Friday, February 25, 2011

Jesus Challenged Empire

From the Sabeel Conference in Bethlehem (February 24, 2001): SABEEL CONFERENCE IN BETHLEHEM: JESUS CHALLENGED EMPIRE

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh described "the 13 percent of Bethlehem that is the concentration camp we (Palestinians) are allowed to live in," while the remainder is either zoned restricted or is "illegally annexed." He said, "Israel continues building its Wall, which in Bethlehem is 60-70 percent complete." Qumsiyeh, a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, addressed "Mapping Empire Today in Palestine and Israel."

"Shedding fear is the most important part of people-power resistance," Qumsiyeh said. "State power requires fear," and it employs "unimaginable" tactics such as demolishing homes six and seven times.

As for "empire," we have to ask who is behind all this, Qumsiyeh said. "Greed and interests of greed that cannot be ignored. We must understand the biology of the disease we are facing so that we can treat it." Palestinians are facing world powers, not just another state, he said.

"Justice, peace, truth - these are not just words. Leaders blurt them unconsciously. I say as a Palestinian Christian, look to Jesus Christ. He was the first Palestinian martyr. He spoke Aramaic, a precursor to Arabic, and he was killed for acting, not just for saying these words," Qumsiyeh said.

The Rev. Mitri Raheb preached at the Wi'am Center, located next to the Separation Wall in Bethlehem. He spoke to the familiar text from the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth," saying it would more correctly be translated, "for they shall inherit the land." Raheb is the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church and president of the Diyar Consortium in Bethlehem.

"We really think empire will last. Jesus says it will not," Raheb said. "How wise Jesus was. No one of Jesus' time would have imagined that Herod was not here to stay. Jesus tells us through this verse that we are released from the power of empire. Jesus speaks and empire has lost its power over us. We see it in the Arab world in these recent weeks. Young people saw that empire could be shattered. God won't do it alone, only with us."


P.S. But, but then again, revolutions don't happen that way, and although it's true that Jesus honored peoples' faith by multiplying two fishes and five loaves of bread to feed thousands, the Ugly Truth is that God is unlikely to move in behalf of the duped, hapless protesters today.

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