#CTSatUN comes to a close

by Catherine Warren
Over the past two weeks, the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations hosted a class from Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, GA). The class explored the topic of Israel and Palestine through many different lenses.

Class meets at PMUNWe left off last Wednesday with what was going on in the class. Last Thursday the class heard from David Wildman of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Noushin Framke described the work of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). They also heard a critique of BDS and and about positive investment from J.C. Austin of Auburn Theological Seminary. Then the group heard from Robert Turner, Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) on refugees in Gaza. Before the day was over the group heard from Rob Bullock, VP for Marketing and Communications for the Presbyterian Foundation on the positive investment initiative.

On Friday the group focused on Zionism, first hearing from Yehezkel Landau of Hartford Theological Seminary on Jewish Zionisms and then hearing from Mark Douglass, CTS professor on Christian Zionism. Then Mark Douglass and Mark Koenig discussed the Israel Palestine Mission Network’s resource Zionism Unsettled with the class. The group ended their week with a Shabbat service at Central Synagogue.

The class had the weekend off to do as they pleased. They also had Monday off for Memorial Day and most of the class headed to Citi Field to watch the New York Mets take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. To the Mets’ chagrin, and Mark Koenig’s delight, the Pirates won.

When class began on Tuesday they spent the day focused on interfaith perspectives and initiatives. They heard from Christine Hong, the PC(USA) Associate for Theology on Interfaith Relations. They also heard from Rick Ufford Chase (Co-director of Stony Point Center) and Lenny Grob (Professor emeritus of philosophy at Farleigh-Dickinson University). The two discussed the Multi-faith Community at Stony Point Center which seeks to learn from each other to support the the “larger faith-based movement for peace, nonviolence and justice.” During lunch the class heard from representatives of West-Park Presbyterian Church and Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing about their interfaith initiatives. After lunch they heard from Isaac Luria on Auburn Seminary’s Groundswell, which is an online community that uses faith as a force good in the world.  The group also heard from Ben Sax, a Jewish Scholar from  Institute of Christian and Jewish Studies.

Class in UNOn Wednesday the group heard from Nora Carmi, a project Coordinator of Kairos Palestine. They also heard perspectives of Kairos Palestine from the Israel Palestine Mission Network and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Middle East Monitoring Team. After the lunch break, the group heard from staff from the Division of Palestinian Rights on the United Nations and the Question of Palestine. Later they heard from Richard Wright on the subject of Palestine Refugees from the UNWRA. After that the group went on a tour of the United Nations.

On Thursday the group heard first from Dennis Frado, Director of the Lutheran Office for World Community, Joe Donnelly, Permanent Representative to the UN of Caritas Internationalis, and Doug Hostetter, Director of the Mennonite Central Committee’s Office at the UN. The three discussed what they do ecumenically in the UN community, and more specifically what they do on the issue of Israel-Palestine. After a break, the group heard from Oren Drori, Program Officer for the United Nations Affairs of B’nai B’rith who shared with the group a Jewish NGO’s perspective in the UN Community. After lunch the group heard an U.S. Jewish perspective from James Schamus, an advocate of Jewish Voice for Peace. Later in the afternoon the group heard from Steve Weaver, Church World Services Middle East Regional Coordinator, on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. The group later heard from Rosemary Mitchell from the Presbyterian Mission Agency. With Rosemary the group discussed ways their churches and congregations act as public witnesses and ways that we can support the public witness ministries of the PC(USA). After Rosemary left, the group spent a while reflecting on their weeks at the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN airing their “surprises, shocks, sighs and signs” on all that they had seen and heard. After reflection time, the group headed to Ali Baba, a Turkish restaurant down the street from the office for dinner.

On Friday morning the group gathered to discuss, process and reflect on their experience of the last two weeks. They closed their seminar with a brief worship service and then said farewells before heading to the airport or lunch before the airport. If you would like to learn more about the class, check out our Facebook page as well as #CTSatUN on Twitter.

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