The slate of presentations at a Sabeel conference tends to be rather relentless; after all, there are so many pieces to the puzzle of this Occupation. But the last one on the docket turned out to be most poignant, moving even veterans of this conflict: the plight of Palestinian children in Israeli detention. Gerard Horton of Defence for Children International Palestine Section presented his recently completed report entitled Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children Held in Military Detention. Horton related how almost every night of the year somewhere on the West Bank a house will be raided in the dead of night and a pre-teen male arrested; this child will then be subject to beatings, harsh interrogation, forced confessions and often solitary confinement, all without representation or parental accompaniment. With a quarter of all Palestinians having been arrested during the course of the Occupation, an entire generation has been scarred by military detention, with thousands of children traumatized—which cannot bode well for a peaceful future. An executive summary of this sobering report can be found on the DCIPS site.
Picture above: members of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. For more about the day, read on.
The conference concluded with a closing worship service at Casa Nova Franciscan church at Nativity Square. Beforehand, many of us conducted an impromptu little demonstration out in the Square, singing and holding photographs of Israeli demolitions Palestinian homes (Ryan Beiler’s photo of the Swedish youth “rapping” at the demo can be found here). I then led the group in a chanting procession into the sanctuary.
The weather here has been cool, which makes these ancient churches even colder; one has to remember to take every warm thing to church! At the concluding Eucharist the preacher invited me to preface the sermon by leading the group once more in a chant I’d introduced to them (Elaine and I learned it from Lydia Wylie Kellermann of the Jeanie Wylie Community). It’s simple, haunting expression of the trauma and ecstasy of doing gospel work had captured the imagination of the Swedish group: “Deep down inside of me/I have a fire going on/Part of me wants to sing about the Light/And part of me wants to cry, cry, cry.”
This day "singing about the Light" got the last word. After a celebratory banquet, we joined a packed crowd at Nativity Church to hear a gorgeous choral performance of “Spirituality of the Eastern Church” by members of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. Soaring, amazing, inspiring—a fitting send off. Conference participants then began departing, having committed themselves to taking what they had “Come and Seen” to the seminaries, sanctuaries and streets of Sweden. I’ll meet some of them again in September, when Elaine and I speak at the Varlden’s Fest in Malmo.
For its part, Sabeel is betting on the ability of such international church leaders to build critical mass of conviction around these issues back home, in order to advocate and act for change in their respective countries concerning policies toward and economic relations with Palestine/Israel. Here’s hoping.