Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rick Warren on Christians Muslims to Work Together

Rick Warren works "outside the box" as a Christian leader. He's on the right road, IMHO. For Muslims and Christians to "work in action together" seems unrealistic and superficial, as serious theological differences make it difficult if not impossible to make such actions long-lasting. Yet. Still, the call to respect each other seems to me to be true and needed. What do you think? JRK

Rick Warren calls on Muslims and Christians to work together
Saddleback pastor urges Islamic Society convention to form an interfaith coalition to combat prejudice.
The Orange County Register

WASHINGTON – Speaking to a crowd of nearly 8,000 Muslims at the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention in Washington D.C., Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren called on Muslims and Christians to form an interfaith coalition to combat prejudice and stereotypes.

While Fourth of July revelers staked out seats to watch fireworks at the nearby Capitol Building, Warren addressed convention-goers – some of them from Orange County Muslim student associations – about the need for mutual respect.

"Tolerance is not enough," Warren said. "People don't want to be tolerated, they want to be respected, they want to be listened to. They want to be valued."

Armed with four ideas for action, Warren called on Muslims and Christians to work together to create respect, restore civility to civilization, promote peace and tackle major world problems.

"I am not interested in interfaith dialogue, I am interested in interfaith projects," Warren said. "Talk is very cheap."

The evangelical minister and bestselling author has played an increasingly prominent role in public forums. Saddleback, which Warren founded in 1980, has five campuses in Orange County and is one of the largest churches in the country.

In 2008, he hosted a presidential candidate forum with Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barack Obama. His Lake Forest church also hosted then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Warren acknowledged that he was likely to receive criticism for addressing the Islamic convention. He declined to give any interviews about his appearance at the convention, according to a spokesperson. But in a blog last week the pastor addressed criticism he receives for speaking at non-Christian events.

"Every time I speak to any non-Christian group, I get criticized by well-meaning believers who don't really understand how much Jesus loves lost people," Warren wrote in the blog. "They are more concerned with their own perceived purity than the salvation of those Jesus died for."

Warren also listed his speaking engagement at the convention, in case people wanted to pray for the event.

Organizers of the convention were likely to get criticism for inviting him to speak as well, Warren said.

A popular minister whose churches minister to an estimated 20,000 people every week, Warren is not new to criticism. He supported the passage of Proposition 8 in the November election and gay rights protesters demonstrated outside his church after the gay marriage ban passed.

It was Warren's support of Proposition 8 that fueled much of the controversy over his invitation to participate in the inauguration. Many gay rights activists were vocal in their opposition to then-President-elect Obama's choice.

However Warren was praised for steering clear of controversy on inauguration day and delivering what was deemed a conciliatory and inclusive prayer.

"You can disagree with someone without hating them, without being afraid of them," Warren said.

Some are taking Warren's participation Saturday as a sign of Islam becoming more accepted in America, according to a recent article on the event by the Associated Press.

ISNA President Ingrid Mattson discussed the diversity of Islam, and Muslims' changing place in American society.

Many Muslims were relieved to be recognized in President Obama's inaugural address as being an important part of the fabric of American diversity, she said.

Mattson said she admired Warren's dedication to his community. Warren emphasized that governments cannot solve all the worlds problems, and emphasized the success of his interfaith work improving healthcare in Africa.

"I think what he said was fantastic," said Shiran Elkoshairi of the Adams Center Mosque in Virginia. "Historically, that (interfaith co-operation) was the way things got done, but we have forgotten that over time."

Elkoshairi said he especially liked how Warren said that love is a verb, an action rather than an emotion.

"I am commanded to love and I am commanded to respect everybody," Warren said.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Responses to the Jeff Halper Post!

Dear Friend,
New "freinds" John and Joyce Petro give a thoughtful response to my (yesterday's) post from Jeff Halper. It is worth reading. And I'm including my response. Peace. Justice. Love. JRK


You have some very good points. Let us add a couple of comments.

First of all, we definitely went to Israel and Palestine with a very pro-Palestinian bias. To our surprise, Palestinian leaders we met, like Naim Ateek. Sabeel, and Mitri Raheb, Lutheran Christmas Church, strongly cautioned us from taking too strong of a pro-Palestinian stance. We must be open to the fears and views of the Jewish people. They emphasized to us time and time again, that the main hope was to build bridges with firm anchors on both sides, or on all three sides if you view Palestinians divided between Christian and Muslims.

Secondly, we must accept the fact that the Jews do have legitimate concerns. They have good reason to fear that many, if not most Palestinians, still wish to push them into the sea. Although the Palestinian are for the most part, innocent victims of the oppression they must endure, they, too, must make major concessions.

This all being said, the Zionist agenda to dispossess the Palestinians of their land is totally unacceptable. Peace, just peace, will come slowly and only when rational leaders on all sides work for peacemaking in the true sense of the word. The preferred solution would be one state, but for the time being this would be unacceptable to the Jews, since this would mean that Israel would no longer [be] a Jewish state.

I will say that the mild economic boycott related to withdrawing funds from companies supporting Israel expansionist goals may be beginning to work. The Swedish company that is installing the light rail through East Jerusalem has withdrawn its participation, bringing to halt the construction of the light rail. The company was losing too many big contracts elsewhere, particularly in Europe. Even Caterpillar is beginning to respond to the pressure. However, Motorola still is fully involved by providing the hardware and software to keep the Israeli war machine going. The Presbyterians led the way with this and took a lot of flack in the process. I wish I had more detailed information about the things that I mentioned above, since I am primarily passing on second-hand reports given me by a Muslim friend.
John and Joyce Petro

Dear John and Joyce,
Thank you sincerely for your cautionary words.

Well spoken. Jeff Halper is only one part of the puzzle. But I think the Jeff Blankfort piece I sent out earlier was even more inflammatory. I was hesitant for a long while before sending his post along.

There are legitimate Israeli fears. But their fears are the fears of the tyrant, who fears his subjects will rebel and overthrow her tyranny and callous disregard for the dignity of the subjects they seek to dominate.

If only Obama's admin could begin uses the power of the purse just a little bit more. It is politically suicidal I know, we all know, but it is one piece of the puzzle. European companies getting the message is good. BDS might be impossible politically right now, I understand that.

Are you guys going to be in Ft Thomas for the IPMN meeting (Oct 22-24?) Hope to meet you there.

The pendulum swinging from Israeli oppression to Pal oppression is real, and even likely, given the realities of power politics as practiced in today's world. Even inevitable. Which makes Israeli "fears" very substantial indeed. As always, strong leaders are required to hold back the influence of "extremists". A just peace is our goal, with mutual dignity extended to fellow human beings along the "Way".

Let's stay in touch. JRK

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ending the Matrix of Control, Jeff Halper

Jeff Halper is against confiscating Palestinian land and demolishing their homes. Here is the conclusion to a careful assessment of where we are now, in the light of the Mitchell plan in re "settlements": JRK

Put simply, any plan, proposal or initiative for peace in Israel-Palestine must be filtered through the following set of critical questions:

Will this plan really end the occupation, or is it merely a subtle cover for control?

Does this plan offer a just and sustainable peace or merely an imposed and false quiet?

Does this plan offer a Palestinian state that is territorially, politically and economically viable, or merely a prison-state?

Does this plan genuinely and justly address the refugee issue? And does this plan offer regional security and development?

While one may glean optimism from the fact that a US president finally comprehends the need for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, even if solely for the sake of US interests, it is difficult to be optimistic over the prospects of such a peace. No matter what the plan, Israel will neither cooperate nor negotiate in good faith. A solution will have to be imposed, if not overtly, then in ways that make Israel’s continued hold on the Occupied Territories too costly to sustain. Simply withholding Israel’s privileged access to American military technology and markets, for example, would have that effect.

Any attempt to pressure Israel, however, will run into a familiar obstacle: Congress, Israel’s trump card in its encounters with the administration. In the case of Obama, Israeli leaders know well that his own party has always been far more “pro-Israel” than the Republicans. Already his loss of momentum after the Cairo address (perhaps related to his difficulties over his health care plan) has emboldened the temporarily cowed AIPAC. In early August, the vaunted lobby produced a letter signed by 71 senators from both parties -- led by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Jim Risch (R-ID) -- telling the president to lay off Israel and place more pressures on the Arab states to “normalize” relations with Israel. Obama had already, in his comments introducing Mitchell as special envoy and subsequently, called for “normalization” simultaneous with Israeli moves to lessen the burdens of occupation, in contravention of the 2002 Arab League peace plan, which proposed that the Arab states establish ties with Israel after withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

Now AIPAC and its backers in Congress want the administration to push for “normalization” before any Israeli overtures whatsoever. The Netanyahu government has played its part, as well. In August, its ministers, standing on the strategically crucial site of “E-1” between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, vowed that Israel would continue building settlements anywhere it pleases. On September 7, Israel announced it was beginning work on 500 new apartments in Pisgat Ze’ev and 455 in other West Bank locales. These actions essentially tell Obama to go to hell mere weeks before he is projected to launch his peace initiative. The US replied with an expression of “regret.”

Any plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace that has a hope of succeeding requires both an effective marketing strategy and a level of assertiveness as yet unseen in a US president, excepting, perhaps, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter. Obama’s only hope of breaking through the wall of Israeli and Democratic Party resistance is to articulate an approach to peace based on clear and accepted principles anchored in human rights and justice and then framed in terms of US interests. A cold, calculating assessment of US interests would certainly push Obama in this direction. Time will tell, though the limp response to the new settlement construction does not bode well.

In the meantime, growing opposition to the occupation on the part of the international grassroots is making it increasingly difficult for governments to support Israeli policies. The movement targeting Israel for boycott, divestment and sanctions gains strength by the day, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begins to assume the dimensions of the anti-apartheid struggle. But the Palestinians, exhausted and suffering as they may be, possess a trump card of their own. They are the gatekeepers. Until the majority of Palestinians, and not merely political leaders, declare that the conflict is over, the conflict is not over. Until most Palestinians believe it is time to normalize relations with Israel, there will be no normalization. Israel cannot “win” -- though it believes it can, which is why it presses ahead to complete the matrix and foreclose the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

The failure of yet another peace initiative will only galvanize international efforts to achieve justice for the Palestinians. Only this time the demand is likely to be for a single binational state, the only alternative that fits the single-state, binational reality that Israel itself has forged in its futile attempt to impose an apartheid regime.