From Palestine to Charleston, and back

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We are regularly confronted by attacks on various religious places in the Middle East. Here in the region it went barely noticed that a large room in the beautiful Tabgha church along the Lake of Galilee was burned by anti-Palestinian extremists. A hospital annex church near Arroub refugee camp in the southern West Bank is presently transformed into a settlement project. A church near the forcefully abandoned place of Ikrit in the Galilee was lately emptied by Israeli police.

At the same time, Palestinians indirectly feel the heat of attacks by ISIS such as recently happened against a Shi’ite mosque in Kuwait, June 19, with 27 deaths. And it is not only happening in the Middle East. In the US a white supremacist entered a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot down 9 believers.

We approached Jo Prostko and Charlie Fritz from South Carolina, a church administrator and a pastor who became English language teachers and taught some years ago Palestinian youth in Bethlehem at AEI. How did they experience what happened in Charleston, especially also during the aftermath?

Jo writes:

“In fact, Charlie worked in an all-black congregation while in seminary decades ago. US society is so diverse and many voices here are extreme. Our media (FOX and talk radio) inflame those who tend to the extreme. Institutionalized discrimination is illegal but many white Americans still harbor feelings of racial superiority and our institutions perpetrate white privilege. Media shape our opinions to a large degree. Although we've made great progress since Jim Crow, we've also recently taken steps backward with legislative redistricting and voter ID laws. Our police forces are often militarized (sometimes trained literally by IDF) and in my opinion, the pandemic of guns is one of our biggest national problems. Black churches are still the center of community, empowerment, some business development and networking. President Obama said today [26 June], ‘It's where black kids learn they are smart, beautiful and important. It's where our people are taught that they matter.’ Through the decades, the black Church is where protests started and where resistance was organized. Sadly, because of that, sometimes it's where retribution for that also happened. Seems like there are many parallels between the black church of the 1950s and Palestinian church/society struggles.”

“It's been a momentous few weeks here in our state and in the US. The Charleston shooting and the community's reaction to it has been astonishing. If the Confederate flag actually is moved from the capitol grounds, I believe it will be part of a wave of unity and self-examination unlike anything we have seen recently here. Perhaps it somehow bodes well for honesty from the US about our perverted relationship with Israel and REAL JUSTICE and peace for Palestine too. We are encouraged by the United Church for Christ vote to divest and the potential for Episcopalians to do the same. We send our fervent hopes that the tide is truly turning here in the US.”

 

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