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Archive for the ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’ tag

9 Religion Themed Films At Sundance Film Festival 2012

from Huffington Post

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival began Jan. 19 and will continue until Jan. 29 in Park City, Utah. Sundance takes place annually in Utah and is the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. Religion and spirituality featured prominently at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, with 26 films exploring themes of ultimate meaning, bigger questions of life and the complicated role that religion plays in our world.

This year’s festival features at least nine films touching on the topic of religion and spirituality. While most of these films are set against a Christian background, “5 Broken Cameras,” directed by a Palestinian and Israeli duo, is a thought-provoking personal documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, “Bestiaire” uses humans and beasts to explore the Hindu concept of darshan (an act of beholding the Divine).

From exposing the hypocrisy of the church to commenting on the sexual lives of rebellious religious teenagers to chronicling the hopeful story of Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, these films explore a variety of themes.HuffPost Religion has compiled a list of films highlighted at Sundance Film Festival 2012 that explore the topic of religion and spirituality. Enjoy!

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Speaking Out Against Mosque Desecration

by Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester
from Common Ground News Service

Jerusalem – Across the world, people were outraged by the news that mosques in Israel had been desecrated and racist graffiti scrawled across their walls. Israeli Jews felt ashamed. We asked ourselves: do the perpetrators have any understanding of Jewish history and theology, – which clearly teach respect for every human being and the necessity of standing up against injustice wherever we see it?

Growing up in the shadows of the Holocaust, I, a young British Jew, learned about Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when dozens of German synagogues were attacked. In youth groups we discussed how the demonisation of people and the destruction of their religious buildings were a first step to genocide. We proudly proclaimed, “never again” – never again should this happen to Jews; never again should it happen to any other people.

We understood the Biblical requirement for a sovereign Jewish state to care for everyone, including those who do not share our heritage.

Exploring our relationship to other faiths, we discovered that from medieval times, great rabbis taught their followers that Islam is a monotheistic religion whose adherents must be treated with respect. When the great Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, pondered why God had created so many people whose faith differed from his own, he concluded that although God’s will is unfathomable, Islam and Christianity seemed to be part of the divine plan to spread ethical monotheism throughout the world.

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Religion Stories Of 2011: The Top 11

by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post

In the final days of 2011 we pause to reflect on the year that has past — the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are the HuffPost Religion Top Stories of 2011.

The Muslim Spring
It started with a simple vegetable seller in Tunisia who, humiliated by the police and autocracy, set himself on fire at the end of 2010. One year later, the seemingly eternal regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have fallen to popular uprisings and several others, including Syria, appear to be teetering. Once called the Arab Spring, Islam is increasingly being recognized as the fuel that fed the fire of these revolutions — a fire that that may both warm and burn in 2012.

The Dalai Lama Steps Down
The Dalai Lama made history when he relieved himself from his responsibility as political head of the Tibetan people to concentrate solely on his role as spiritual leader; ending one of the most enduring, if benevolent, theocracies in the world. Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard-trained legal scholar, is the the new Tibetan Prime Minister in a time when frustrations with Chinese policy is leading to a fiery form of radical protests by nuns and monks.

Mormons in Politics
The potential success of the Romney presidential campaign has fed a frenzy of discussion of what it means that a Mormon is in politics. The fact that Romney is not the only Mormon candidate (Huntsman) and that the Senate Majority Leader (Reid) is also Mormon doesn’t seem to stop the endless punditry and speculation. Will religious suspicion on the part of evangelicals in the primary and secularists in the general election doom this Mormon moment?

The Muslims Are Coming, The Muslims Are Coming
Fear of the “Muslim menace,” fueled by cynical politicians and well funded think tanks, has led to anti-sharia laws proposed and passed in states around the country. The fact that these states hadno pending pro-sharia laws is apparently beside the point. Creating bulwarks instead of bridges, the anti-sharia (read Muslim) movements seem to ebb and flow according to the political tides (think Park 51 in 2010). Get ready for a flood in 2012.

The End of the World
In order to give people time to repent, people with May 21 Judgment Day signs started popping up well before the announced date of the end of the world. The “prophet” of this apocalypse was Harold Camping, an elderly man with a drawling voice heard most prominently on his Family Radio empire. People left jobs, families prepared to be raptured and as the clock ticked down, the entire world held its collective unbelieving breath. And then time went on, and oddly a little disappointed, so did we.

Presbyterians Acknowledge Gays and Lesbians Can Be Ministers
Ho hum, gays can be ministers, too. Yet, for the Presbyterian Church, one of America’s most famously and proudly plodding religious traditions, to change its laws to allow openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy was a major step forward for LGBT rights and for the Church as a whole.

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Changing the Conversation: Tools for Talking About Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolence Efforts in Your Community

Register Now Wednesday, January 11, 2012
10:00am U.S. Central Time

With negotiations stalled, what constructive nonviolent alternatives are Palestinian and Israeli civilians pursuing at the grassroots level to resolve the conflict and end the occupation? This webinar introduces a variety of online multimedia tools and documentary films Just Vision has developed to help communities learn about and connect with Palestinian and Israeli nonviolence leaders and peacebuilders. Recognizing that too often violence, extremism and diplomatic stalemate dominate the headlines on this issue, we will look at ways to shift the conversation from spoilers to solutions, and how our attention as a global audience factors into the growth and success of these efforts.

Ronit Avni is an award-winning filmmaker, human rights advocate and media strategist with an expertise in Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution efforts. Ms. Avni is the Founder and Executive Director of Just Vision, a non-profit organization that researches, documents and creates media about Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders in nonviolence and peace building. At Just Vision, she recently produced the documentary film Budrus and directed/produced the film Encounter Point.

Title: Changing the Conversation: Tools for Talking About Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolence Efforts in Your Community
Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM CDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees:
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees:
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Engaging Palestinian Literature: A Jewish Journey Into Empathy

By Joe Winkler
From the Huffington Post

I never acquired a taste for overt rebellion. Instead, I sought my independence in books — books that promised to expand my personality by destroying it first. As a high school junior, I hid a “Short Introduction to Atheism” in my underwear drawer. In college I tore off the cover as quickly as I acquired the most recent addition to the New Atheist canon to evade the glares of those who would judge an Orthodox Jew for reading Christopher Hitchens.

As an adult, I found a new genre, not for the sake of teenage rebellion, but to understand, to identify — in short, to empathize. But how often do we use empathy to challenge, and therefore expand, our borders of understanding? Do we believe in a line beyond which we are no longer obligated to learn about the Other, their life, their struggles, joys, idiosyncrasies, merits and weaknesses? Even if we dare not say so, we take this tack in our approach to Arabs in general, and Palestinians specifically. Do we know any Palestinian literature or poetry? If not, why not? What do we fear it will teach us about the experience of the most Other in the contemporary Jewish psyche?

I crossed this last line in devouring a memoir by Mourid Barghouti, entitled “I Saw Ramallah.” Barghouti, a venerable poet and academic, writes a stunningly intense account of his anger, frustration and alienation engendered by his forced exile from his home in Ramallah. He spreads the blame, with the Zionist project/”Occupation” receiving the brunt of it, but the book works best the poetic transcends the political in descriptions of the identity-shattering experience of exile, of eternal foreignness.

My first reaction entailed intellectualization. I read Barghouti’s story, but maintained the perspective of outsider reading in, not looking to get lost in any foreign world, or empathize with any characters. I knew the ready-made answers to specific claims, and deflected each challenge to my core beliefs. I believe it all to contain logical truth, but, perhaps as important, the rationalizations distance us from a raw emotional truth. To feel so much pain caused by your dream, your ancestors’ dream is a kind of assault, leaving you wheezing for air, bloodied and bruised, mugged of your certainty.

Reading him wax poetically about his longing for Jerusalem, my Jerusalem, the country I learned to love from before I can remember, the city my ancestors prayed for in the pits of the hell of exile, in the midst of crusades, massacres and the Holocaust, aroused hatred in my heart. I felt violated, as if his simple longing to return to his home violated my life, somehow. My anger and sense of violation seems incommensurate with my actual love toward Israel. Israel and I, like many Americans, have a complicated relationship. But it’s my relationship. Not his, not theirs, not anyone but my nation, my people.

Then I read it again.

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Pope Meets With Holy Land Rabbi, Imam, Druze

By Nicole Winfield
From Huffington Post

VATICAN CITY — A delegation of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Druse religious leaders in Israel met Thursday with Pope Benedict XVI in a high-profile display of their efforts to promote interfaith peace initiatives in the region.

The Council of Religious Leaders in Israel was created in 2007 in Jerusalem to bring together Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Israel to raise awareness about the need for interfaith dialogue and cooperation in the Holy Land.

The audience with the pope was designed in part to boost the profile of the council, which counts among its members representatives of Israel’s Islamic, or Sharia courts.

Sheik Kiwan Mohamad, who heads an association of some 500 imams in Israel, said the fact that the council exists was proof that people of different faiths can live together peacefully, even amid the political unrest in the Middle East.

“Islam is a religion of peace that loves life and condemns any act in the name of religion against the very principles of the religion,” he said. “The people who act in this way are selfish; they do so for themselves and out of personal motives and interests.”

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Oasis of Peace: An Interfaith Village in Israel

by Kim Lawton
from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

Nestled in the hills between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is a small village called the Oasis of Peace—in Hebrew, Neve Shalom and in Arabic, Wahat al-Salam. While the Middle East conflict continues to churn all around, here they are trying to create a different reality, one that says Israelis and Arabs can live side-by-side in peace.

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Global Voices of Nonviolence

by Lynne Hybels
from Huffington Post

In March of 2011 I walked up a rocky hillside near the Palestinian Christian village of Aboud. I had an olive tree seedling in a plastic bucket hoisted on my shoulder. With a chain link fence topped by razor wire as a backdrop, I scooped earth with my hands and planted the hearty little seedling. My American and Palestinian friends planted a dozen or so olive trees that day while Israeli soldiers watched from a distance. A week later, long after we Americans were gone, the Palestinian villages planted more seedlings, but the Israeli soldiers uprooted the trees and sent the villagers home.

The seedlings were planted to replace the ancient olive trees plowed down by Israeli bulldozers. Though the hillside was owned by the Palestinian villagers and the olive trees provided their livelihood, the land was cleared for the sake of Israeli security. But many people–including Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans–believe the destruction of the olive trees is unnecessary and unjust. So they replant the trees as an act of protest. If, as sometimes happens, the seedling are allowed to grow, so much the better; but if not, at least the empty holes dug by human hands will shout a simple message: This is wrong.

It will also say: Though I believe your actions are unjust, and I need to stand against them, I will not take up weapons against you. I will resist you, but I will not turn to violence. This form of nonviolent resistance, grounded in the teachings and example of Gandhi and MLK, is judged by detractors as weak or ineffectual. But nonviolent revolutions overthrew the British in India and the violent defenders of apartheid in South Africa. It shaped the Civil Rights movement in the US. Of the thirteen nonviolent revolutions in communist nations that occurred in 1989-90 only one failed–in China. We’ve recently seen the tragedy of brutal violence in parts of the Middle East, but also the impact of “people power” grounded in nonviolent resistance.

My personal introduction to nonviolence was through Christian Palestinian Sami Awad, director of the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust. Committed to developing young community leaders and to nonviolently resisting the military occupation of the Palestinian Territory, Sami finds his ultimate inspiration in Jesus’s command to “love your enemies.” You can’t love your enemy, says Sami, unless you know your enemy. So Sami traveled repeatedly to Auschwitz with a group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. These trips helped him understand how every act of violence by a Palestinian perpetuates the Holocaust fear of destruction of the Jews. While Sami longs for freedom and justice for Palestinians, he also longs for Israelis to be healed of their fear. Only a steady and patient commitment to nonviolence can lead–however slowly–to that outcome.

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What One Palestinian Learned From Gandhi

by Sami Awad
from Huffington Post

I was 12 years old when I was introduced to Gandhi. My uncle Mubarak returned from India with four big heavy boxes filled with books. All same size and shape with warn-out green covers. These books included all the writings of Gandhi. They filled two book shelves, double the space taken by the Encyclopedia Britannica. What attracted me in the boxes was a comic book of the story of Gandhi from his childhood to his death. I read the comic book over and over. At a young age, Gandhi became a comic book hero.

Gandhi became a real hero through the work of Mubarak, who started the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem. Mubarak traveled from one Palestinian village to the other promoting nonviolence in the same way Gandhi did in India. As he spoke of Gandhi, he never said we need to do what Gandhi did; he emphasized the uniqueness of our own heritage, culture and condition under Israeli occupation and how we were to develop our own approaches to nonviolence and not copy others. In 1988 Mubarak Awad, who became known as the “Palestinian Gandhi,” was arrested and deported by the Israeli authorities.

Over the years I continued to study Gandhi, reading more of the big green books that now sit on two shelves in my office in Bethlehem. I have also traveled to India twice. Once with Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, and the second to participate in a conference to commemorate the century celebration of one of Gandhi’s most famous writings, Hind Swaraj. There I was honored to give a talk in the presence of His Holiness the Dalia Lama.

As a Palestinian, there are many lessons learned from Gandhi. One important lesson was in seeing nonviolence not only as a tactical and pragmatic tool of resistance but also as a holistic and spiritual approach to life and living. Gandhi was not only passionate about ending the British colonial rule of India, he was also passionate about uprooting the cause of violence in every aspect of one’s life and relations. This is not easy for people who live under daily suffering and oppression, but in my work in nonviolence in Palestine, I now believe that my own liberation as a Palestinian is not only about ending the Israeli military occupation, but also about addressing all aspects of violence — be they political, social, economic or environmental. Nonviolence is not a tactic to be taken out of the box when it seems fit to use. It is a way of life.

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