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 Impact of the Israeli Occupation on Children and Families in Palestine and Israel
   Laila and Rami, speakers with The Parents Circle – Families Forum.
By Justice Ministries
The International Affairs Committee (IAC), a Standing Committee of the General Assembly, draws attention to the impact that living under threat of violence has on Palestinian and Is- raeli families and children in its 2020 interim report online at presbyterian. ca/gao/ga2020.
The disciples of Jesus reacted sternly to the children whose parents brought them to be blessed (Mark 10:13–16). Rebuking his disciples, Jesus embraced these children, saying the kingdom of God belongs to them. God was born as a human child in Bethlehem long ago and then too, families suffered violence, trauma and death (Matthew 2:1–12,
16–18). Today, children and their families continue to live under threat of violence in Palestine and Israel.
The Parents Circle – Families Fo- rum (PCFF) began in 1995 and is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization working with over 600 families seek- ing positive change in a violent con- text. All who belong to the Parents Circle have lost an immediate family member in the violence surrounding the Israeli occupation of the Pales- tinian Territories. The first meeting between bereaved Palestinians and Israeli families took place in 1998 and have continued since. In Decem- ber 2019 Canadian Presbyterians, in- cluding members of the International Affairs Committee (IAC), attended a presentation by two members of the Parents Circle in Jerusalem.
Two speakers shared their stories and their commitment to working for an end to the occupation. Laila is Pal- estinian and Rami is Israeli.
Laila lost her six-month-old son when the infant was exposed to tear gas by Israeli soldiers. The family was held at a checkpoint for four hours while trying to seek medical care. Her son was admitted to the hospital, but Laila was told she could not stay over- night. That night, her son died alone. The family was not notified. Laila ar-
rived at the hospital the following day and was told that staff could not lo- cate her son’s body.
Rami was born and grew up in Je- rusalem in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family whose father had been in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Ra- mi’s daughter was killed in September of 1997 when two Palestinian suicide bombers detonated their explosives. She was 14 years old.
Both speakers recounted the sea of anger between the two commu- nities, and how it was destroying them. When her son died, Laila said she hated all Israeli people. But she had a recurrent dream of white doves saying: “Mama, don’t cry.” Initially, too, Rami’s anger made him want to get even, to seek revenge. They both asked, Whose pain is worse? Who is to blame?
Laila and Rami testify to the endur- ing pain of parents and families who have lost children as a result of the occupation. It is in the reconciliatory acts of ordinary people that we see hopeful lights shining.
Palestinian children living under oc- cupation routinely have their rights vi- olated. Each year, hundreds of Pales- tinian children are subjected to arrest, incarceration and processed through Israeli military courts, in violation of
the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Military check- points complicate and sometimes render impossible the simple task of going to and from school. Since 2004, 987 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Israeli mili- tary in East Jerusalem, leaving 1,704 children homeless. In Gaza, children are denied access to necessities, in- cluding water, electricity and health care—97% of water in the Gaza strip is undrinkable. Infrastructure is dam- aged and hospitals are ill-equipped to treat many of their patients.
The psychological stress of con- flict and experiences of trauma have immediate and lifelong impacts. One study on the effect on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation found that 87% of respondents faced psy- chological stress reporting uncon- trollable fear, hopelessness, fatigue, depression, sleeplessness, shaking episodes, and uncontrolled crying episodes or enuresis [involuntary urination at night] in children. Chil- dren exposed to war trauma report post-traumatic stress and fears, and while the occupation impacts Pales- tinian and Israeli children in different ways, the violence of the occupation has negative mental health impacts on both groups of children.
Despite the brutality of the occu- pation, there are Israeli and Palestin- ian families who seek reconciliation through such grassroots organiza- tions as the Parents Circle. The Par- ents Circle has a vision to influence the public and political decision-mak- ers to choose reconciliation and the path of peace over violence and war, in order to achieve a just settlement based on empathy and understand- ing. As Presbyterian Canadians, we must boldly speak out against injus- tice, share the stories and experienc- es of those who face life-threatening impacts of the occupation, and sup- port Israeli and Palestinian organiza- tions that seek to alleviate suffering and trauma.
Presbyterians Sharing advocates for human rights, living out God’s call to justice.
  The International Decade of People of African Descent
By Allyson Carr, Justice Ministries
In a world where human migration is accelerating—though complicated by our current global pandemic— there is much that brings us together, and striving for togetherness is im- portant. It is precisely that reason, though, that makes it also important to recognize the different experiences that shape our various identities, in order to better understand and sup- port each other in what is, at root, a common struggle for justice.
This need for open discussion and compassion is among the reasons the United Nations created the Inter- national Decade of People of African Descent (IDPAD). Through global ex- pansion, people of African descent face many similar experiences and struggles particular to their identity. The United Nations homepage for the Decade, which can be accessed at ple-african-descent, explains, “In pro- claiming this Decade, the international community is recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be
promoted and protected.” The Dec- ade, which extends from 2015–2024 focuses its work in three areas: recog- nition, justice and development.
The intention of this focus is to ad- dress the areas in which many peo- ple of African descent have faced significant prejudice. As an example, a United Nations Working Group of Exper ts came to Canada toward the beginning of the Decade, in 2016, to see where Canada stood on these issues. It found that Canada has “a strong legal and policy framework to combat racial discrimination and advance substantive equality,” which
it praised, but it also found evidence of significant anti-Black discrimination and disparity in the way the legal and policy framework is applied across Canada to “protect” people of African descent. Having first outlined the Ca- nadian framework, it then added that in Canada, “history informs anti-Black racism and racial stereotypes that are so deeply entrenched in institutions, policies and practices, that its institu- tional and systemic forms are either functionally normalized or rendered invisible...” (To read a downloadable version of the Working Group’s full repor t, go to: and search
for “Report of the Working Group of Exper ts on People of African Descent on its Mission to Canada.”)
The Presbyterian Church in Canada has recently joined with a number of other denominations to ask the Ca- nadian Council of Churches to make anti-racism, and specifically anti- Black racism and the principles of the International Decade of People of African Descent, one of the priorities of its work. The Canadian Council of Churches will be meeting in Novem- ber to decide how to respond to this request, but in the meantime indi- vidual denominations and people can do things on their own to make anti- racism and the principles of the Dec- ade some of our own priorities. How much do we know about the roots of anti-Black racism in Canada? How much do we recognize the vital con- tributions people of African descent have made to Canada? How hard do we work, as a church and a society, to ensure that people of African de- scent don’t face additional barriers to education, housing, health care and the like, than others in Canada?
Responding to questions like these
is a way to recognize the Decade and its work to end racism in all its forms. Additionally, striving to end racism is an impor tant par t of living out Chris- tian faith, as the church confesses in Living Faith: “Justice involves pro- tecting the rights of others. It protests against everything that destroys hu- man dignity” (8.4.3). Much has hap- pened across the world and in Canada since the Working Group’s trip here in 2016 that has highlighted the im- portance of the goals of the Decade and the work that must still be done to achieve them. The recognition that systemic racism, including anti- Black racism, is an issue in Canada is growing. We are encouraged to learn more about why the Decade is being marked, what is being done to mark it, and how we can contribute to ensure that the goals of the Decade are met.
To learn more about anti-racism, including anti-Black racism, and the PCC’s engagement with initia- tives like the International Decade of People of African Descent, visit the PCC’s Social Action Hub at

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