communities, as one of my thesis stories in UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
50 Indigenous resistance in the Philipines IÂ Loi Almeron
There and then, I never thought that there could be so many generous hearts that would support me. Never in my life would I imagine people raising funds for me. And yet they did! Can you believe it? Even now that I am back in America, it still has yet to really sink in that there are such wonderful people in this world. I have said it over and over again, and I will repeat it as much as I can â€“ there are always generous hearts everywhere. Even though we have yet to meet, they trusted that my trip would be productive and worthy. The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) of North America opened up this opportunity to me and to represent the federation was
“In every indifference and negligence of our own people’s struggles, soon our cultures would slowly perish.”
unreal. Everything happened so fast. WSCFNA’s Luciano Kovacs was with me, though not in person, all along. We booked a flight ticket only a week or so away from the departure date. It was all too unbelievable and amazing. From the beginning, I was upfront with those who sponsored my trip that my primary goal and interest in going to Mindanao was to gain further knowledge about the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the ground level. WSCF was open and supportive of my objectives, and so I was motivated even more to achieve those. And it is just amazing how God surprises – yes, yet again.
Looking back at it, I did not bring much with me to Mindanao. I am used to travelling with just my backpack, but because the whole trip was sudden, only when I got there did I realize how I still had so much that either I did not need or which was a bad idea to bring at all. I failed to clarify where exactly we were going and staying. I thought that it was the usual everyday lectures with a few community site visits. But no, it was the opposite. Turned out, we visited one community and lived with them for almost a week and then had the lectures with them there.
Almost all of the clothes I brought were appropriate for staying in a Muslim community. I was used to going to such places before so I know how to dress respectfully - long sleeves, pants, and hijabs. But this place was different; it was indigenous.
Lumad is the collective term for the indigenous peoples in the Philippines. The theme of the International Solidarity Mission revolves around them and their fight against influential corporations that have been aggressively taking their ancestral lands for decades. I am familiar that there are numerous indigenous communities in the country. I am familiar that there is an ongoing issue of ancestral domain and ownership. But I did not know that the issue is already this grave. The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands. It is a country with more than 180 languages and histories of colonization. It is predominantly Catholic, with minorities of Muslim, Protestant, non-Christian and indigenous groups. Now, about a tenth of the hundred millionpopulation is indigenous. They mostly live on remote mountains and villages, without electricity, bathrooms and direct water supply to homes. Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
The remoteness of their homes makes them isolated and targets of two primary kinds of harassment - from landgrabbing corporations and government militarization. Way back when, lands titles were unnecessary. Tribes divided land among communities depending on the reach of their eyesight. But as soon as land titles existed, elites took advantage of the uneducated indigenous people. Corporations rented their vast, ancestral lands from the government and used them as monocrop plantations of sugarcane, bananas, corn and more.
That’s what happened to Aidyl’s tribe. They waited until the lease expired before returning to their ancestral land but they were constantly harassed - communities have been burned to the ground, tribal chieftains have been killed, and innocent children have been hurt. This is the life that Aidyl sees, hears and breathes. It is interesting how both our childhoods consisted of non-stop motion and yet, in spite of the busy lives we live, our childhoods are rooted in different trees. Every day and every night the indigenous keep one eye open to make sure that no more houses will be destroyed, no more lives will be lost, and no more children will be traumatized on their own land. It was only last year that the government issued the community title to Aidyl’s tribe for the 12,000-hectare area of land. Yet a corporation kept on insisting that they lease off their land to the business with promise of work and rent payment of less than 400 Euros annually. Indigenous people work as farmers and live under the poverty line, so the promises became enticing for some members of the community, which divided the tribe into two. The first group decided to lease off their land, while the second group- Aidyl’s community - did not give in. But it is not only land-grabbing corporations that have been a problem for the Filipino indigenous people. In some parts, and not far from Aidyl’s home, they also struggle against militarization.
52 Indigenous resistance in the Philipines I Loi Almeron
Most indigenous peoples live in Central Luzon and Mindanao, which is in southern Philippines. It is also where Islamist insurgents and communist rebel groups are concentrated, and they hide in the same areas as indigenous communities.
Because of the governmentâ€™s plan to end the 46-year old communist rebellion, military personnel stay in indigenous communities while trying to target the rebels. In the process, indigenous people are either caught in the crossfire or accused of being rebels too. Schools that are suspected of supporting the communists are disrupted and shut down. Activist groups say that the military recruits indigenous youth to form paramilitary groups and fight the communist rebels.
Last September, three indigenous leaders were murdered in broad daylight within the community, and one of them inside a classroom. A human rights group reported that they were killed because of their vocal opposition to the military presence. After that, I joined in with a collective justice march for the Lumad. The end destination of the march was where another indigenous community has been evacuated from after they fled from military clashes in their ancestral land. I was utterly surprised and proud that it was the United Church of Christ in the southern-most city of the Philippines that has been adopting and protecting them. I interviewed my foster father there. His name is Renato Anglaw and he belongs to the indigenous sect called Manobo Pulangihon, which currently resides in Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon. Renato is set to be one of the tribal chieftains there. But because with the title comes various responsibilities, he wanted to thoroughly think about it before accepting the role. (If only our politicians would have at least a bit of such responsible thinking.) Throughout our long conversations, I consistently had one concern
â€œFear beyond what we know and can do.â€?
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
in mind – so how can someone like me help?
I am not influential enough to eradicate or even to lighten their burden. But it is true that when you want to help, you always go back to what you actually know and what you can actually do. They hope to expose their struggles and fight to the world. I am neither an activist, nor a lawmaker. But with what I know and can do, I can share the Lumad stories of seeking justice. I know that there is so much more to realize about the issue, and I am carefully learning so I can truly understand and properly do what should be done. Aidyl is one of six children. She mentioned to me that her eldest sister had to stop schooling. She said that they could not finance her education anymore. Then I remembered a conversation we had the other day about tuition – it only costs PhP360 (6 Euros) per academic year. (How much have we spent this week?)
Aidyl hopes to become a chef in a hotel or restaurant someday. Parents said that their community’s future is full of worries and uncertainties. Along with the countless children in the community come the countless dreams that they are pursuing with hope. With what I know and can do I can possibly impact generous minds and hearts with stories of the educational needs of Lumad children.
We go back again and again to these children – how can they live and succeed with constant life threats? How can they protect their ancestral land and their culture at such young ages? The Lumad’s religion is animism; they revere the spiritual essence of everything around them. That is why they always say – when they take away our land, they take away our culture. May I ask, are you really familiar with your culture? In every ritual and dance of the Lumad, in every sign of respect to their Datu and Bai, the tribal chieftains, I grasp the realness of indigenous culture in the Philippines.
54 Indigenous resistance in the Philipines I Loi Almeron
Although our culture might not be as colourful and deep as theirs, we, Filipinos or not, should collectively endeavour to protect and fight alongside the Lumad people. Though Aidyl is already mature, she is still a child, and she has the right to be one and to feel like one – a child who is free and far from war. Perhaps it is not really wrong that I always have fear in me whenever I visit my dear Mindanao. There is an actual threat. But it is not the fear that is widespread in Manila about dangers in Mindanao, it is the fear that it is our own people who aggressively take away the rights of our fellow citizens. And the fear that your own countrymen and women are apathetic and do not care at all. If everyone was indifferent and negligent to our people’s struggles, our respective cultures would slowly perish. And by the time we realize this it will be too late. That is why I am still keeping that fear in me. I will hold onto it, and make damn sure that I can contribute well to what I know and can do.
Loi Almeron is a Filipino journalist based in California, USA. She produces video stories on immigration, cultures and education. Loi is a born and raised Protestant under United Church of Christ.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Human Rights Defender! Interview with Irfan, Pakistani Christian and Activist Interview by James Jackson
Hello Irfan! What is a human rights defender? A person who fights for the rights of others. A human rights defender can educate a community about their equal rights, and help them campaign to save for their rights, write articles on their behalf, talking to government officials like minority ministers or church leaders in Germany. I send these people info about specific issues.
I work for the Youth Development Foundation (Pakistan) which is the daughter organization of Pax Romana, a Catholic peace organization, also known as the International Movement for Catholic Students (IMCS). It gives opportunities for students to get involved in faith based social justice. We’ve organized interfaith dialogue as well as international co ‑ operation events; my project - Interfaith Youth in Action - organizes events in different cities of Pakistan. We had the opportunity to meet religious leaders from different communities and young people could ask questions about possible misunderstandings they had about their groups. E.g. I could ask an Imam questions I have about Islam. We organized an interfaith football tournament called Play for Peace. If we want to live in a specific country we need to respect other religions. If you want people to respect your religion, you should give the same rights to others, rather than demanding respect and not giving it. This is the cause of conflict and can increase to a large scale disaster. Our group members presented
their ideas to the UN in Geneva. We visited a refugee centre in Malaysia where refugees from surrounding countries like Myanmar. Many of these people were physically tortured, in critical condition, with burns. They were attacked due to their religion. Where have you done this work?
I’m working from the Christian community in my native Pakistan, who are under daily oppression and which causes lots of tension in the community. In Pakistan most people aren’t satisfied - they might not have education, health support, or electricity. But Christians in particular have those issues and then they are persecuted on top of that- people take out their frustration on minorities. They have threats from powerful people - police and judges treat them differently; Christians are treated as second class citizens. There was a recent case in November where a bricklayer was walking home and he was then physically tortured by a policeman for no reason - just for being Christian. Christians have no voice in our society. I helped a family move to Canada in November. They had to leave Pakistan due to the Christian son marrying a Muslim girl. Pakistani law allows this, but Sharia (Islamic) law doesn’t and in Pakistan people follow sharia law more than local law, so this family was at risk of violence. There have been many cases of honour killings of Muslim girls who marry non‑Muslims. They often blame the Christian boy, and make up stories to get the girl back. This area is my Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
passion. I’m currently dealing with two cases, where I’ve fully supported them, introducing them to the right people and handling paperwork for applications. I’ve helped 4 families in total. The result depends on their location and how we can assist them. I work with many people - we have specialists in interfaith marriages, but they would get in touch with me first, telling me their story. We try and find a way to help them - for example, now I’m working on a case in Bangkok. The family left Pakistan due to religious persecution. They are in a critical situation and we’re trying to link them with local aid organizations and get people to meet them and assess their situation, give them legal and medical support.
I don’t publicize this kind of work because it puts my family at risk and I am not secure. After the Paris attacks, no one feels safe. What’s the background to persecution in Pakistan?
Before the partition of India and Pakistan they were one country. The two major and majority religions were Hinduism and Islam respectively. The Muslims felt their rights weren’t respected and wanted a specifically Muslim country. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a Muslim who studied in London. In my opinion he had very good ideas. His idea was that Pakistan could be a Muslim country that respected the rights of minorities. He even designed the flag to represent this–Green to represent Muslims and white to represent minorities. Now though, Pakistan is definitely one of the worst places in the world to be in a minority group. I have been persecuted every day of my life. People have always treated me differently for being a Christian. I won an award from the government of Pakistan for services to Pakistan. In Pakistan if you go back 10 years there were public textbooks that were provoking hatred against non‑Muslims. I’ve been in regular contact with people in different areas. Till 6 years ago it was necessary
58 human Righs Defender! I James Jackson
“Anywhere in the world, if there is a bad economy, there starts to be attacks on minorities.”
for everyone to study Islamic studies, but due to my college teacher Prof Anjum James Paul’s campaign now non ‑Muslims can study ethics instead if they wish. Muslims in India say they need secularism- that religions should live peacefully, and the Hindus should respect their rights. But in Pakistan, Muslims are the majority group and they behave very differently. I’m still learning about this situation in Europe. I met an Imam in Prague who shared with my me his experience. What do you think causes persecution of minority groups worldwide?
Let me to tell you one thing. People in the majority always try and oppress the minority people, but financial problems make things much worse. Anywhere in the world, if there is a bad economy, there starts to be attacks on minorities. You can see Muslims under pressure in India, in Pakistan you can see Muslims attacking minorities. I can’t blame any specific majority group - you can see this in any country with these conditions. If a person is stressed and needs money, if they have don’t work or anything to eat or buy, they think they can take out their frustration on others.
The government should lift people up economically, increase the possible opportunities for work. I think society needs to promote all people. The history of Pakistan and other countries countries reveals that wherever there is persecution taking place. We should learn from the experiences of others- Europe had lots of religious wars in the past and we should learn from that. What role do young people have to play?
I believe that we can play a role in a community by promoting peace - young people have a fresh mind, with fresh ideas. Old people can train them properly as young people have energy and the potential to work, so they’re willing to rise to face global challenges.
In Pakistan we’re still living in the stone age - young people are totally neglected. It’s unprogressive. Young people aren’t trained and old people dominate every area of life. It’s authoritarian- you can’t present your ideas. If you want to make a change, you need young people to get involved. Thankfully this is changing due the internet and young people’s involvement is getting wider. Honestly, I have to be conscious but I would like to share my observation. The government has lots of corruption and their own issues, and so has no training for leadership.
Young people from India and Pakistan want peace, we want to get on. Upper level politicians on both sides want to keep us divided. 2-300 years ago Europe itself was at war, but ultimately they have decided to live as one continent with open borders and peace. We need to live peacefully with all our neighbouring countries. We need to train our people to respect our neighbours, and not speak badly about them. Is it hard to do this work and have a personal life?
It’s really difficult to do this work and have a family. When I was young and single, I didn’t feel fear. I didn’t think about
the consequences for myself when I was writing articles or agitating for change. Now I have my own family - a wife and baby, and I need to think about them, and in a way this has taken away some of my courage.
Additionally, all of my human rights work was unpaid and I did it for my community, but now I have a family I need to provide for economically I have to think differently. I’m still working unpaid part time on these issues though, trying to help people. And what do we need to make these things change?
We need peace, love and forgiveness. I recently republished some news about a person in Paris. His wife was killed by a terrorist in the recent attack. She left behind a 17 month old toddler. He gave a very clear message- I don’t know who you are, where you come from, but I forgive you. He could train his son to fight for revenge but he decided to forgive them instead. If we want to live in a specific country we need to respect other religions. If you want people to respect your religion, you should give the same rights to others, rather than demanding respect and not giving it. This is the cause of conflict and can increase to a large scale disaster. ∎ Interview conducted by James Jackson. The interviewee asked to remain anonymous due to risks to his safety caused by his work.
James Jackson is the editor-in-chief of Mozaik
Magazine. He has a Master’s Degree in Religion and Political Life and lives in Liverpool, UK.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
WSCF Position Paper on Palestine For over a century, the World Student Christian Federation has been aspiring to attain social justice and change. The World Student Christian Federation’s work manifests throughout the world through their hope for a justice centered future in which human rights are universal.
The basis of The World Student Christian Federation’s view on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is based on International Law; Human Rights Law International Humanitarian Law, International Conventions and the call from the Palestinian Kairos Document. Therefore, we seek to restore justice and work for a just and lasting peace in the Holy land.
And thus, we formulate the following positions: 1. We call to end the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and all forms of discrimination; as this occupation is a crime against God and humanity. 2. Jerusalem must be an open and shared city for the two peoples and the three Abrahamic religions. 3. The Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – including East Jerusalem – are illegal under International Law and must be dismantled. 4. We call to revisit theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinians; theologies that legitimize the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian land. 5. The Wall constructed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian territories is a breach of international law and must be dismantled. 6. Palestinians’ right of self–determination must be
* Background Information In 1948, the State of Israel was announced; on a day that is still commemorated today in Palestinian history as the Nakba (Catastrophe) Day. The process of the creation of a Jewish nation started in the late 1800s. As European societies were becoming more and more anti-Semitic, the First Zionist Congress took place, which resulted in the creation of the Zionist Organization in 1897 and the birth of the idea of a Jewish State. The Zionists realized from their early beginnings that an imperial power’s support would be of vital importance. And thus, they reached for the British, who in turn viewed political Zionism favorably. Britain’s main role became clear in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Britain announced that “His Majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.” At that time, Jews made up less than 10% of Palestine’s population.
respected, as should be the right of return. 7. Maintaining just peace and a sustainable solution to the conflict is only achieved through peaceful means. Violence cannot be justified whether perpetrated by Israelis or Palestinians. 8. We call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanction of the occupation, as a non-violent tool for justice, peace and security. 9. We call churches and ecumenical organizations worldwide to visit the occupied Palestinian territory in accordance with Kairos Palestine call under “Come and See” 10. We call upon the Regional and National WSCF and SCMs to educate their members on the conflict and be engaged in solidarity activities with the Palestinian people and with justice - building initiatives
The Jewish immigration rate to Palestine increased rapidly, and by the end of the Second World War there were over half a million Jewish Immigrants living in Palestine. This triggered an uprising of the Arab population, who greatly opposed the immigration of Jews to their lands. By the time Britain had decided to get out of Palestine, the Jews, who already had very effective lobbying groups, particularly in the United States, had 33 nations voting in favor of a Partition of Palestine; a land with a population that was more than two thirds Arab, and of which the Jewish population possessed just over 6%. The Partition Plan handed over 55.5% of Palestine to the proposed Jewish state. Since the Palestinian Arab population would make up more than half the population of the new Jewish state, by the time of the unilateral declaration of Israeli statehood in May 1948, most Zionist leaders were prepared for the forced “transfer” of the Arab population. Late 1947 and throughout 1948 until early 1949, Palestinian society was dismantled, Palestinian villages Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
“The Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest - lasting refugee population in the world.”
and towns were destroyed, more than half of the Palestinian population (an estimated 1.3 million) were displaced by the Zionist militia and the state of Israel. An estimated four in every five Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel were either destroyed or immediately settled by Jews. By May 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed on 78% of the Palestinian land. During the “Six Day War” in June 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The UN Security Council passed resolution 242 of 1967, which called for Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied and acquired by war in that year, and sovereignty and security of all states in the region, but this was not implemented.
Facts on the ground:
More than six decades since the Nakba, the Palestinian refugees still lack access to and are denied any durable solution or reparation as per International Law and UN resolutions, including the right of return to their homes of origin. This right is enshrined in UN resolutions, however these resolutions have not been enforced. (Badil, 2010A) By the end of 2008, approximately 67% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide were forcibly displaced persons, including 6.6 million Palestinian refugees and 455,000 internally displaced persons. (Badil, 2008) A
62 WSCF Position Paper on Palestine
third of all Palestinian refugees still live in 58 refugee camps across the Middle East. (UNRWA) The Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest - lasting refugee population in the world. In fact, two out of every five refugees in the world are Palestinian. (Badil, 2010B) Settlement is illegal under international humanitarian law. IHL states that that an occupying power is not allowed to make permanent changes to the territory it occupies, and according to the 4th Geneva convention, article 49, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Despite this, Israeli settlements continue to be built and expanded on land confiscated from Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the UNHCR (2013), approximately 250 settlements have been established since 1967 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with a population of approximately 520'000. The settlement outposts, numbering at approximately 100 in 2012 (B'tselem, 2014), do not have official government recognition, although many of them were established with governmental assistance. The government of Israel fails to evacuate these outposts, most built on private Palestinian land, and instead often provide them with financial support. In a number of cases, these illegal outposts are retroactively legalized (Al Haq, 2013). These settlements are connected by bypass roads. Since 1967, Israel has cleared and paved hundreds of kilometers of
bypass roads, which are for the sole use of Israelis. These roads isolate and separate communities. (Peace Now, 2005) Settlers often harass and attack Palestinians and their property. The Israeli settlersâ€™ attacks on Palestinians and their property are disregarded by the IOF; in fact many attacks are carried out with their protection. These attacks include attacks on land and trees, assault of people, attacks on cars and houses, attacks on religious and historic sites, and settlement expansion. (Arij, 2013) The Israeli Government decided to construct a wall in 2002, with the declared aim of preventing terrorist attacks by Palestinian militants. (OCHAOPT) However, 85% is located within the West Bank, to the east of the internationally - recognized Green Line (Richard Falk, 2014), demonstrating that the Wall is a part of the system of physical and administrative barriers aimed at restricting Palestinian movement and access to services and resources throughout the West Bank. (OCHAOPT) In some areas, the Apartheid Wall consists of a concrete mass, ranging to a height of between 8 and 12 meters, with armed sniper towers, electrified fences, 30 - 100 meter buffer zones, razor wire, military patrols and military roads. Where the buffer zones exist, the road is paved for large - scale demolitions and expulsion of local Palestinian residents. (Stop the Wall, 2011) When the Apartheid Wall is completed, it is expected to run for 708km, effectively cutting off and isolating 9.4% of the West Bank territory (Richard Falk, 2014). In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Apartheid Wall is illegal under International law, and Israel is obliged to stop the Wallâ€™s construction and dismantle what has been built already. (ICJ, 2004)
There are a multitude of Israeli checkpoints across the West Bank, along with road blocks and gates on the separation barrier, all of which restrict the free movement of the Palestinians. In February 2014 there were 99 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank: 59 are internal checkpoints, located well within the West Bank. (B'tselem, 2014) At
the close of 2012, OCHA counted approximately 532 road blocks a month. These checkpoints may be closed at any time without prior notice, which prevents Palestinians from reaching workplaces, health facilities, schools, and so on. (B'tselem, 2007)
Over a fifth of the Palestinian population live in Poverty. Poverty in Gaza is twice as high as in the West Bank, at a rate of 33.7% in 2009. (World Bank, 2011) Not only does Israel control the crossings between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but also it fully controls Gazaâ€™s air space and territorial waters. Movement in and out of Gaza, whether of people or goods, to the west bank or internationally, is virtually impossible. There are also restrictions on international trade. All of this contributes to the distortion of the economy of the occupied Palestinian territories, giving rise to high levels of poverty and unemployment, deep recession and decreased standard of living. (World Bank, 2011) Unemployment in Gaza was as high as 38% in 2010, with Youth unemployment higher, at 53.3%. (World Bank, 2011) Gaza's economy is also effected by numerous military operations that target civilians and their property. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008. 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 300 children, and thousands were left homeless. (Amnesty International) Israel extensively targeted the infrastructure and residences. The economy, which was already in recession, was decimated. (Amnesty International) On the 14th of November, 2012 Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense, in which 167 Palestinian were killed, 31 of whom were children. (Amnesty International, 2013) Palestinians can be held by the Israeli military under administrative detention: a term used to justify keeping a Palestinian prisoner indefinitely, without charging them, giving them a fair trial, or even informing them of the suspicions against them. (Addameer, 2011A) While it is prohibited by International Law, the policy of administrative detention is used extensively, becoming more frequent after the second intifada. (Addameer, Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
2011B) Since 1967, over 750,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, which is roughly 20% of the Palestinian population. (Richard Falk, 2013) Some 7,500 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli occupation forces since the year 2000, according to DCI. Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts. (DCI, 2013) Torture is being used, on children and adults, in jails and during interrogations. That includes: physical violence, verbal abuse, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, threat to harm family members and tying in painful positions. (Addameer, 2011C) Although several attempts were made to revive the Peace Process, which began in the early 1990's, none have succeeded to bring peace with justice to the region. This is caused by an unwillingness compromise on certain key issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, refugees and settlements. In the case of the final status negotiations between 31/07/13 and 29/5/14, a freeze of settlement activity was agreed for the negotiations to transpire. However, these activities continued, for example, Israel approved the building of an estimated 17,388 units in 37 Israeli settlements in the West Bank in this period. (Poica, 2014)
Witnessing the transformation of the Word of God into dead letters; used to deprive the Palestinians of their own land and rights, also witnessing the calls for violence and holy wars against them in the name of God, the Palestinian Christians raised their voice from within the sufferings: A cry of faith, hope and love. In the Palestinian Kairos document, the Palestinians address all the churches and Christians across the world requesting them to stand against apartheid and injustice, calling them to turn away from the theologies that justify the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian land. Furthermore, the document calls on political leaders and decision makers and all peoples to take legal measures against Israel until it complies with international law: ends its occupation of the Palestinian
64 WSCF Position Paper on Palestine
land and ends all forms of discrimination, oppression and apartheid. It also emphasizes the vital role of nonviolent resistance of the occupation, a creative resistance with love as its logic; not resisting with death but with the ultimate respect of life, a resistance that is not a tool of revenge, but a means that ends the existing evil; liberating not only the victims of injustice but also the perpetrators as well.
Occupied Palestinian Territory: The term used by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice to refer to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem: the territories conquered by Israel in 1967. East Jerusalem: Israel has unilaterally expanded the municipal boundaries of the city and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, in 1967. Gaza Strip: A territory of 360 square kilometers that is home for around 1.5 million Palestinians, considered part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Green Line: It marks the division between the territories militarily occupied by Israel since 1967 and the territories recognized as Israel proper. It was set out by the Armistice Agreements, 1949, between Israel and the neighboring countries. Nakba: The Arabic word for Catastrophe. It refers to the ethnic cleansing and dispossession of the Palestinians by Israel in 1948.
The Peace Process: Initially referred to the official negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian political leaders since the early 1990s. Now, it expands to describe the ongoing international diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.âˆŽ
• Addameer (2011A), “Administrative Detention”, Online Resource: http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=293
• Addameer (2011B), Administrative Detainees ; Online Resource: http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=342 • Addameer (2011C), Torture and Ill-treatment , Online Resource: http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=294
• Al Haq (2013), Institutionalised Impunity: Israel’s Failure to Combat Settler Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
available online at: http://www.alhaq.org/publications/publications-index/item/institutionalised-impunity-israel-s-failure-to-combat-settler-violence-in-the-occupied-palestinianterritory?category_id=11
• Amnesty International, "Operation Cast Lead", Online Resource: http://www.amnesty.ie/our-work/operation-cast-lead
• Amnesty International (2013), "Annual Report: The State of the World's Human Rights", Israel and the Occupied Territories, Online Resource: http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-and-
• Arij (2013), "Israeli Settlers' Violations November 2012 - May 2013", Available online at: http://www.arij.org/files/admin/specialreports/settlers%20violation%202013.pdf
• Badil (2008), "Survey of Palestinian Refugees and IDPs", Available online at: http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/1279-summary-of-findings-badil%5C's-survey-of-palestinian-refugees-and-
• Badil (2010 A), "Refugee and IDP rights", Online Resource: http://www.badil.org/en/refugee-a-idp-rights
• Badil (2010 B), "Brief History of the Palestinian Refugee & IDP Case", Online Resource: http://www.badil.org/en/historical-overview/38-historical-overview?format=pdf
• B'tselem (2007), "Ground to a Halt: Denial of the Right to Freedom of Movement in the West Bank" http://www.btselem.org/download/200708_ground_to_a_halt_eng.pdf
• B'tselem (Updated 2014), "Checkpoints, Physical Obstructions, and Forbidden Roads", Online Resource: http://www.btselem.org/freedom_of_movement/checkpoints_and_forbidden_roads • B'tselem (updated in 2014), "Land expropriation and settlements", available online at: http://www.btselem.org/settlements
• DCI (2013), " Palestinian children detained in the Israeli military court system", Available online at: http://www.dci-palestine.org/sites/default/files/un_sp_doc_opt_detention_2012_
• Geneva Convention IV relative to the protection of civilian persons in the time of war, 1949, available online at: http://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/67564 82d86146898c125641e004aa3c5
International Court of Justice (2004), "Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" Available online at: http://www.icj-cij.org/ docket/files/131/1671.pdf
• OCHAOPT, "Barrier Portal" Online Resource: http://www.ochaopt.org/content.aspx?id=1010271
• Peace Now (2005), "Bypass Roads in the West Bank", Online Resource: http://peacenow.org.il/eng/content/bypass-roads-west-bank
• Poica (2014), " Israel unstoppable colonial activities in the occupied West Bank during the nine-month peace talks", Available online at: http://poica.org/details.php?Article=6360
• Richard Falk (2014), "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967", Human Rights Council, Twenty-fifth Session, Agenda Item 7, Available online at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/hrc/25/67
• Richard Falk (2013), " Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967", Human Rights Council, Twenty-third Session, Agenda Item 7, Available online at: http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/5ba47a5c6cef541b802563e000493b8c/e4965c3a265268f885257b800065dd55?OpenDocument • Stop the Wall (2011), "The Wall", Online Resource: http://www.stopthewall.org/the-wall
• UNRWA, "Palestine Refugees" Online Resource: http://www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees
• World Bank (2011), " West Bank and Gaza: Coping With Conflict? Poverty and Inclusion in the West Bank and Gaza", Available online at: http://go.worldbank.org/OP5JEWXH70
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
In Favor of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions James Jackson
“we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world”
The day is the 17th of March, 2015. Citizens of Israel are heading to the polls in a decisive moment, the first national election after a brutal conflict with Gaza that left over twothousand Palestinians dead, alongside sixty-six Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians. At this moment for the “Middle East’s only democracy,” the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu took to Facebook to mobilize his supporters. “The Arabs are voting in droves” he said. This was the man elected to represent every Israeli citizen, Jews and Arabs alike, but he decided to try to hold on to his power by turning anti-Arab sentiment in Israel into votes for his coalition. He was successful.
It is not an easy thing to argue in favour of a financial and cultural boycott of an entire country. You risk lumping in the good with the bad. While you boycott those businesses that profit from the occupation, you also boycott those which provide jobs and a useful public service. While you silence the propaganda of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you also silence the voice of Israelis that oppose the right wing extremists currently governing Israel. And yet, that is what I argue for. The BDS Movement is, unfortunately, the only remaining hope to end the occupation of Palestine and the violence which reached a new brutal peak in the summer of 2014. BDS is a counterintuitive proposition. We naturally assume that the best way of opposing war is with peace, whether in the form of diplomacy or grassroots initiatives. But this strategy rests on the assumption of good-faith, that both parties want an end to the occupation and the conflict; they do not. Throughout Palestine, people are convinced of one thing: the peace talks are little more than another means for Israel to steal Palestinian land, remove Palestinian rights and further militarize the occupation. On-and-off peace talks have been underway since the Oslo accords in 1993, and yet the population of Israelis living in West Bank “settlements,” land deemed by international law to be Palestinian, has doubled. After the 2014 Gaza war Netanyahu announced the biggest ever settlement Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
expansion of in the West Bank. Settlements are one of the key stumbling blocks to peace and are internationally condemned, but Netanyahu uses settlement expansion to gain political leverage over his coalition partners. This shows how little he cares about building peace.
“This injustice and violence is not due to the behaviour of people on “both sides”, but Israel’s expansionist, illegal and colonialist policies.”
A quote that I found particularly illuminating about the Israeli approach to negotiations comes from former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff Dov Weissglass when talking about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Rather than being the sincere action towards Palestinian sovereignty it is made out to be, he explained openly that “the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process.... When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem." It is because of manipulative and diversionary approaches like this that the only way to bring peace is through external pressure.
Negotiations can only take place on a level playing field where there is the freedom to seek outside jurisdiction, but when the Palestinian Authority President tried to join the International Criminal Court, Israel responded by freezing 500 million NIS of Palestinian tax revenues. In the face of bad-faith negotiations, the political manoeuvring of Netanyahu, and widespread racism in Israeli society (40% of Israelis in 2007 believed Arab citizens should have their voting rights removed), BDS is the only option left. BDS follows the example of the campaign against apartheid South Africa. South Africa was a racist state that refused to bow to the internal pressure of its black majority, but eventually collapsed due to a boycott by campaigners and activists of the international community. Many supporters of Israel say that it is not fair to draw parallels between South Africa and Israel, because Israel supposedly gives its Arab citizens equal rights to its Jewish citizens. While the jure discrimination may be minimal, is it really fair to say that Israeli Arabs are equal when the most powerful man in the country views the idea of them voting as a threat?
68 In Favor of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions I James Jackson
Prominent Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy describes Israel as having “three regimes: democracy for the Jews; discrimination for the Israeli Arabs; and apartheid for the Palestinians.” This was echoed by anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who backed the BDS movement saying “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime.” Like all grassroots movements, there are a variety of views among BDS activists on the state of Israel, but the movement is unified by a simple calls for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.” BDS activism does not call for special treatment for the Palestinians or discrimination against Israelis. It asks for Israel to follow those UN resolutions which condemn its actions as illegal, including dismantling the wall built around and through the West Bank, to leave occupied East Jerusalem (which is the Palestinian capital under international law) and to stop damaging Palestinian infrastructure such as water pipelines and sewage networks. Israel has ignored these resolutions, confirming that other measures apart from UN resolutions are necessary to achieve change. BDS can fill this vital role, by providing an incentive to Israeli society to make the changes necessary to conform to international law and to provide the Palestinians with their rights. “Guilty by association” would describe most of the criticisms of the BDS movement by certain Jewish organizations. The BDS movement is deemed guilty of antisemitism because of people who have attended rallies, or because of organizations who support BDS. But if we are to judge a hugely diverse movement solely on the negative and condemnable actions of some supporters, then we must also blame all Zionists for the price-tag attacks where Palestinian homes and mosques are destroyed by
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Jewish extremists. Peaceful supporters of Israel should not be tarred with the actions of violent extremists, and neither should those who support independence and justice in Palestine through BDS. Unfortunately, there are anti-Semitic people who have attended protests organized by BDS. . We must work together to fight against antisemitism, not just globally, but within the BDS movement.
“Educating a one sided view of the conflict can therefore not be equated with the promotion of peace.”
In a sense, there is no BDS as an organization, just like there was no official Occupy Wall Street. BDS is a set of tactics and a shared aim and objective, a grassroots movement that targets companies that profit from the occupation. Those objectives are explicit in the 2005 BDS Palestinian call, with three clear demands of Israel: “(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall. (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the ArabPalestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. (3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”
I find it strange that the right to return for Palestinian refugees is questioned when anyone who claims Jewish identity, through blood or conversion, is allowed to “return” to Israel, whether or not they or their ancestors have ever even been there. If even Jews who have no or very distant physical relationship to Israel are allowed to return, why can’t people descended from those expelled from their land in 1948 and 1967?
70 In Favor of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions I James Jackson
BDS itself is simply based on the three demands above, saying nothing about which solution is preferred. Just as South Africa is now a multi-ethnic nation rather than a white-supremacist state, the future state in Israel/ Palestine may not be primarily Jewish in character. A recognition of equality between Jewish and Arab citizens in a future society does not mean the denial of any rights to Jewish citizens, but rather the granting of rights to Palestinian Citizens.. BDS has no official position concerning the geo - political future of the region, so liberal Zionists and post - Zionists who want a two state solution and an end to the conflict, but do not trust the current Israeli government in general to achieve these goals, should support BDS tactics as last resort to end the occupation and the violence it causes. The BDS movement recognizes that, unfortunately, peace will not ultimately come about in Israel and Palestine with dialogue and peaceful co-existence among ordinary citizens. Shared Jewish - Arab theatre will do little to stop the constant humanitarian crisis which is Israel’s occupation; Middle East Monitor has estimated that from 2000 to 2013 an equivalent of one Palestinian child has been killed every 3 days, and a UNICEF report states that 29% of children in Gaza have been stunted by malnutrition. This injustice and violence is not due to the behaviour of people on “both sides”, but Israel’s expansionist, illegal and colonialist policies. Ordinary citizens getting along will not create peace while the Israeli government builds illegal settlements and ordinary Israelis move there, attracted by the offer of cheap, government-subsidized housing. Peace will not come, no matter how many Jewish-Arab theatre productions are put on while Palestinians who were expelled from their homes in 1948 are forced to live in refugee camps decades on and cannot return to their villages because they have been destroyed. Friendship between individual Arabs and Jews in Israel will do nothing to end the siege of Gaza, where the inhabitants
of what UK Prime Minister David Cameron called “the world’s largest prison” are strictly rationed, with Israel counting how many calories to give each person. Peace will only come about when Israel abolishes the illegal settlements, ends the siege of Gaza, returns East Jerusalem to Palestinian control, works out a compensation deal for refugees, and grants Palestinians political sovereignty. Any of these changes will be difficult to implement, particularly while huge sectors of Israeli society and the government are fundamentally opposed to the very idea of a Palestinian state, and while anti - Arab racism is widespread. We cannot depend on hope that Israelis will change their mind and stop supporting the Occupation- there is no evidence that this is happening, in fact many sources point to the reverse. Grassroots peace initiatives will be enormously helpful to ensure peace when a solution comes, and while they do recruit a modest amount of individuals towards change, they simply do not have the power to force both sides to negotiate seriously and in good faith. The only viable option for those who care about ending the humanitarian catastrophe is to put pressure on Israel from outside through the previously successful tactic of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.∎
James Jackson is the editor-in-chief of Mozaik
Magazine. He has a Master’s Degree in Religion and Political Life and lives in Liverpool, UK.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
Against of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Benny Fischer Vice-President of the Union of European Jewish Students
the city's opera house in order to protest against the state of Israel, personified in this case by an Israeli dance group that was performing. They read out the names of “martyrs” for the Palestinian case: Hamza Mussa Al Amla, Ahmed Chaaban and Alaa Abu Jamal.
WSCF adopted a “Position Paper on Palestine” during its General Assembly in Bogota in 2015 that personally concerns me. The paper is being represented as an official policy and charter of the Organisation’s view of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict - it was passed with a majority of 93% - and it directly refers to and copies policies of a movement called BDS. As the spokesperson of 160,000 Jewish students all over Europe, I want to give you an insight into how this movement is contradicting WSCF’s own ideals, what this statement means for us and how BDS is targeting Jewish students on campus. I want to harshly oppose this paper and share an alternative view on the matter.
BDS activists have repeatedly glorified terrorism on and off campus and they even boycott peace activists. They frequently use verbal and physical violence in order to directly intimidate or target opponents; have shown harsh anti-Semitic behaviour. Finally, the movement simply does not offer a sustainable solution for the conflict.
BDS glorifies Terror...:
On January 9th 2016, the anniversary of the terrible attacks on Hyper Cacher in Paris, BDS activists blocked
On October 13th 2015 Abu Jamal, an Israeli citizen, used the company car by his Israeli employer, drove to Malkhei Yisrael Street in Geula and drove it into a bus stop, hitting three pedestrians - one of whom, 60-yearold Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, was killed. He then left the vehicle and started repeatedly stabbing his victims with a butcher knife. After he was shot by an approaching security guard he again reached for his knife and tried to carry on. The nearby hospitals receive many injured those days, always including perpetrators like him.
Abi Jamal, Al Amla who had carried out a similar attack and Chaaban who had stabbed a 70 year old woman, were presented as martyrs, by a group that claims to promote peace. The same names occurred during student lead exhibitions on British campuses in order to make the Palestinian case. When Abi Jamal’s cousin killed four people during their morning prayer in 2014, candy was given to children in the Palestinian territories, puppets of the martyrs holding hatchets have been ordered in large volumes from China and he is being paid homage to by BDS-activists on campuses all over the world. Peace activism has to include the condemnation of violence on both sides. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi were successful, because they rejected violence; they did not incite.
...and boycotts peace activists:
BDS prevents any initiative or positive dialogue towards peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, based on direct negotiations. BDS, this includes academic, cultural and economic boycott of the state of Israel, the Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
”Peace activism has to include the condemnation of violence on both sides.”
whole state of Israel; peace activists - even Palestinians - are being boycotted too. Only one example of many is the East West Music Diwan Orchestra. This is a platform for young Israeli and Palestinian musicians to meet, rehearse and perform together and has been denounced as “undermining Palestinian civil resistance” by the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which is basically the BDS-website and which WSCF quotes directly in its paper. This project is globally acclaimed as a best practice for dialogue and peace-building. It aims to achieve a peaceful resolution and yet it is being boycotted. If playing music together already goes against BDS's agenda I would question their actual will to establish peaceful coexistence.
How BDS directly targets Jews and Jewish students:
Over and over again BDS-demonstrators show anti-Semitic behaviour in the usage of swastikas, of anti-Semitic slurs or of the Nazi-Salute in front of Jewish shops. It seems that BDS considers every Jew to be Israeli or a supporter of Israel and every Israeli to be a Jew. Both is wrong and shows a lack of understanding for Jews in the Diaspora and the Israeli society. Spraying “Free Palestine” on a wall is not necessary anti-Semitic. Spraying it on the wall of a synagogue however, clearly is. And so Jewish students are being directly targeted repeatedly on campuses around the world:
- The student council at the Durban University of Technology - which directly supports BDS - has called on the South African school to expel all Jewish students, particularly those who don't back the Palestinian cause. Students are being attacked annually during Israeli Apartheid week. - Numerous Member Unions [of EUJS] have reported repeatedly about threats they received from BDS activists, about students on campus who are being intimidated, are being attacked. “Checkpoints” are being built specifically for Jews on campus.
- During a debate of the New York City Council on the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, BDS activists rushed in and demonstrated for the Palestinian case. They saw a link to the state of Israel and dishonoured the commemoration of 1.1 million human beings - Jews, political dissidents, Poles, homosexuals. BDS never actively distances itself from incidents all the above, often even justifies or excuses them, by referring to its grassroots nature and heterogeneity.
Why I disagree with WSCF’s paper:
Following BDS’s terminology, the Policy Paper is written entirely from the perspective of Palestinian victimhood emotionally charged words and phrases such as Apartheid
74 Against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions I Benny Fischer
Wall are used throughout the Paper. I do not doubt the human suffering on the Palestinian side - I mourn every victim of this conflict no matter what origin - but there are victims on both sides. We will never be able to promote peace between the two people if we don’t respect and acknowledge their respective victimhood i.e. millions of people that live under constant rocket fire from Hamas, are victims too.
The paper claims that the WSCF wants to achieve peace and justice. Its position is to “educate WSCF’s members on the conflict and be engaged in solidarity activities with the Palestinian people and with justice-building initiatives.” It is important to note that justice is being defined throughout as a one-sided, pro-Palestinian agenda. Building peace means finding and promoting compromises between two parties. Educating a one sided view of the conflict can therefore not be equated with the promotion of peace. In order to achieve peace and justice, peace needs to be educated; it is as easy as that.
BDS is not offering any solution:
BDS as a movement does not promote the two state solution. This is rarely being directly admitted, but its leading figures are outspoken with regard to that, and it is a determinate of its actions. This is also, why every peace activist, who promotes a two state solution is being boycotted too. “Justice” means one state, a Palestinian state only. One of the core problems of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict lies in this ongoing denial of the right of existence for any Jewish state, no matter in what form. This has been the case ever since 1948 and before.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded before the six day war, long before the first settlement was built. What part of the land did they want to liberate back then and ever since? When people shout “free Palestine”, they do not mean the occupied territories, they often mean everything between the
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
sea and the Jordan River; they imply the destruction of the state of Israel. If it only was about the creation of a Palestinian state, why did the PA then refuse to confirm the last peace offers by the Israeli government in 2008 and 2001. The latter included Gaza, 99% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Officially this is what the PA claims today, but in 2001 they also insisted on the “Right of Return” (ROT). This is often being used in order to basically claim the liquidation of the state of Israel. A Palestinian state should inhabit and compensate all those Palestinians who have inherited their refugee status for generations - this by the way is unparalleled in the world. The hundreds of thousands of refugees from the times of war with Israel’s neighbouring countries (there were refugees on both sides) have now turned into millions and would immediately constitute the majority of the Israeli state. As a democratic and Jewish state, Israel would then be liquidated by its own inhabitants as a result of elections. Officially activists hide behind the two state solution, but actively promote the right of return. They claim to act on the principle of defence of the right to self-determination, but thereby reject this principle for the Jewish people. The Palestinian Authorities were not ready to compromise, insisted on the ROT, the peace talks ended and the second intifada was initiated. The liquidation of Israel was more important to them than the creation of a Palestinian state and peace. Ever since this conflict transformed more and more into what people perceive today as a vicious circle with no sight of a satisfactory solution for both parties.
Israeli point of view:
The Israelis disengaged from Gaza, in return rockets were fired. Jewish religious sites were desecrated and Hamas was elected to power. Palestinian self-governance has brought more than 15,200 rockets that were being fired to a radius of up to 160km, targeting millions of civilians. Three wars have been fought over Gaza claiming thousands of deaths and the situation of Gaza’s inhabitants
76 Against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions I Benny Fischer
is desperate. Foreign money was used in order to build tunnels instead of power plants and hospitals. Israel is providing electricity, water and resources partially for free, in order to keep Gaza alive. Who promises the Israelis, that the West Bank would not turn into a second Gaza? Especially, when a self-proclaimed peace-initiative like BDS - directly or indirectly - calls for its liquidation?
Conclusion: “One of the core problems of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict lies in this ongoing denial of the right of existence for any Jewish state, no matter in what form.”
By all means, everyone is free to disagree with the current Israeli prime minister - so does ¾ of the country that did not vote for him - but supporting BDS as a consequence and claiming to promote peace at the same time is pure bigotry and is an affront, especially for Jewish students. Some of the greatest statesmen of the past decades committed themselves to solving this conflict; it is too easy to blame it all on Israel and it’s not a unilateral decision. Any solution therefore has to include both sides. Both sides have to work for two states and even if you believed in only one state; boycotting those who want to ensure peaceful coexistence will for sure not ensure peace in a then Palestinian-Israeli state!
Use this energy constructively, promote peace, promote actual grassroots peace initiatives - Israeli and Palestinian - like the Geneva Initiative, instead of feeding the Israeli ∎
Benny Fischer is the elected president of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS).
EUJS is a pluralistic, inclusive and non-partisan
umbrella organisation that supports Jewish student
unions throughout Europe and represents its members in front of European institutions, the OSCE and the UNHRC. He studied Political Sciences and Law in
Hamburg and has roots from Germany and Tunisia.
Mozaik 35 I Religion/s and Politics
SCM Britain Elis Tsang Britain Over the last twelve months, our movement in Britain has been growing and reaching more students. Our mission remains the same – to inspire students and young people to build an inclusive Christian community at university and empower them to live out their faith wherever they are.
Right now there are around 25 affiliated groups meeting regularly at universities in England, Scotland and Wales. Last year, we worked with Christian Aid, a Christian development charity, to run a campaign on tax justice called Sourced, giving some of our groups the chance to take direct action on campus to change things. Progressive Christians Essex –newly affiliated to SCM in 2014 – secured a first win for the campaign, successfully lobbyingtheir university to change how they bought services from companies, ensuring they paid their fair share of tax. Other societies also took part in the campaign, including groups at Bristol, Edinburgh and Sheffield, collecting signatures and writing to their universities to do the same. Our campaigns work also looked at the issues of food waste and mental health, as part of the Faith in Action project in 2014/15. Two of the Faith in Action interns, Jacque and Stephen, led workshops throughout the year to engage students on why the topics were important and how they connected to Christianity. For the next three years, the Faith in Action project will be coordinated by a new project worker, who will explore theological reflection with our student groups and work with different partners to lead new social justice initiatives.
Over the next year, our movement wants to share more stories of faith, community and justice that students across Britain are living out. In February we will be joining SCMs and churches globally to celebrate the Universal Day of Prayer for Students, which is centered around the theme Stories of Faith. That is also the theme for our summer gathering in June 2016, a mini festival bringing together students for an inspiring few days of speakers, workshops, art and music.
As Christ calls us to welcome all into communities of love and transformation, we hope to continue giving more students this opportunity and inspire them further through their journeys at university. ∎
Ellis Tsang is the Fundraising and Communications Officer for SCM Britain. He lives and works in
Birmingham in the UK and previously studied at the University of Sheffield.
2016/Culture and Higher Education
Published on Apr 1, 2016
Mozaik 35 (2016) Religion/s and Politics: How is Multiculturalism Possible? Ecumenical Journal World Student Christian Federation - Europe