Go Beyond the Headlines.  Go Beyond the Blockade.

by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister (Kansas-Based)

We are hungry for real stories, news that goes beyond the sound-byte.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to live our lives in love for God and our neighbors.  Sometimes we ask with the lawyer long ago, “But who is my neighbor?”

My neighbors are those whom Jesus would have associated with when he walked this earth.  My neighbors are those whom others despise.  My neighbors are those without a voice, living on the margins, or those who experience great injustice.  My neighbors are those who long to be drawn into the circle of God’s love and justice, but who may not believe that is possible.

The WDC Israel-Palestine Relations Task Force believes that the people of Gaza, in between Israel and Egypt, are our neighbors.  Since 2007, the people of Gaza have experienced great turmoil and loss because of the blockade around their land.  Between the land and naval blockades, Amnesty International calls Gaza an “open air prison.”  Because of the blockade, Gazans cannot travel to tell others their stories and only a handful of international people are allowed into Gaza to learn what’s really going on there.  The WDC Israel-Palestine Task Force wants to help our Gazan neighbors to share stories of their everyday lives, both their joys and trauma.  We encourage your congregation to do what other Mennonite Church USA churches have already done:  Join the Gaza Twinning Initiative.  The first step is as simple as expressing interest in this project to our task force and receiving the name and contact information of a Gaza church, hospital, school, or mosque.  This is not a request for funds.  This is a request for friendship, a long-distance, digital relationship including stories, pictures, and videos from your church and from your Gazan (digital) pen pals.  If you would like more information about this, please contact our chair, Bob Atchison (atchison@ksu.edu) or contact The Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN) directly (mennopin@gmail.com).  Other members of the Israel-Palestine Relations Task Force are Tom Harder, Esther Koontz, Katie Mitchell-Koch, Elizabeth Raid, and Jakob Whitson.

The task force and I pray that this will increase compassion and curiosity for these neighbors across the globe and their plight.  As more hearts and minds are opened to our neighbors’ pain, we may be moved to share their stories with those who have the power to affect change.  May it be so.