April 5, 2020
Approaching Easter in the midst of a global crisis, there is much to cover. In this issue:
  • Reports and reflections from Palestine in lockdown.
  • Advocacy by faith leaders in response to the emergency facing Gaza and child prisoners in the West Bank.
  • Two powerful Lenten reflections.
  • An extraordinary Easter Alert from Kairos Palestine.
  • Links for action, including a matching challenge for UNRWA.
On Palestine in "lockdown"
As we as individuals, families and communities struggle to cope with COVID-19, our thoughts turn to the most vulnerable and those already living under severe stress across the world. Mariam Barghouti, a writer in Ramallah, offers reflections on life in Palestine under lockdown. "The reality for Palestinians means living in an unremitting state of closure - except that our lockdown is for neither the sake of our well-being nor that of the world. It is for the single purpose of isolating us, containing us, and ensuring that we are socially distant from one another." But Barghouti does not dwell on her personal plight and that of her fellow Palestinians: "The current worldwide lockdowns  - even if vastly different - are a moment for all of us to reflect on our lives and the lives of others. I can't but recall the forgotten people and communities who have been in isolation for years. Palestine is only one example amid the incessant inequalities and oppressive forces around the world." 

We are being held to account for how we care for one another through our societal and political structures. See the piece by Gaza's Omar Shaban on the political, economic and healthcare challenges for Gaza brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read this article in Christianity Today on the impact of the virus on Palestinians, featuring interviews with several of our friends and colleagues in Bethlehem.

The annual Easter Alert from Kairos Palestine is now available. Stirring, powerful essays and reflections from Palestinian church leaders, theologians, teachers, and activists old and young focus on the situation in their land, current politics (particular attention paid to the "Deal of the Century"), and the meaning of the Easter story. As always, and now more than ever, the story of what transpired in Jerusalem as recorded in the gospels speaks directly to our times.

From the introduction by Patriarch Michel Sabbah: Resurrection is a feast of life free of all servitudes. Before God, we are all children of God, and children of the life and freedom that God has granted us. Resurrection is a reminder to everyone that a person’s glory abides in one’s freedom and the freedom of his sisters and brothers. Before the Lord of the Resurrection, we all triumph over death, and all peoples become makers of Resurrection, makers of life, freedom and dignity for themselves and all their brothers and sisters. No human being, however great or strong, is allowed to impose death on another in order to secure one’s own life. The lives of each of us - little or great, weak or strong - depend on the life of our brother and sister. 
Lenten Reflections in a time of pandemic
Give us this day our daily bread
Sojourner's Jim Wallis gives us a powerful piece on The Lord's Prayer in a Pandemic. "We will not commune to pray when it could infect untold numbers of our neighbors and fellow congregants," writes Wallis, "but we will continue to say the Lord's Prayer." Wallis reminds us of the power of this prayer and its proclamation of hope responsibility. Read his updating of the prayer for these time and links to impassioned essays by clergy on what it means to serve a church during this crisis.
“Gather up the fragments, so that nothing may be lost.”
In his Lenten reflection on the gospel story of the loaves and the fishes , theologian John de Gruchy discusses what is being asked of us as individuals and communities in the midst of this pandemic. "Do we have the resources needed for the journey through this Wilderness?" de Gruchy asks. "Jesus fed five thousand people who had followed him in the hope that he would perform a miracle and deliver them from their oppression and poverty. But in order feed them Jesus needed the help of others, and fortunately there was a young boy on hand who had brought with him five barley loaves and two fishes. Without his help there would have been no miracle. And that is invariably the case. God works miracles, but he usually depends on us to assist."
Take Action: lift the blockade
Leaders of fourteen U.S. denominations have sent this letter to President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary Pompeo , to "lift sanctions that negatively impact civilian populations and other restrictions that impair governments’ abilities to respond to the health crisis." The letter specifies Iran, Syria, and Gaza.

We call to your attention a March 28th Open Letter to Faith Leaders written by Rev Alex Awad of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace. In response to learning that cases of COVID-19 had appeared in the Gaza strip, Rev Awad asks church leaders "to call on the Israeli government to immediately end the Gaza blockade and allow medical personnel and equipment, including test kits, masks and ventilators to enter Gaza." The letter also calls on the U.S. to resume the suspended financial support to UNRWA, the agency that has ministered to Palestinian refugees since 1948. To date this letter has been endorsed by twelve U.S. denominations. United Methodist for Kairos Response has created an action page for this letter. Click on this link to send a message directly to the Israeli government.
Take Action: Release Palestinian child detainees
No Way to Treat a Child has initiated an action to "d emand that Israeli authorities immediately release all Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centers due to the increasing vulnerability created due to the rapid global spread of the COVID-19 virus and to safeguard their right to life, survival, development, and health in accordance with international law."

Take Action: Medical relief for Gaza
In 2018 the Trump Administration eliminated U.S. funding for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. This funding accounted for a third of agency's budget. In response to the pandemic, UNRWA has put out an urgent request for funds:

"UNRWA, through its 140+ health centers, will respond to the best of its ability as it has done in past emergencies. As we saw in Gaza during the Great March of Return, the health sector was collapsing with not enough stock in terms of medical supplies -- every week hospitals had to release patients early in anticipation of an influx of new ones. UNRWA was there to fill in the gaps and treat urgent needs of patients then and will do the same now, but can only do so with your support.

Act now and help us send $100,000 this week to supply UNRWA centers with what they are urgently requesting. Your donation can provide materials for refugees to keep themselves safe like hand sanitizer, protective equipment especially for health professionals and medicine to treat patients impacted by the outbreak."

There is a matching grant in effect through April 12. A donor will match donations up to $20,000.

For donors in the United States click here.

Outside of the United States, click here.
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