Yara Shoufani, the Executive Director of CFOS, went to St. Paul, Minnesota to attend a pair of conferences on Palestine, including the Prophetic Action conference organized by Friends of Sabeel North America. Here is her reflection on the action-packed weekend:
Together We Rise in Prophetic Action
A few weeks ago, I took a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota for two conferences – Friends of Sabeel North American’s Prophetic Action Conference, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Right’s Conference: Together We Rise. The four days I spent in Minnesota marked a month into my role as the executive director for Canadian Friends of Sabeel. During these four days, I met brilliant organizers from all over the world who are engaged in relentless struggles for justice in their churches, their universities, and in their broader communities. I heard inspirational speeches of resilience alongside powerful calls for peace, including one by Rep. Betty McCollum who became the first American Member of Congress to call Israel an apartheid state. And most importantly, I saw activists, organizers, and participants finding ways to connect the plight of the Palestinians to other struggles both at home and abroad. It was reaffirmed to me that our liberation is a shared liberation, and that we are all connected by our desire to be free.
In her keynote at the Prophetic Action conference, Reverend Traci Blackmon, reflecting on the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri said the words “Ferguson is church.” Her words stayed with me. Growing up in a tradition that saw faith and social justice as two separate things, and often struggling with this separation, Reverend Traci Blackmon’s words reaffirmed to me that these two things are one. She articulated liberation, politics, and social issues as theology. I found myself asking “what does it mean to do theology?” and “how do we practice the faith that we preach?” What we preach and what we practice cannot be contradictory. If we preach justice, freedom, and peace for our brothers and sisters, we must take part in the movements that fight for justice, freedom, and peace. In the way that Ferguson is church, Palestine, too, is church. We cannot classify the struggle of the Palestinian people as political, and separate it from our faith which we then deem as theological. But rather, the plight of the Palestinians embodies that which our faith teaches. And while at times the struggle for justice can push our understanding of faith, in the words of Reverend Traci Blackmon, “We have to be willing to do something different, and trust that God will be able to handle that difference.”
I thought to myself, not only can we say that Palestine is church, but church, too, is Palestine. This thought was reaffirmed as I came across campaigns that brought the topic of Palestine into churches. I encountered groups who had created justice curriculums for churches – curriculums which discussed colonization, racism, and apartheid. I met many working with Friends of Sabeel North America to make their churches “HP Free” and/or “Justice Churches.” I heard the stories of churches sponsoring Palestinian families, selling fair trade Palestinian products, and starting peace studies groups. I found inspiration and hope in seeing the ways that people continuously questioned a separation between faith and justice. I left Minnesota feeling so hopeful that people like me and you are coming together to fight for what we believe in. By the time I landed in Toronto, I found myself unbelievably excited for the future that we are fighting to create. I wanted to share these experiences with you in hopes that you, too, will feel inspired, to come together with Canadian Friends of Sabeel to build a better future – a future where Palestine is free.
Canadian Friends of Sabeel – Executive Director