Looking at both sides of peace issues

The local Kairos committee is giving the community the opportunity to hear both sides of a complicated issue

Separation: United Church minister Juanita Austin stands before the enormous wall that divides Israel and Palestine.

The local Kairos committee is giving the community the opportunity to hear both sides of a complicated issue in “What is the Harper government’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is it helping to promote a just peace for Israel and Palestine?”

Facilitated by Warren Bell, the event takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, at  First United Church on Okanagan Avenue.

Peace processes have so-far failed, the occupation of Palestinian territories has intensified, violence and extremism continue.

The people in Gaza have experienced three wars in seven years. Rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel continue with increasing reach.

In 2014, at least 544 children were killed: 540 Palestinian, and four Israeli.

United Nations resolutions and international law require that Israel end its 48-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and dismantle all Jewish settlements in these territories.

Kairos believes Canada should take a constructive role to promote a negotiated, just peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that ensures respect for human rights and international law.

Rev. Juanita Austin says Canada’s policy has grown to be pro-Israeli so gradually that people don’t question the political stand.

“I really want people to know the policies, how they came about, what it’s doing to the Palestinian people and be open-hearted,” she says. “We would never support any other country if it wasn’t Israel.”

Austin recalls a radio announcer talking about Israeli “soldiers” and Palestinian “militants.”

“It changes the value of a person when you put those kinds of words together; it makes them less than equal and they are certainly being treated less than equal,” Austin says, noting she visited the Middle East countries after hearing about the issues at a Naramata conference.

“Someone compared the arresting of Palestinian children as young as 12, dragging them out of bed, forcibly taking them from their homes, handcuffing them and interrogating them to what happened in Nazi Germany…” she says. “It was a slap upside the head to wake me up.”

Austin says most people are unaware the issue is tied in with the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Many of them were kicked out of Palestine when the Israelis entered the country as refugees in 1948,” she says of the Holocaust survivors. “Never again needs to mean never again for everybody.”

Austin says great care must be taken to emphasize concerns are with Israeli government policy not Jewish people, and points out peace-minded Muslims, Jews and Christians continue to work together to find justice-based peace for all people in the Middle East.

At Sunday’s event, Vancouver Rabbi David Mivasair will speak by video link, documenting the issues from an informed and engaged Jewish perspective. Rajai and Sue Ghattas of Vernon will respond from the Palestinian perspective.

Four short films on questions, prepared by the United Church of Canada, will be followed by roundtable discussion.

This will be a pre-election opportunity for concerned citizens to take a critical look at the Harper government’s policy and its implications for security in the Middle East and internationally.

The program is sponsored by the Salmon Arm Ecumenical KAIROS Committee, part of the national KAIROS organization that unites 11 Christian churches and religious organizations in faithful action for justice.


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