Who is going to be next?

By Samia Khoury

“Yesterday evening Sabeel organised a special Ecumenical memorial service at St. Stephen’s Dominican church in Jerusalem for the victims of the Coptic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Alexandria, Egypt.  It was a very meaningful service with the readings carefully chosen and the intercessions especially written for the occasion. The young woman who led us in the singing had a beautiful voice which added a special aura to the solemn event that we were gathered for.  And as we lit the candles, I could not help but wonder who is going to be next.  It was only last November  that we also  had another service organised by Sabeel  in memory of the victims of the Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq.

Samia Khoury

The Christians of the Middle East are in fact the first Christians.  They are the followers of Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem.  That is why we are often surprised when people inquire about when and how we were converted to Christianity.  I remember writing a reflection in February 2006 on behalf of Sabeel for the Presbyterian Church in the USA Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study.  I started it with the following paragraph:  “The message of Jesus was launched from this Holy Land, to spread east and west, and has come back to us dressed in various new garbs.  It has taken root in foreign soil, and has sprouted in different shapes, colours, and flavours.  Sometimes, its original garment is hardly recognizable to us indigenous Christians of the land who are rapidly decreasing in number due to Israeli restrictions and political instability.”

Not only did this message come back in a different garment, but it came back to us with the wave of colonialism and split the indigenous Christian Church. Even new born babies started to carry foreign names, making it easy to identify the faith of a person from his or her name.  Despite that, we continued to remain Arabs, whether Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Egyptians, etc.  And we remain Christians, faithful to both our country and our faith. In fact some of the outstanding leaders of Arab Nationalism were Christians. I am not writing a historical document to list all those who were involved, but I am trying to reflect on who benefits from this kind of extremism that is tearing the region apart by driving a wedge between the indigenous Christians of the Middle East region and their Muslim compatriots?

I remember after 1967 when the Palestinian Territories fell under the Israeli occupation, how easily the doors of the USA were opened for Palestinian emigration – mostly  Christians – from the Palestinian Territories.  Now all efforts with a variety of tools and strange hands are playing to split the people in each of the Middle East countries under the guise of political freedom and democracy.  The basic policy of the colonial powers has always been “divide and rule”.  So it is not strange that the powers that have succeeded in tearing up the whole Middle East into small states, and their allies or collaborators, are still at work fragmenting each state into political, ethnic and religious conflicts.  When the masses lose hope in the absence of freedom, independence and stability, the ground becomes very fertile for extremism that could be used in different ways.

Hopefully both Christians and Muslims of the region are aware of who is at the root of all this, and that all learned people, lay, clergy along with Muslim clerics, will engage in a campaign of building awareness to quench the fire that has been ignited as a result of those bloody massacres, so that we do not need to worry who will be next.  It only takes a spark and then, God help us, if it turns into a conflagration.”

Samia Khoury is an outstanding woman leader within the Palestinian community. Her voluntary work in community organisations is marked by genuine effort and huge commitment. Samia Nasir Khoury retired in 2003 after serving for 17 years as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur, a coeducational elementary school for the lower income community in East Jerusalem. She continues to serve as treasurer of the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem and on the board of trustees of Birzeit University in  Palestine.

Samia was deeply involved with the YWCA, including serving as the national president of the YWCA of Jordan for two terms (as the Palestinian West Bank had been annexed to Jordan in 1950). When Jordan severed its ties with the West Bank in 1988, the YWCA of Palestine was reestablished, and she was its first president from 1991-96. Her breadth of international experience has also included addressing two UN NGO Forums: in New York in 1996, and in Athens in 2000.

Samia writes about justice, truth, and peace for the Palestinian people, the relationships between people and the land, the context of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relationships in the Holy Land, concerns for children in conflict, and gender issues.

Young Women in politics

Sarah Davies, former World YWCA Staff (2007-2009) in Geneva, Switzerland, works as the Strategic Development Manager for the YWCA of Aotearoa New Zealand. Sarah is currently seeking selection for the Northland National Party seat in her country.

By: Sarah Davies

Anybody who believes in something without reservation believes that this thing is right and should be; has the stamina to meet the obstacles and overcome them – Golda Meir

As a little girl, I remember dreaming of doing something different with my life. As much as I enjoyed dress ups and tea

Sarah Davies

Sarah Davies

parties with my fellow six year old friends, I could feel a fire in the belly even back then to aim for a position where I could make a contribution to society.
And now I find myself, aged 29, seeking selection for public office in New Zealand. The most common questions I am asked are, “Are you crazy”? which is actually cover up for “ I don’t think you can do it” and “ Do you think now is the right time”?… also cover up for “ I don’t think you can do it.” Yet it is those comment that push you along more determined, more focussed and more passionate about understanding and influencing the issues of the day.

I have been asked to reflect on what I have learnt on the journey so far and share some advice with other young women that may be running for public office.

Believe in yourself otherwise no one else will..(other than your Mum) Yes. It’s an oldie but a goodie and never a truer word spoken. If you don’t believe that you can represent other peoples interests with knowledge and integrity, don’t expect others to support or vote for you.

Work hard. At the end of the very long working day, being voted into public office will boil down to whether you did the research and know the issues. This means every day is a working day and every second counts. Remain focused and plan your time. The truth is that the human body and mind can be pushed even further than it was the day before.

Talk to anyone – and everyone – who can help you with your cause. This means reaching out to people who understand what is going on in your community. Most people are very willing to talk to you and share what they know. Remember that everybody has bits and bobs of information that you don’t – find out as much as you can and help it formulate your position on the issues.

Understand there are going to be low days. There are people who will be very quick to write you off and say nasty and discouraging remarks about you. Don’t react to it. It says more about them than you. Make you have a good support team around you. Maybe someone you can call at the end of the day to chat with or drive with you to various places. You don’t have to do this alone even though there are days it feels that way.

You will find support in the strangest places. One of the most exciting and refreshing aspects of the process so far is when I meet people who I thought would not support me, but do. You will be surprised. There are a lot of older people who are very receptive to younger people running for public office. There are a lot of men equally supportive of women running for leadership positions. If you don’t stereotype and alienate people they won’t stereotype and alienate you. (Except for the few narrow-minded people amongst us)

Don’t lose yourself and your point of difference. It’s ok to be yourself. Really. Don’t stress if you don’t fit the traditional stereotypes of a certain political party or you don’t conform to what people think you should be. Use what you have.
Our choices are unlimited on how we can make a difference in the world around us. As I head into 2011, I know I am seeking selection for a very competitive seat in a tough electorate. I am under no illusion as to what a challenge it is, but I am also under no illusion that this is what I want to do. As young women of the world, me must believe and demonstrate that we can lead change. Good Luck to you all.