Stories from the Long Now
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Date: 10th September, 2009


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Three people from Israel and Palestine spoke at this year's Sunday Morning Worship at Greenbelt. They shared their stories from the 'Long Now', the theme of the festival.

Following a trip to Israel and Palestine by some of Greenbelt's staff, trustees and volunteers in October last year, the festival launched its first three-year campaign at this year's event, called 'Just Peace'.

Greenbelt has also signed up to be members of the Trade Justice Movement (TJM).

Sami Awad

My name is Sami Awad and this is my story in the long now.

I am the son of a Palestinian refugee boy who lost his father, his home, and all his family’s belongings by the age of nine.

I am the grandson of the woman who taught this boy and his six siblings not to seek revenge and retaliation but to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

This said, I am a Palestinian who grew up under Israeli occupation and oppression, witnessing and living injustice every day of my life. I grew up seeing my enemy through the barrel of his gun; as a soldier who suppressed my people, as a settler who stole my land, and as an ideology that denied my identity and existence.

Non-violence

Like an olive tree that takes years to bear fruit, the seed planted by my grandmother began to grow in my life when I discovered the power of non-violence to resist oppression and create transformation, when I discovered that nonviolence is not something new to Palestinian culture and struggle for liberation.

The “long now” for me does not exist in reaching a political settlement or a negotiated peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. The “long now” exists in the power of nonviolence to end all forms of oppression and begin a deep healing for all peoples who live in the Holy Land.

The long now exists with no racism or discrimination but in communities that are founded on the principles of love, peaceful coexistence and equality.

Reem Kelani

I was born in Manchester, of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim parents. This is my story in the Long Now.

My mother hails from Nazareth in the Galilee and my father from Jenin in the West Bank. I spent my formative years in Kuwait and I moved back to the UK 20 years ago.

I see myself not as a victim, for victims can become oppressors. I have my Palestinian cultural DNA, and as an artist, I want to share it with you. There are people who seek to suppress my narrative, while others are afraid to acknowledge it.

My debut solo album took 20 years to produce, encompassing my arrangements of old songs I collected from Palestinian mamas in Palestine and in the refugee camps in the region, as well as my own compositions.

Heritage

It wasn’t an easy journey, but as an independent unsigned artist, I take pride in bringing my cultural heritage to you. I just want you to acknowledge my existence as a Palestinian and our rights as Palestinians. You may not like my music, but you can not ignore the collective cultural heritage of my people.

I had the privilege earlier this year to attend a talk given by Archbishop Tutu, in which he spoke about the struggle against Apartheid and of how the Church of England had sustained and supported him and his colleagues in South Africa through solidarity in their hour of need.

Similarly, the Church of Denmark responded to the threat of Nazism and did so much to ensure the safety of their Jewish fellow citizens.

May Palestinians, and Palestinian Christians among us, not have to wait any longer for Christians in Europe to take up their struggle for basic justice.

After all, St George, your patron saint, was a Palestinian!

Jeff Halper

I am an Israeli Jew and this is my story in the long now.

As the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, it is my task to constantly bridge the many actions of resistance to the Israeli Occupation “on the ground” in which we peace activists partake with the “long now,” the ongoing, open ended struggle for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is all too easy to become distracted by the many events on the ground that call for our immediate attention: house demolitions (Israel has demolished more than 24,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied territories since 1967), land expropriation, settlement construction, settler and army violence against Palestinians,
military operations such as the recent attack on Gaza and much more.

These are all the immediate, urgent “nows.” But as civil society actors dedicated to achieving a just peace, we must be attuned to broader political developments emanating in particular from the US and Europe – the “long now.”

Political process

We must insert ourselves into the political process because governments will not do the right thing unless they are pushed by the people.

This is not an easy task, since governments do not like to work with grassroots groups, and certainly not those motivated by concerns for justice and human rights.

There is yet another “long” that must sustain us in the difficult endeavour of peacemaking: the long haul. We must understand that if we take a significant chunk of social justice as our life’s work we will be battling political, economic and social forces far more powerful than we are.

Our efforts must be sustained not only by a belief in the
justice of our cause, but by faith that we can make a difference.

True, we may never live to witness the success of our life’s work, but we can take umbrage in that we made a difference. Still, I struggle to make the long now and the long haul as short as possible.

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