historic Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance Conference held in the little town and occupied territory of Bethlehem was a Peace-filled Walk to The Wall which divides Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
The walk began at 4:00 PM near the Church of The Nativity, the recognized place of the Prince of Peace's birth. Over two hundred global citizen; Internationals, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims and Christians walked in solidarity against the Israeli occupation and in support of The Univesal Declaration of Human Rights.
We chanted and sang all along the way:
"Shalom, Salaam, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem" and "We shall overcome."
By the time we reached the checkpoint many local residents had joined in and our numbers had swelled to over 400. The Israeli Defense Force was taken by surprise and we easily entered the compound and heads may soon roll as we breached their security: and we did it by nonviolent activism.
We joyfully and peacefully entered the compound before the IDF rolled back the thirty foot high gate and joined hands in a circle and prayed for peace and human rights led by Melkite and Orthodox Priests.
The soldiers immediately called for reinforcements and the line of jeeps extended all the way from Jerusalem to the Bethlehem checkpoint where we stood in peace.
The morning of 12/30/05 began with the Reverend Naim Ateek, Founder and Director of SABEEL Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem who clearly underscored the fact that we, who claim to be Christians are not, unless we promote nonviolence and equal human rights.
In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity and thus, radical social justice outlaws began to enjoy political power and prestige. The Prince of Peace's true teachings were reinterpreted to justify warfare and the use of state sponsored violence corrupted the true message Christ modeled and taught:
You must love, you must forgive, you must bless those who curse, hate and revile you.
Christ taught that evil can be opposed without being mirrored, and that the the cycle of a 'tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye ', will never bring peace and justice.
Before Emperor Constantine brought Christianity into the mainstream, all the early Church Fathers taught that Christians should not serve in the army but instead willingly suffer rather than inflict harm on any other.
St. Paul taught that the only way to resist evil is with good. Clement, Tertillian, Polycarp and every other early Church Father taught that violence is a contradiction of what Christianity is all about.
Within 100 years that Empire required that all soldiers in the army must be Christians and thus, the decline of Christianity began. Augustine was the first Church Father to speak about the concept of a Just War. The Church relaxed and negated the true teaching of Christ to justify war and thus: wrong became right.
There have always been those Christians who spoke out against this corruption of scripture and they have been ignored, reviled, rejected, laughed at, persecuted and maligned. There has always been Christians who never abandoned the true teachings, such as the Quakers, Mennonites, some Catholics and Protestants who have been faithful witnesses to Christ.
I have had the opportunity this past week to meet many of them and they fill me with hope that as greater numbers of global citizens come together in solidarity for The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which America and Israel have affirmed we will find the way to challenge and remedy the wrongs committed by those who hold political power to do right.
Gila Svirsky, an Israeli Jew and activist with The Coalition of Women for Peace stated "Most Israeli's today want to end the occupation..[but] talking about the suffering of others does not work here. What is working is education that focuses on Israeli self interest and Reality Tours. This past year over 3,500 Israelis and two groups of soldiers took the tour to see the Wall up close and sat in Palestinian homes and had coffee with them. When they saw how parents interacted with their kids it was the best wake up call...Self interest considers the fact that over 3.5 billion dollars a year goes to continue the occupation and that Israel is considered a pariah by the rest of the world...When Israelis claim the higher ground and portray themselves as victims the rug is pulled out from underneath them when Palestinians use nonviolent resistance."