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    ‘Waging Peace’ Conference Contributes to Understanding Middle East

    Leah Grundset Davis, journalist, member of clergy recognition council, Manassas, Va.

    Challenging and innovative words about peace making were spoken at the Waging Peace in Palestine and Israel conference this weekend. “If you want to wage peace, you have to create the needed infrastructure. Words alone don’t do it,” Mitri Raheb said in his keynote address.

    “You must create facts on the ground—you cannot simply count the violations. Investing in the infrastructure is investing in the people,” he said. A Palestinian Lutheran pastor, Raheb runs the Bright Stars of Bethlehem program, an Alliance of Baptists’ Ministry Partner.

    More than 100 people gathered for the event, hosted by the Community for Justice in Palestine and Israel of the Alliance of Baptists at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

    The Community’s goal for the gathering was to inspire, motivate and equip participants concerning justice issues in Palestine and Israel, specifically issues about the ongoing occupation of the land.

    Lectures, panels and workshops focused on the Kairos Document, which calls on churches to “take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land,” the biblical and historical foundations of the conflict in Palestine and Israel and creative ways to wage peace.

    For Carol Blythe, president of the Alliance of Baptists, the gathering became a kairos moment for the Alliance family by providing an opportunity to respond to the document.

    “It gave us a chance to listen and learn from Palestinians. It gave us a chance to hear different narratives about the situation in Palestine and Israel,” Blythe said.

    G.J. Tarazi, conference chair, praised the conference for shattering “the myths about conflict, which often prevent thoughtful, caring people from getting involved in waging peace.”

    “We were reminded that what fuels our work of waging peace is doing justice based on human relationships and love,” Tarazi said.

    Participants at the conference included members of Alliance of Baptist churches, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and partner Baptist denominations.

    Paula Clayton Dempsey, director of partnership relations with the Alliance said the event “represented the best of who the Alliance is.”

    “Conversation was done respectfully and hard questions were raised,” she said.

    Reflecting on the importance of this gathering, Carol Blythe called it “an active demonstration of the Alliance of Baptists Covenant and the Alliance’s commitment to working for justice and peace in the world.”

    She also praised the way the Community for Justice in Palestine and Israel initiated and implemented the conference.

    The planning committee for the conference is developing ideas for a similar event next year, Tarazi said. To become involved in the Community for Justice in Palestine and Israel, contact G.J. Tarazi.