Wednesday, February 3, 2010

5th Annual Sabeel International Young Adult Conference

The Sabeel Young Adult Conference is coming up! If you're interested, or have friends who might be interested, let us know and apply soon! Below is a copy of our flyer and an article published in the winter Cornerstone on the conferences.


The Sabeel International Young Adult Conferences

A pilgrimage, loosely defined, is a journey to some form of holy place. Every year, everyday, Christian pilgrims come in droves to Israel and Palestine to visit what they call the holy land. Most of them, having grown up hearing about these places from stories and scripture, focus their minds and bodies on the place itself: the Nativity Church, the Wailing Wall, the church of the Holy Sepulcher. Of course, as a Christian organization, we at Sabeel certainly understand the value of visiting holy sites, but for us, the emphasis of a pilgrimage is a little different.

Here, we like to focus on the journey itself. Not the actual trip overseas, or over land, but the journey, the self-conscious struggle that one must go through to really see the special nature of this place. This journey is not purely spiritual, and not merely physical. It is an individual and collective transformation, one that results only from an active engagement with a place through the people in it.

Over the years, we have developed a conference for a small group of young adult Christians which aims to engage that pilgrimage experience at several levels. In a two week trip, participants spend each day traveling to different parts of Israel and Palestine, immersing themselves in religion and culture through discussions, lectures, barbecues, community volunteering, cultural activities and contextual tours.

We’ve been holding youth conferences for four years, integrating members of our local Palestinian Christian and Arab Israeli community with a number of international participants. In the past we’ve had participants come from Sweden, South Korea, Scotland, The United States, The U.K., The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Norway, Holland, Denmark and India. Both in Palestine and abroad, our participants come from all kinds of religious, economic, and social backgrounds, but they are usually interested and active in their faith as well as the cause of Palestinians. We often have, but are not limited to, seminarians, university students, journalists, social workers, clergy members, and social activists.

Each year our conference is slightly different because of the ever-changing socio-political situation here and because of the different people we have participating, but there is always a core program that we emphasize with every group. We have many goals for the conferences but most fundamentally we are attempting to offer an alternative pilgrimage opportunity to young adults; one that emphasizes people and the human relationship with land and holy sites rather than simply the things in themselves. For us it is a way of presenting the political realities of the region through a discourse that emphasizes equality and justice -- for Palestinians and Israelis -- rather than sovereignty and control. Not wanting to simply tell people what is going on and what to think about it, we try to let them see and decide for themselves through discussion, reflection, and personal involvement with the issues at hand.

We hope that over the course of our two weeks together, we will have helped prepare our participants with some of the tools, experiences, and relationships that have proved useful to us—so that when they return home, they will be able to serve as active and critical advocates for justice and peace in their own local communities.

This year, we are working hard to make the young adult conference better than ever. We are recruiting new participants and sponsors everyday, so if you or someone you know is interested in joining us in 2010, please fill out an application from our website and send it to!