Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent 3 - Isaiah, Release to the Prisoners

Advent 3 - Isaiah

Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11

For Sunday, December 11

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

Because the Lord has anointed me; …..

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And release to the prisoners…. (Is 61.1)

Isaiah is pretty specific here. God has sent him, not to save souls, but to end ordinary, everyday suffering. He has been sent to free the captives and the prisoners.

Isaiah does his work because God anointed him. Lest we think that Isaiah was chosen for tasks much too difficult for us, or that he was singled out because he was especially talented, let me remind you that you, too, have been anointed by the same spirit of God that anointed Isaiah—when the oil was placed on your forehead in the sign of the cross and water splashed over you.

Last year when I visited Beit Ummar, a Palestinian town just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, I met Jamal Muqbel, who hosted our group in his home. He spends a lot of his time building bridges of understanding between Palestinians and Israelis. He is part of a group called Wounded Crossing Borders—Israelis and Palestinians who have been wounded in the conflict, who are committed to getting to know one another so that there will be no more death and suffering. We met Jamal and his family, his wife Sadiya, the Israelis who are part of the group and Jamal’s brother and sister-in-law, Mohammad and Sulha.

Mohammad told us the story of their son’s arrest earlier in the week (see picture with Sadiyaa, Sulha, and Mohammad telling us the story). Ibrahim was fourteen when the whole family was awakened at 2:00 am and forced out of their home at gunpoint, even the baby. The soldiers took Ibrahim, dressed only in his shirt and shorts, and beat him in front of the whole family. They blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. Then they took Ibrahim to a nearby settlement. Ibrahim was arrested for “throwing stones,” which he denies.

Mohammad had great difficulty in finding out where his son was taken and he did not get to see Ibrahim until the next day. In the meantime, Ibrahim’s hands were subjected to electric shock and the shackles he was forced to wear bruised his legs. Ibrahim was eventually released, but his family suffered and had to pay to have him released.

Ibrahim is only one of dozens of Palestinian children detained by Israel every year for stone-throwing. In its report, titled, “No Minor Matter, Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors Arrested by Israel on Suspicion of Stone Throwing,” the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, details what happens when these young people are arrested—how their human rights are violated, and the effects of detention on such young people. Israel has established a separate criminal justice system for minors, but the military justice system treats these Palestinian minors as adults.

Although Ibrahim is back with his family, at the end of October, there were still 150 minors in Israeli prisons, 30 of them under the age of 16. [] . There were no children among the 477 prisoners released in the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit in October. Read more:

Take two minutes to watch a short video and hear the story of another young person, Mohammad, arrested:

God of the imprisoned, we remember before you all the children of the world who are imprisoned, separated from their families, tortured and beaten. Help us find ways to protest this inhumane treatment and stop the cycles of violence that permeate our world. Amen.

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