Christian Conscience and How What We Buy Matters, February 6, 2018

    by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister

In July 2016, the delegates of Mennonite Church USA affirmed the resolution, “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine.” (http://mennoniteusa.org/resource/mennocon-2017-orlando/) As the resolution notes, “our Palestinian and Israeli partners  in peacemaking [some for 65 years] tell us that fifty years of Israeli military occupation is a major contributor to the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.”  Many of us read things like this, then wonder, “But, how can anything I do matter over there?”

On behalf of the Israel-Palestine Task Force, I commend the following practical and moral idea to you and your congregation:  Become an HP-Free Church and pledge to not buy Hewlett-Packard products until they begin to live out their company’s own words of having “respect for human rights.”

Our churches are places to worship God, encourage and care for each other and our neighbors in need.  We pray that what we buy for our churches also helps factory workers earn a just living and does not make life more unjust for other neighbors affected by a company’s products.

Besides their home and professional office products, HP has a separate division that makes biometric (facial or fingerprint recognition) technology.  Unfortunately, in the case of HP’s biometrics, their words about respecting human rights do not match how their products are made to be used.  Here are a few examples.

·         There are roads that only Israelis are allowed to use.  Within their own country, Palestinians must go through check-point after check-point on their roads.  HP supplies biometric technology for these check-points. These check-points separate workers from their fields, students from their schools, sick people from hospital care, and family members from each other, because Palestinians are routinely delayed or turned back entirely for days, months, or even years at a time.

·         Most Palestinians do not have the ability to get an Israeli nor a Palestinian passport, even though they live and work in the area.  Instead, they receive an identification card that is only for Palestinians.  These cards with HP biometrics embedded in them become the basis for unjust discrimination in housing, employment, healthcare, education and other basics of life.

·         HP contracts directly with Israeli settlements, many of which are illegal, for security systems.  Settlements are Jewish-only, gated communities which have access to clean water, which Palestinians living nearby do not.

Even if we don’t understand all of the legal details, as people of faith we recognize that so many restrictions on everyday life cannot be just.  HP is complicit in these injustices by some of the products they make.

We can make the decision to not support this company until it changes its policies, products, and practices.  This is an act of conscience that we can make as followers of Jesus, who consistently reached out to those on the margins and those who were being treated unfairly.

Stop buying new HP products, and when the HP products your church already owns stop working, replace them with another brand.  Until Hewlett-Packard shows that they are no longer part of unjust practices, let’s hold them accountable in this way.

Learn more about becoming an HP-Free Church at https://www.fosna.org/free-your-church-hp.

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