Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NCC Women's Delegation Returns from Israel/Palestine and Jordan

A delegation of church women from several denominations who spent almost two weeks in the Middle East are returning to the United States today.

Their hope was to see the plight of women and children suffering through hostilities in the Middle East, and to hear firsthand the human toll of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the effects of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq now living in Jordan.

Click here to read their stories and reflections on a blog

While rare in the ecumenical and interreligious world, delegations of women can yield insights that are very different from those of men's delegations. Gender-based diplomacy may be another facet of track II diplomacy we still have to explore.

In my reflection on Mothers' Day (see below May 11, 2007) I noted that the original proclamation of that day called for mothers to unite against the violence that their sons commit. Here is a portion of that again:

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

Here's the NCC press release about the women's delegation:

NCC women's delegation hears from Iraqi, Palestinian refugees

Jerusalem, May 21, 2007 – While violence raged in Lebanon and Gaza this past weekend, 15 women leaders from several denominations of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) traveled through Israel/Palestine and Jordan.

They finish their two-week visit Tuesday (May 22) which has focused on the plight of women and children suffering through hostilities in the Middle East.

Linda Bales, one of the delegation members from the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, Washington, D.C., sent back some reflections of the trip which have been posted on the NCC website here.

"One of the most profound meetings on our pilgrimage was meeting with Iraqi women who were living as guests in Jordan. We met them at the Syrian Orthodox Church in Amman," wrote Bales.

The "Rev. Sue Turley, an NCC delegate from the Swedenborgian Church, opened the meeting by saying that she was a 'Gold Star Mom'--a mother who had lost a son in the Iraq war. Sue said we, as mothers, can help each other through our losses and work for peace."

"With great emotion, the women sitting around the room extended their sympathies to Sue, hugged her, and then began sharing their own experiences as refugees in a foreign land," Bales continued. "One couple reported having had a relative kidnapped for ransom in Iraq. They felt threatened which resulted in their fleeing their homeland to Jordan in fear of their own lives."
The delegation was led by the Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young, an at-large vice president of the NCC and vice president of the North American Baptist Women's Union.

Bales' reflection quoted Chambers-Young: "We need to hear the voices of women. I believe when women in the U.S. can hear the voices of women and men in the Middle East, U.S. women will be motivated to work for a just peace."

The delegation members came from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches (USA), National Baptist Convention, Presbyterian Church (USA), Progressive National Baptist Convention, The Swedenborgian Church of North America, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.


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