Advent 4 - Luke
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. (Lk 1.29)
I find myself drawn to Mary’s perplexed reaction to what she cannot understand. I too, ponder…..what are God’s intentions? How can this be? My ponderings, however, are not prompted by an angel, but by what I hear from Palestine.
Yesterday I read a report from Adameer, (Arabic for “conscience”) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons, offering free legal aid to political prisoners, advocating their rights at the national and international level, and working to end torture and other violations of prisoners' rights through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns."
Adameer reports that since October 18, when 477 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, nearly 470 other Palestinians have been arrested. Some of the released prisoners have been harassed, and one has been rearrested. 70 of those arrested are children; 11 are women.
Most disturbing to me is that many of those arrested are human rights workers, political activists, journalists and people participating in the popular resistance movement, arrested for peacefully protesting Israel’s theft of Palestinian land. The list of those arrested includes 17 people from a village I visited last year—Beit Ummar, just south of Bethlehem...and I wonder if these are people I met on our visit. Eleven were also arrested at the Deheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, where I have visited several times. Two elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (the “Palestinian Parliament”) were also arrested. Read Adameer’s report.
Fuad Al-Khuffash is one of these prisoners (see his picture). He is a human rights defender, director of Ahrar Center for Prisoners’ studies and Human Rights, the Palestinian representative for Al Karama Association, which works to ensure the protection of human rights, and a field
researcher for Friends of Humanity International, a human rights organization based in Vienna. He has also worked as a journalist, writing extensively on human rights issues, and specifically on political prisoners and administrative detention. At 3:00 in the morning on June 28, soldiers used explosives to break down the door to his apartment. He awoke with 20 soldiers in his bedroom (read an account of his arrest and trial). He received a ten year sentence. Fuad’s wife Rana is forbidden to visit him.
On Sunday, as you are sitting in the pew listening to Mary’s story, an additional 500 Palestinian prisoners will be released—to complete the deal struck for Gilad Shalit’s release. Adameer calls on us to protest the arrests of human rights activists like Fuad. Send an email to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com (There are more contacts for the campaign to release Fuad al-Kuffash at the bottom of the story about his case.)
God of those who ponder….people like Fuad al-Kuffash and people like us. Keep us mindful of those who risk their lives to speak out when the powerful trample on the rights of ordinary people. Strengthen us in faithfulness to your promises, so that we, too, speak out when we witness injustice. Amen.