LOMBARD, Ill. — A Bethlehem peacemaker recently challenged Lombard Mennonite Church and guests to pursue people-to-people strategies for building peace.
Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center, spoke Aug. 10 in worship and Sunday school.
Invited by Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, Zoughbi and his family joined Lombard Mennonite, where he presented “Peacebuilding in the Shadow of the Apartheid Wall” in addition to dialoguing with those attending Sunday school.
Zoughbi, whose ministry of conflict transformation is located in Bethlehem in the West Bank, spoke about the occupation of Palestine and the devastation taking place in recent months in Gaza.
Wi’am, Arabic for “cordial relationships,” is the essence of the organization’s mission to improve the quality of relationships and promote peace and reconciliation. Wi’am implements this mission through programming for women and youth, diplomacy and its mediation program called Sulha, an approach founded on traditional Arab mediation practices.
Zoughbi’s testimony put flesh to the bones of the stories that have filled recent news in the U.S. His opening scripture, 2 Cor. 4:8-18, speaks of Christ’s followers being perplexed, persecuted and stuck down, reflecting the plight of the Palestinian people.
While there has been an escalation of violence, particularly in Gaza, Zoughbi framed this as part of the oppression felt by Palestinians since they were moved off their land in the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe).
“The 1948 Nakba didn’t happen in the past, it has been happening since 1948,” he said. “That’s why many times I say I don’t need any more the past tense; let us use the present perfect continuous tense — it has been happening.”
More than ‘warm peace’
Stories of the oppression felt by Palestinians were followed by a question-and-answer time that shifted toward a conversation on broader understanding of the situation.
Zoughbi spoke of the importance that people-to-people approaches play in the peacebuilding strategy for Israel and Palestine. These strategies bring people together from diverse or conflicting groups to build relationships. Zoughbi said these approaches are crucial for developing a “warm peace,” but he also warned against believing that this alone will bring sustainable peace.
“The idea is not to eat hummus together,” he said. “I don’t want to need to have a permit to be a keynote speaker for a talk [on] Israel and Palestine for one day and then, for the other 364 days, I’m not allowed to go to the hospital to be treated.”