Category Archives: Spiritual – Religion

Why I’m Marching in DC on Saturday

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Public Garden in Boston – Photo via Allie Kroner

My PussyHat is knitted, my sign is drying, and I’m ready to hop on the bus Saturday morning in Baltimore for the short ride to DC.

I struggled with the message I want to share at the Women’s March, and decided my friend’s sign in Barcelona, Spain was the perfect message. Gracias Barbara. In Spanish, she wrote “Build Bridges, Not Walls”.  The message is positive, simple and complex all in one. I asked my friends in Gaza to help me write the message in Arabic.

Palestinians know better than anyone the evil associated with walls, as Israel has perfected the process of division, humiliation, and death with the erection of “security” walls and fences. I don’t want America building walls — literally or figuratively. We must expand our spirit of generosity, build bridges at home and abroad, and grow our understanding and appreciation of each other.

Donald wants to build a physical wall, but he’s already succeeded in dividing Americans. I will do my part to resist Donald and shed the light on a different path.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

We Were Made For These Times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves

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IMCL conference day #1

Rome is an excellent location for an international conference about making cities livable. If my first impressions are any clue, this city has a mixture of both what works and what doesn’t (yet) work as a livable city.

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Rome, Italy

On the positive side, I count the historical buildings, monuments and architecture, along with the great public transportation, delicious food, and very kind people. On the other hand, the graffiti is a big distraction (it’s on every surface visible to spray paint). The homeless sleeping under the bridges, and the urban poor are clear reminders of the inequities that exist. I rode a city bus to the end of the line on the far west side of Rome and saw poor neighborhoods that most tourists won’t see.

An Italian architect who helped make the local arrangements for this conference lamented that his colleagues didn’t even bother to show up. “They could learn so much from IMCL speakers,” he said, “but instead we [architects] are making life worse and worse in our cities.”

The four days are jam-packed with presentations. Participants (I’m guessing 100+) are a mix of architects, urban designers, planners, policy folks and elected officials from around the world, and the venue (Pontificia Universita Urbaniana, Vatican City) is well-equipped for the program.

I presented a paper about Gaza on the first day (more in a future blog post) but my two colleagues from Gaza are not here. Israel wouldn’t allow Yaser to leave the Gaza Strip, and Italy wouldn’t give Eman a Visa to enter the country. (More here about the travel restrictions.)IMG_4555

Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard, IMCL Co-Founder and Director, opened the conference with words that easily resonated with me about what’s wrong with our city-building today. There are two competing value systems at work, she said. The first is based on GDP, where the city is seen as an economic engine, and its function is to fuel growth and raise the standard of living; while the second is based on the Quality of Life. In this model, the function of the city is the “care and culture” (Lewis Mumford) of people and of the earth.

Some of the highlights from her presentation:  Extreme capitalism creates a consumer society where we find hundreds of ghost cities in China; vertical sprawl in cities like Hong Kong (the least affordable housing in the world); and New York City with its “safe deposit boxes in the sky” (investors are stashing their $$ in high-rises, seen as good investments). In Tokyo’s housing, there are high levels of hikikomori — people who suffer from severe social withdrawal. Some estimate there are more than 700,000 hikikomori in Japan. Teenagers will not leave their bedrooms for days, weeks, even months at a time while their meals are left on trays outside their door. High-rise living can be detrimental to physical and mental health, and we see higher rates of obesity and related chronic diseases. Paris has a population of 20,000 people per square kilometer in 6 stories, but now is considering adding high-rises to its skyline.

Suzanne summarized the IMCL Principles of TRUE URBANISM: (as opposed to new urbanism?)

  1. Facilitate community social life. Key to achieving a high quality of life for all is the way we treat the public realm. The most essential task is to make it possible for people to come together, to form friendships and face-to-face social networks, and to develop social capital and community, but we seem focused on over-investment in private property and under-investment in the public realm.
  2. Facilitate contact with nature, including nature everywhere in our cities, and make nature accessible to children. My ears perked up when Suzanne mentioned community gardens. I wish my defunct community garden in Albuquerque was growing and active.
  3. Facilitate independent mobility. We must focus on balanced transportation planning that first prioritizes walking, second on biking, third on public transit, and lastly on the car. Living streets (“Wohnstrasse” designated by the international blue sign) have been traffic calmed and are safe for children and elders.
  4. A hospitable built environment that frames social life. Human-scale and mixed use environment instead of the mono-culture zoning districts in the U.S. which divide uses.

“Profit is privatized

Loss is socialized”

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Richard Jackson (r) and Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard (l)

 

Richard Jackson, a physician and professor of environmental sciences at UCLA, shared some provocative thoughts when he asked “will we merit gratitude from our grandchildren?” Dr. Jackson says the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) has been right about everything it has projected for the past 20 years with the exception of one thing.  The pace of change is occurring much faster than the IPCC experts thought it would. He used many of the same climate change slides that I have used when I talk about climate change —- but one stood out for me.  The IMF tells us that the fossil fuels industry is subsidized to the tune of $10 million/minute!! Estimate of $5.3 TRILLION for fossil fuels, much greater than our total expenditures for healthcare.  (At that point, my blood pressure was rising.)  He said there are 20 Attorney Generals in the U.S. filing a lawsuit against Exxon, similar to the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.

Are we guilty of child abuse?  Maybe, but certainly we are guilty of child neglect by our acts of omission — our failure to protect our children and grandchildren from the ravages of climate change, and subjecting them to a life of inactivity, in large part by the way we’ve built our cities.  There’s a lot of research out about the impacts of the built environment on our children’s health. I’m going to look for the May 2016 JAMA issue when I return home. Finally, Dr. Jackson mentioned British Columbia’s carbon tax which has dropped carbon use by 16%.  It’s working and others should follow their example.

Father Alejandro Crosthwaite, Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, Pontificia Universita San Tommaso, Vatican City, addressed how the Pope’s Laudato Si relates to city planning.  I read the Laudato Si last summer when it was released, see here. Father Crosthwaite said The Holy See was shocked with the impact of the Laudato Si, especially among non-Christians. A number of good questions followed his presentation. Someone observed that the church hierarchy has been slow to teach and speak about the Laudato Si, another thought the Vatican needs a good marketing campaign to spread the word. Father Crosthwaite acknowledged that a lot more needs to be done and applauded the laity for taking the leadership around the world. The “structures of sin” didn’t come from outer space, they came from each of us as individuals, and so we need to do this both as a community and as individuals. Key for the Pope is “dialogue.” The Vatican city-state is now carbon neutral. They bought a forest to offset the carbon use within the Vatican as well as transitioning to solar energy. The Vatican also works closely with the United Nations, influences the meetings and discussions about climate change.

Richard Economakis, architect and professor at the School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, shared a presentation entitled “Streets of Hope: Outlining an Urban, Environmentally Responsible Approach to Housing EU Asylum-Seekers”. I want to visit some of the refugee camps on the Greek Islands and was keenly interested in how Richard proposed to meet the challenges presented by this “migration of biblical proportions”. He mentioned that IKEA is producing housing for refugees using PVC components, non-degradable materials and designed to last 2 years. The Swiss government rejected IKEA’s housing as a fire safety hazard.

Professor Economakis stressed the “principle of repurposability” – meaning that designing and building human settlements for the refugees should consider the future reuse or repurpose of the structures once the refugees have moved on. Richard and eight of his graduate students prepared a Master Plan for the creation of temporary Refugee Villages to serve as processing centers for the refugees seeking asylum in the EU. He was kind enough to give me a copy. I hope I can find a way to send it to my colleagues in Gaza.

Statement of Intent

Let us build modest homes to serve as temporary shelters for the dispossessed in those ports and towns of their arrival. We must do so responsibly, using natural materials which have no carbon footprint, and in such a way that buildings can easily be torn down when they cease to be useful, without significantly impacting the environment – or else they should be able to stand for generations. Let us arrange the houses to form real communities of hope, villages that dignify the waves of tired men, women and children while they wait for their asylum requests to be processed. When the crisis abates and the refuges have moved on to new places and new lives, these towns may serve the hosting nations by being converted into affordable neighborhoods, academic villages or resorts.

Are there ideas here that might be applicable to the Gaza Strip?  I think so.

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Step-by-step شوية شوية

Camino map

Before the magic wears off, I must share “my Camino” experience in northern Spain.

I’ve been identifying myself as a pilgrim for the past couple of years on my quest for answers in the Middle East, but Israel, Egypt and the USA have denied me permission to return to the Gaza Strip so I decided to follow the path that thousands, maybe millions, of pilgrims have followed since the Middle Ages to St. James’ burial place in Santiago — looking for answers.

The most popular route is over 700 km long, but I didn’t have 4-5 weeks to walk it and probably didn’t have the stamina either, so I chose to begin my Camino at Leon. I walked six days to Pontferrada and then hopped the bus to Sarria, where I walked another 7 days to Santiago.  Step-by-step  شوية شوية.  In total, my feet carried me just over 200 km (about 125 miles) during the first two weeks in April. Believe me, I now have a heightened appreciation for my feet.

I averaged 18 km each day (about 11-12 miles) while most everyone else passed me going much faster and further, reminding me of the Aesop fable, the Tortoise and the Hare. I kept plodding along worried that I wouldn’t keep up. A few days into the walk, my concerns about the pace and whether I could finish the pilgrimage vanished when I realized — “This is MY Camino, not anyone else’s” — and dropping my competitive nature is part of the lesson I was meant to learn. This insight freed up my anxiety and I was able to appreciate just being on the Camino.

The numbers of pilgrims walking the Camino have skyrocketed in recent years, a local business owner in Leon told me. Good for the local economy, not so good for quiet introspection. They are coming from all over the world. I met pilgrims from Germany, France, Holland, the UK, Lithuania, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Spain (of course) and yes! — a pilgrim from Hebron, Al-Khalil, Palestine.

Early April turned out to be a very good time for my Camino. Although it seems like pilgrims are nearly tripping over each other during the summer months, competing for a bunkbed in the albergue (Camino hostels) in the next village, more often than not I found myself alone on the path — following the yellow arrow and the boot tracks in front of me — with plenty of time to observe and think. Step-by-step  شوية شوية.

“Why are you walking the Camino?”  – the most frequent ice-breaker when pilgrims stopped for a meal, drink or a bed. Santiago is an important Christian pilgrimage destination, along with Rome and Jerusalem. (I actually met a young man on the path returning from Santiago and now walking to Rome and Jerusalem.) My sense, however, is that many of the pilgrims are not Christians or walking for a religious reason. Instead, they often cite a desire to “get away from real life” to think and find answers, or to challenge themselves physically, or to cross an item off their bucket list.

My American accent gave me away as soon as I opened my mouth, and the conversation inevitably turned to the U.S. elections and Donald Trump. I wasn’t surprised that foreigners are so well-informed about politics and the candidates in the United States, but time and again they shared their fears with me if Trump is elected. America’s power and influence worldwide has probably now exceeded our collective IQ. Several pilgrims — only half jesting — offered me a place to live overseas if I felt the need to emigrate.

I started thinking about walking the Camino after I saw Walking the Camino at The Guild in Albuquerque a few years ago. My interest increased after viewing Martin Sheen in The Way and reading about Ernest Hemingway’s connection to the Camino and his first novel The Sun Also Rises. Friends in Albuquerque who’ve walked the Camino were also very encouraging. Step-by-step  شوية شوية.

After waiting unsuccessfully in Egypt and Jordan for months (October 2015 – March 2016) for access to the Gaza Strip, and feeling angry, bitter and unsure about my next steps, I thought I might find my answers about Gaza on the Camino de Santiago.

I didn’t.

At least I didn’t find the answers I was searching for. How do I return to Gaza? Why is Gaza the faultline in the Middle East? What should I be doing personally to educate myself and other Americans about Gaza?

Instead, I found a beautiful landscape (walking is the best way to learn about a place). I met amazing people (gaining new insight about Yahweh, God, Allah in the process). And I found peace when I was able to say “goodbye” to loved ones who have died.

Landscape:  The photos don’t capture the beauty of sunrises, the ringing church bells, the treacherous descents, and the sound of running water everywhere. Nearly every house has a vegetable garden and small acequia, and every village has a church with above-ground burial crypts or nichos. The juxtaposition of the very old stone pathways with the ultra-modern windmills on the hilltops showed that Spain is adapting and transitioning into the future with a deep respect for its past.

People:  Before I left Cairo on April 1, a devout Muslim friend urged me to continue reading about the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an. While I was on the Camino in northern Spain, a devout Christian missionary from Canada asked if she could pray for me. Holding me, she asked Jesus to provide the answers I was seeking.

While I was walking, I thought alot about the people I’ve met in recent years who possess such certainty about their faith and their deity, Yahweh for the Jews, God for the Christians and Allah for the Muslims. Religion binds people into groups, or as Jonathan Haidt writes (The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion – 2012): ‘Whatever its origins, the psychology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities.’ I respect their certainty and their devotion but I question whether Yahweh, God or Allah would approve of the divisions that have evolved – “Us and Them” or put another way, the people like us and the people not like us. Does the dehumanization of the “other” — which we find so much evidence of in the world today from believers of all three faiths — really win the blessing from Yahweh, God and Allah?

Certainly not.

During my solitude, walking the Camino, I found the profound spirit of the diety in the people I met. This was truly a personal revelation — that the diety is not outside of us, not sitting on a throne or in a Mosque or in heaven. Yahweh, God, Allah is not apart from us, but inside each living creature, including me.

This insight gives new relevancy to the rule I try to follow — the Golden Rule — to treat others as I wish they would treat me, because when the spirit of the diety is in each person, I must treat each person with respect, honor and love to manifest my respect, honor and love for Yahweh, God, Allah.

Easier said than done. Can I really respect, honor and love the fat man waddling down the village lane? or the young boy who wears his pants below his buttocks? or the wino sleeping on the park bench?  The faithful might find it easier to rock and pray at the Wailing Wall while wearing their tefillin, or prostrate themselves in the direction of Mecca, or kneel in church with hands clasped in prayer, but I believe that Yahweh/God/Allah is sprawled on that park bench. Step-by-step  شوية شوية

Goodbye:  My Camino was an unexpected place for me to say “goodbye” to loved ones who have died. Some were family members I never got the chance to see when they passed. Others were special people whom I’ve carried with me for many years with great sorrow. On my Camino, I thought about each.  Step-by-step  شوية شوية

At some point along the way I realized that each spirit is with me, and will always be with me. I was able to say “goodbye” and ended my Camino on Sunday, April 17th in Santiago with greater peace. Watching the botafumeiro swinging in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was very special. The following day, I returned to the Cathedral and joined a mass honoring new Spanish Naval graduates.

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I’m not pro-Palestinian

“I’m not pro-Palestinian.”

I uttered those words a few nights ago in response to a very good friend from Gaza who was sharing his thoughts about the characteristics of the activists who are “pro-Palestinian.”

I realized right away how provocative my words sounded, and how they might be misunderstood.  I also knew why my friend from Gaza labeled me “pro-Palestinian.” He’s like a son to me.  If I could shield him from the atrocities he and his family have experienced at the hands of the Israelis, and particularly the Israeli military, I would.

But my love, concern and compassion for my Palestinian friend, and many other Palestinians, doesn’t make me “pro-Palestinian.”  The label doesn’t fit me because being “pro” anything often implies one is also against something, in this case Israel and Israelis.  The world is not black/white, good/evil, wrong/right.  It’s so much more complex than that.

Being “pro-Palestinian” might imply I’ve selected a tribe to cheer for — the Palestinians — and rejected the other tribe.  In fact, I reject tribal allegiances altogether.

Being “pro-Palestinian” often raises issues of “loyalty” and “deference” and “submission” to the Palestinians and to whatever framing of the “conflict” they’ve chosen.  I’ve learned this by watching and listening to self-identified “pro-Palestinian” activists over the years.  My loyalty is not to Palestinians or to any of their many factions. I will learn from them, but I won’t defer or submit to their framing of the “conflict.”

On the other side ….

Friends, family and colleagues who self-identify themselves as Zionists or “pro-Israel” are hurt and angry that I’m not in their camp. I don’t accept their framing of the “conflict” and I reject their tribal loyalties. If I’m not with them, I must be against them, is the subtle message they often share with me.

One Jewish “pro-Israel” American rationalizes my odd opinions about Israel-Palestine by telling me — “You’re not Jewish, you’re not Palestinian, so of course you can’t understand what’s really going on over there.” — That compartmentalizing might comfort her unease but it only demonstrates how people need to understand the world by putting people in boxes.  I refuse to do that.

Instead, I seek to understand the complexities and the gray shadows cast in the region.  I try to shine a light on the things I learn, and on the things that the mainstream media callously and deliberately ignores.

I try to understand the “other” — both Israelis and Palestinians. I try to learn empathy.

This 28 minute NPR broadcast (March 22, 2016) “What happens when you empathize with the enemy?” is powerful. My Palestinian friends who reject “normalization” may reject the ideas shared by the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian professor regarding empathy but for everyone else, I think there is alot of wisdom here for open minds on both sides.

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/471283599/471350322

This week on Hidden Brain we ask, what happens when you empathize with your enemy? Why does reaching out to another tribe make our tribe so angry? We talk to Avner Gvaryahu, a former paratrooper in the Israeli army, who angered his fellow Israelis for talking about his work as a soldier. And we talk with Mohammed Dajani, a Palestinian professor who now lives in the United States out of fear for his life. His crime? He led a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz to try to help them understand the Holocaust. We also share an excerpt of a one-man play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Aaron Davidman.

 

Thanks to Libby and Len Traubman from Palo Alto, California for alerting me to this NPR broadcast.

 

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My two cents – take them or leave them

 

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It happened again.

I shared my opinion on Facebook about violence and was told I should keep my opinion to myself (in a nice sorta way).

Here’s my original post.

Day #565 – Violence is a no-win option in every case. Whether it’s political factions vying for power or revenge (Palestine). Whether it’s fans @ a soccer stadium. Everyone is a loser when violence is the option chosen. Egypt no longer allows Egyptians to attend soccer games @ the stadium. They must watch on TV and players must play to an empty stadium because some people resorted to violence following a game a couple of years ago resulting in many deaths. ‪#‎Everyoneloses‬.
‪#‎GoingtoGaza‬

The response came from a pro-Palestine activist from America who counseled me not to “lecture the oppressed” about violence from my “privileged, white status.” He went on to tell me that “no tyranny, no occupation, no colonialising power has ever been solely defeated by non-violent means. i feel it´s not upon us to lecture the oppressed how to resist.”

I’ve heard the same (or very similar) response from others in the past. They’ve all given me pause. Should I keep quiet about my opinions on the subject of violence?

No, I can’t.

I won’t keep silent.

People can take or discard anything I say, and I won’t take offense. I certainly don’t try to hide my “privileged, white status.”  If that disqualifies me in the eyes of the oppressed, then they can toss my thoughts into the trash. But I respect their intelligence and I respect them to make that determination for themselves.

On the subject of violence, maybe my friend is correct that “no tyranny, no occupation, no colonialising power has ever been solely defeated by non-violent means.” But then again, that’s not the point of my post.

Survival requires evolution.  Evolution requires growth and rejection of what has failed.

Violence represents failure on a profound level.

When we’re watching presidential candidates goad supporters to commit violence; when children are killed in their beds by a missile attack on their home; when men jump out of their cars on a busy Cairo street and start pummeling each other —- it’s time for everyone (including the “privileged, white Westerners”) to speak up.

So I’ll keep voicing my opinions about violence.

Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death. — Pope Francis

 

 

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Tariq Ramadan – “Colonization and the Muslim Unconscious”

I began to write a book review today and ended up writing about the author instead.

The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad by Tariq Ramadan.

Maybe tomorrow I can find words to share about the book.

There are many books written about the Prophet, Allah’s messenger, and the origins of Islam. I chose this one as my introduction to the man and the religion because it seemed accessible (not overloaded with verses from the Qu’ran) and also because the author, Tariq Ramadan, is a well-known scholar of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford. A good friend in Gaza first introduced me to the writings of Tariq Ramadan.  شكرا

The back-story about the author was rolling in my head as I read his book.

In 2004, the author was offered a nonimmigrant tenured position at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He was granted a nonimmigrant visa but 3 months later the State Department revoked the visa citing the  “ideological exclusion provision” of the USA PATRIOT Act. The university went to bat for him but the government refused to budge and Tariq Ramadan resigned his position.

In 2005, Tariq was invited to speak at several universities in the U.S. and applied for a B visa. The State Department did not respond and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center – the three groups who had planned on meeting with Ramadan in the US – for revoking his visa under the “ideological exclusion provision”. They argued that the ideological exclusion provision was in violation of the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights of those three groups and that the government’s actions violated the Administrative Procedures Act.

The State Department rejected his second application for a Visa, stating: “A U.S. consular officer has denied Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s visa application. The consular officer concluded that Dr. Ramadan was inadmissible based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization.” Between December 1998 and July 2002, Ramadan had given donations totalling $940 to two charity organizations supporting Palestinians. The U.S. Treasury designated both as terrorist fundraising organizations for their alleged links to Hamas. The U.S. Embassy told Ramadan that he “reasonably should have known” that the charities provided money to Hamas. 

The ACLU challenged the government again and the case ended up in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  Am. Acad. of Religion v. Napolitano, 573 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 2009).  Al-hamdulillah! The court ruled in favor of Tariq Ramadan. The federal law (Immigration and Nationality Act) required the Visa applicant to know that he was rendering material support to the recipient, and the government should have confronted Tariq about this allegation rather than unilaterally denying the application and telling him after-the-fact. In 2010, the ban was lifted and Tariq came to the U.S.

Why is my government fearful of an Islamic scholar? Why is my government rejecting cross-cultural discourse and critical thinking? Why is my government erecting obstacles to humanity’s progress and understanding? I’m saddened by the U.S. government and many Americans who prefer to build walls, not bridges. If the Prophet were alive today, I suspect he would have some answers.

In this 40-minute video, Professor Tariq Ramadan discusses the “Colonization and the Muslim Unconscious” in 2014 at the Muslim Group Conference in the U.S.  I find alot of truth in his words, and encourage my friends to watch.  He speaks about Israel and Palestine about 23 minutes in.

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The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

My twin passions — climate change and Gaza — are puzzling to some of my friends. “What’s the connection?”

Justice and Life – pure and simple. 

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Mohammed and Lora in Gaza on Earth Day 2013

The occupation of Palestine, and the destruction of our planet, are each the result of human avarice and a destructive sense of superiority over others.

Humans think we have things under control on this fragile planet. We treat all life-forms as garbage, but with a little tinkering here or there, we believe we can restore the necessary balance to maintain our dominance. Wrong!  It requires a whole new radical rethinking about our rightful place among all life-forms on this planet.

Zionists think they have the Occupation of Palestine under control. With a little Hasbara and military support from its best friend, the USA, Zionists have a destructive sense of security believing they can maintain their State of Israel as a home for Jews only, while treating Palestinians as garbage. Wrong! It requires a whole new radical rethinking about each other’s humanity and their rightful place living as neighbors.

The planet and the Palestinians are not garbage!

I’m mourning these injustices, and I’m mourning the willful blindness that plagues so many (the majority?) of Americans.

We can all do better. I know it. I can see it in my “mind’s eye” but it’s difficult to have hope as the COP21 comes to a close in Paris this week and as Israel’s security forces have killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank so far THIS MONTH.

Pope Francis released his Encyclical on the Environment and Human Ecology earlier this year.

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In August, Muslims issued the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. The full text is here. I’m not surprised that religious leaders from these two great faith traditions agree: (1) climate change is real, (2) catastrophic climate change is human-caused, (3) human greed and over-consumption are big factors, and (4) God/Allah will not save us from our folly. He/she expects us to wake-up and restore the balance in the creation God/Allah gave us.

Some excerpts from the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change follow:

The pace of Global climate change today is of a different order of magnitude from the gradual changes that previously occurred throughout the most recent era, the Cenozoic. Moreover, it is human-induced: we have now become a force dominating nature. The epoch in which we live has increasingly been described in geological terms as the Anthropocene, or “Age of Humans”. Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet.

An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for. Humankind cannot afford the slow progress we have seen in all the COP (Conference of Parties – climate change negotiations) processes since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, or the present deadlock.

We affirm that –

God created the Earth in perfect equilibrium (mīzān);

By His immense mercy we have been given fertile land, fresh air, clean water and all the good things on Earth that makes our lives here viable and delightful;

The Earth functions in natural seasonal rhythms and cycles: a climate in which living beings – including humans – thrive;

The present climate change catastrophe is a result of the human disruption of this balance –

وَالسَّمَاء رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ الْمِيزَانَ

أَلاَّ تَطْغَوْا فِي الْمِيزَانِ

وَأَقِيمُوا الْوَزْنَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلا تُخْسِرُوا الْمِيزَانَ

وَالأَرْضَ وَضَعَهَا لِلْأَنَامِ

2.5 We recognize the corruption (fasād) that humans have caused on the Earth due to our relentless pursuit of economic growth and consumption. Its consequences have been –

Global climate change, which is our present concern, in addition to:

Contamination and befoulment of the atmosphere, land, inland water systems, and seas;

Soil erosion, deforestation and desertification;

Damage to human health, including a host of modern-day diseases.

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

WE CALL

3.1 We call upon the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol taking place in Paris this December, 2015 to bring their discussions to an equitable and binding conclusion, bearing in mind –

The scientific consensus on climate change, which is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate systems;

The need to set clear targets and monitoring systems;

The dire consequences to planet earth if we do not do so;

The enormous responsibility the COP shoulders on behalf of the rest of humanity, including leading the rest of us to a new way of relating to God’s Earth.

3.2 We particularly call on the well-off nations and oil-producing states to

Lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century;

Provide generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;

Recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;

Stay within the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground;

Re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.

Invest in the creation of a green economy.

3.3 We call on the people of all nations and their leaders to –

Aim to phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere;

Commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible, to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities;

Invest in decentralized renewable energy, which is the best way to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development;

Realize that to chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in moderation; placing a priority on increasing the resilience of all, and especially the most vulnerable, to the climate change impacts already underway and expected to continue for many years to come.

Set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality.

Prioritise adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt. And to vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women and children.

3.4 We call upon corporations, finance, and the business sector to –

Shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;

In order to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities, commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible and shift investments into renewable energy;

Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;

Pay more heed to social and ecological responsibilities, particularly to the extent that they extract and utilize scarce resources;

Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives.

3.5 We call on all groups to join us in collaboration, co-operation and friendly competition in this endeavour and we welcome the significant contributions taken by other faiths, as we can all be winners in this race

وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُم فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ

He (God) wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good deeds.

Qur’an 5: 48

If we each offer the best of our respective traditions, we may yet see a way through our difficulties.

3.6 Finally, we call on all Muslims wherever they may be –

Heads of state

Political leaders

Business community

UNFCCC delegates

Religious leaders and scholars

Mosque congregations

Islamic endowments (awqaf)

Educators and educational institutions

Community leaders

Civil society activists

Non-governmental organisations

Communications and media

وَلاَ تَمْشِ فِي الأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولاً

Do not strut arrogantly on the earth.

You will never split the earth apart

nor will you ever rival the mountains’ stature.

Qur’an 17: 37

We bear in mind the words of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

The world is sweet and verdant, and verily Allah has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves

Hadīth related by Muslim from Abu Sa‘īd Al-Khudrī)

Some friends and colleagues are totally engaged in climate change, but reject any criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. While other “activists” are thoroughly absorbed with Palestine, believing “others will solve climate change.”   We must help each other recognize that our souls cannot be divided.  Life and justice requires our attention and action on both.

 

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