Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Update: The First Full Day of the Sabeel International Conference

The first full day of the conference began with an opening worship held in the Garden of Gethsemane. Following the service, Bishop Munib Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land introduced the subject of the challenges facing Palestinian Christians today. He began with a short introduction regarding who the Palestinian Christians are and moved on to address three major concerns regarding this population.

The first concern discussed was the mass emigration of Palestinian Christians to Europe and the United States due to the economic hardships that the Israeli Occupation imposes on them.

The second concern regards the current unemployment rate of this population. Over 40% of Palestinian Christians are unemployed (a major reason for emigration).

The last issue addressed was the intensification of racism in Jerusalem.

After the lecture, the group went on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. The participants walked the Via Dolorosa stopping at the stations of the cross and ended their tour with a walk through the Armenian Quarter. Then the participants were given free time to wander the historic streets in smaller groups.

The day concluded with a movie, "East Side Story" directed by Muhammad Elattar. The movie documents the history of Jerusalem pre-1948 until today by beginning with the War of 1948 or the Palestinian Nakba and loss of Palestinian homes in West Jerusalem. The movie then proceeds to draw a parallel between the Nakba and the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Following the occupation, the Israeli authorities have made efforts to push the Palestinian population out of these areas and to create a strong Jewish presence there. These Jewish settlements and restrictions imposed on Palestinians are in contravention to International Law and the 4th Geneva Convention which stipulates that it is forbidden for an occupying force to transfer its own citizens into occupied territory or to confiscate or destroy the occupied peoples' private property. These Israeli actions constitute a second or ongoing Nakba for the Palestinians.

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