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Violence continues against Egypt’s Coptic Christians

Egyptian Coptic Christians march on May 26, 2017, following a funeral for victims of Friday’s terror attack. | NBC News

Dear Friends,

This week, as Tanenbaum celebrated 25 years of combating religious hate, I felt compelled to begin our anniversary Gala with a moment of silence for the victims, their families and the people of Manchester. It is days later and the assault on Coptic Christians in Egypt has continued; this time a bus filled with men, women and children, traveling to a monastery in Minya province, were ambushed by gunmen in uniform.

The attacks in Manchester and Egypt were both claimed by ISIS – and Egypt has responded to this latest terror attack with airstrikes on training camps in Libya. Egypt’s Coptic community has suffered ongoing violence and terrorism since 2011, including the Palm Sunday church bombing in April.

Today, we stand with the Coptic Community in Egypt, with Christians worldwide, and with our global community, from all traditions and none.

We have a responsibility to bear witness and to do everything we can to stop hatred that fuels violence and terrorism. At times we may feel powerless, yet we have real impact as we practice respect and speak up for what is right in our own communities. This is a time to let our hearts be informed by real facts. Because if we don’t, we risk losing our own humanity to profound sadness and fear.

Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

P.S. There are things you can do today. Learn more about the ancient Coptic Community in Egypt; Check out what is happening in the Middle East with Christian persecution; and support those working with refugees and to fight for justice.

Sunday Slaughter of Christians

Friends,

Today, on Palm Sunday, violent extremists struck at the heart of Coptic Christians, when suicide bombers killed at least 44 people and injured more than a hundred in two churches in Egypt. Both churches were filled with congregants, peacefully gathered to celebrate one of their holiest days.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the brutal attacks – crimes against humanity, this time, against a minority Christian community in the Middle East. Not only did these communities lose loved ones on this holy day, but the extremists tried to destroy the feeling of communal security that houses of worship can provide.

Tragically, these suicide bombings are not isolated events. Instead, they are the latest in a litany of attacks against Coptic Christians in recent decades, including the destruction of 40 Coptic Churches in 2013, the beheading of 21 Copts by ISIS in Libya in 2015, and the murder of 30 at a cathedral in Cairo last December.

Today, as we keep the Coptic Christian community in our thoughts, let us honor the victims by recalling the significance of the palm branch. For many, it’s a symbol of peace and victory.

Together, we can choose to define peace as more than just freedom from violence. We can define it as a world where justice is practiced, where differences of belief (or lack of belief) are respected, religious minorities are welcomed and their freedoms protected. Today, on what is a holy day for so many worldwide, let’s recommit to pursuing peace by accepting others and honoring the freedom of peaceful worship.

Wishing all who celebrate, a blessed Palm Sunday,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

A Brave Testimony and a Surprising Turn of Events

“We are being slaughtered…”

Vian Dakhill, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s Parliament, to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize | Safin Hamed, Getty/AFP

People across the world paused when Iraqi parliament member Vian Dakhill spoke those words during her haunting testimony in August 2014. As the only Yazidi then in Iraq’s Parliament, Dakhill plead tearfully to her fellow parliament members, imploring them to take immediate action and save the Yazidis from genocide and enslavement by ISIS.

Dakhill’s brave words were a catalyst for the rescue of Yazidis besieged on the Sinjar Mountain by ISIS. Unfortunately, her name again reached headlines as the U.S. immigration ban threatened to prevent her arrival in Washington D.C. to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize on February 8th.

Fortunately Dakhill was permitted entry into the U.S. by the state department – but we find it ironic that a travel and immigration ban created to increase safety in the U.S., can prevent those who promote peace and justice from entering the country. Peace activists are our allies in the battle against violence and hate. We need to support them and recognize their ongoing efforts to address life and death issues happening now.

At Tanenbaum we know this firsthand. For almost 20 years, we have worked with religiously motivated men and women, like Dakhill, who risk their lives for peace in violent conflicts around the world. Every two years, through an international search process, we identify two such Peacemakers in Action.

The recognition we give these brave men and women should never be compromised.

Yet the U.S. travel ban will likely impair the work of many peacemakers and humanitarians. Already, we know that Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani from Yemen, who we hope to bring to the U.S. later this year, may not be allowed to come.

There are ways to take action as it plays out in court: Read Against the Ban? 5 Things You Can Do Now and nominate a peacemaker for Tanenbaum’s 2017 Peacemaker in Action award.

In a time of great uncertainty, it’s critical that we continue all efforts to support those who work on the frontlines of global conflicts—and especially those working toward peace.


Top Image: Credit Vian Dakhill

United Against Hate

Dear Friends,

With resolute condemnation, Tanenbaum acknowledges the news of another terror attack. It is with a heavy-heart that we mourn the slaughter of 36 innocent people and pray for the 147 others now known to be injured at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey.

While those responsible and the motivation remains unclear (both the PKK, a Kurdish organization seeking independence from Turkey, and the Islamic State are suspect) – what remains absolute is that we not fall into the easy trap of assigning blame without knowing the facts. We must not resort to stereotypes and hateful rhetoric. We know where they lead. Too often, to harassment and violence against our Muslim neighbors and those perceived to be Muslim.

Instead, we ask that you join us in standing by our Muslim friends and community members. You can help us create a world grounded in respect and inclusivity.

In short order, we will learn more about the perpetrators. For now, let us remember the victims as the details of this barbaric incident unfold. Let us focus our thoughts on condolences for the families of the deceased, and our prayers for the injured and all affected in Turkey. 

Terrorists, like those who targeted innocent people in Istanbul today, want to make us feel powerless. At Tanenbaum, we will not. We ask you to join us in creating a united front against their hate, more empowered than before.

In sorrow, but with a firm resolve,

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO, Tanenbaum

Revisiting “Yes, I Am Afraid”

Earlier this month Tanenbaum’s CEO Joyce Dubensky penned an Op-Ed in the Huffington Post titled Yes, I Am Afraid. The article expressed a sentiment that evoked responses from many readers and we wanted to share some of their comments with you.

A look at history – compassion combats hate:

“These are frightening and dangerous times. ISIS and others are spreading terror in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and here in the U.S. Some are claiming to “fight” this by proposing actions as un-American, dangerous, as these terrorists…playing right into their hands.

Cheering crowds at speeches calling for the banning of all Muslims from the U.S. remind many, including Germans, of what happened with the Nazis in the pre-World War II period. This also bears a striking resemblance to the McCarthy era. While it is natural for people to group together with others of the same background, especially in times such as these, it is not the right answer.

The big question is what will happen as we go forward…will more people be infected with hate? Will the bad side win? I think not, history shows us not.

The compassion of all major religions (do unto others as you would have them do to you)—The American way of life which has served as a beacon of hope to the whole world for more than 250 years: Life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness— always have ultimately won. Let’s overcome our fears, stay true to the right human principles, and we will win again.”

– American journalist

The goal of fear is power:

“Fear is most dangerous environment for human beings – nothing does so [much to] dehumanize people as fear. In our war in Bosnia I discovered the evil of fear when I was facing dehumanized soldiers— they were product of fear.

One German theologian Drewermann finds that opposite to faith is not unfaith, but fear.  [The] Bible is full  of warnings and encouragements: Don’t be afraid.

Terrorism is spreading of fear (fear = terror) with goal to have power on people. Many politicians and religious leaders spread out fear convincing people that they are endangered so expecting to have power on them. All humans who put people in ambient of fear are criminals, terrorists.

Our Peacemaker mission is to unmask production of fear as it is in a manner of peace witness. We Peacemakers are an alternative to fear– while we don’t allow fear to settle down in us, encouraging people not to be victims of fear.

Religions are very opportune tool for spreading fear – religions as ambient of God’s presence are most positive strength in the world, but misuse of religions is most dangerous evil in the world.

There is no Islamic terrorism, but there is misuse of Islam in politics and war. What is happening now inIslam we Christians had more times in history, and also other religions. We have to learn something from the history.”

Friar Ivo Markovic

Reflections on disproportionate fear:

“I think it is important to not “be afraid” and realize there is a difference between not wanting something to occur and being afraid of that occurring. Fear, except in the acute instances of immediate danger, is a most unwelcome emotion.  Most scientists have shown how bad it can be for our chronic health, and how it can lead to horribly bad decisions as your brain becomes hijacked by its reptilian origins.

More importantly, people need to understand that there are other more effective ways of expressing a negative want. If you don’t want something to occur, like a terrorist attack, there are reasonable things that can be done to prevent them. But people have to also understand that all attempts insure ourselves against such danger have costs. The cost of living in perpetual fear is a society where trust has eroded and everyone looks over their shoulders. Even if we prevent such horrible things such as terrorist attacks, we still have to live in such a trustless society. That doesn’t seem like a win-win. In fact, it is clearly a lose-lose.

To put this in perspective, let’s look at two other kinds of risk that somehow people are OK with — driving cars and the huge amount of guns prevalent in America. We all know that about 30,000 people will die in car accidents and another several hundred thousand will be seriously injured. We can immediately put in place a policy that would reduce this tremendously, by reducing driving speeds to 25 mph everywhere, for example. Similarly, we can put an end to the majority of gun violence tomorrow if we just agree to confiscate all civilian owned guns. Both are unacceptable to our society because we’ve collectively decided that fear isn’t worth it — that bad outcomes is a reasonable price to pay for our freedom.

What is shocking about the response to Islamic extremism and terror is that people haven’t come to similar conclusions. That is, that some acts of terror (and other crimes) will always be possible in an open trusting society, and that is a reasonable price to pay for having an open trusting society. People have decided to respond to this negative want with fear, and when fear enters the equation, the only response is the reptilian brain’s response, which is to do anything and everything to avoid and prevent what we’re afraid of.”

Tanenbaum supporter

Claiming the mantle of faith:

“I am a Christian and my color matters not. If a person claims to be a Christian but belongs to any hate group like the KKK or any other group hating certain peoples than they are not Christians based on God’s written word. Don’t be afraid of those hate groups because that is how they grow. When we give in to fear we than start looking at groups of people we might want to join to protect ourselves but in turn we become one of the groups we fear.”

– Paolo Vescovi

Tanenbaum’s MFA Speaks Out – Don’t Demonize Refugees!

Dear Friends,

At Tanenbaum, we know that many of the people who are today’s refugees are just like us. People of many different cultures and beliefs, and ways of practicing them. They are orphans. They are parents with children.

Our nation is now in the midst of a debate about these individuals. The undertone is divisive, suggesting that only Christians should be brought in, that refugees can be equated with rabid dogs, and that all people who follow Islam (i.e., 1.6 billion people) must be treated as prospective ISIS activists. Tanenbaum objects to the hate-mongering that is going hand in hand with legitimate cries for appropriate security measures. And our President, the founder of Tanenbaum’s Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees project, had something to say about it.

Take a look.
Please stand with us, and fight the hatred that breeds violence and hate,

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

Click here to stand with us and support our work

Combat Extremism – November Resources from Tanenbaum

Dear Friends,

Last week, ISIS sought to shatter our sense of security by striking at the heart of Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. As we mourn the loss of so many innocent lives, we remain resolved to defy ISIS and terrorism by firmly upholding our shared values – that we must treat others as we wish to be treated.

And when we abide by that Golden Rule, we build an inclusive, pluralistic society that does not marginalize those who are different.

One key strategy for doing this is by learning more about one another and seeking out ways to stand together. Today, we’re proud to continue our Combating Extremism campaign by sharing more practical resources you can use in your daily life or in a classroom.

Today, our focus is on the work of Tanenbaum’s Syrian Peacemaker in Action, Hind Kabawat:

  • QUESTIONS for Students and Educators: A question sheet that may be used by educators and creative parents alike alongside Hind Kabawat’s Testimony about strategies to pursuing peace in Syria! Using the primary documentation provided by Hind’s testimony, these materials may be useful for educators teaching about current events, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, The Cradle of Civilization and geography.
Read, download, and share! With these resources, you can gain a unique perspective into the Syrian conflict and examine Peacemaker in Action Hind Kabawat’s solutions. Challenge students and children to ask questions, research the answers, and take action by starting a discussion within your community or family. To learn more about Hind’s next project (to work with women who will rebuild Syria) click here.
Together, let’s work to prevent violent extremism. Peace begins with us.
With hope for a better future,
Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Your signature makes a difference! Sign and share our Peacemaker’s Statement Against Extremism.

Click here to support our work with Hind, her fellow Peacemakers and our 2016 intervention in Syria.

Proclaim Enough – Paris Reflections

Peace for Paris

Illustration by Jean Jullien

Dear Friends,

Today is a day filled with sorrow. As once again, our hearts are broken for the more than 120 innocents murdered across Paris. We ache for them, for their families and friends, and for their nation which is under siege.

Today is a day when we stand in solidarity with the French people from all walks of life and diverse beliefs. In one voice, we denounce the violent extremists – apparently ISIS followers – who claim “credit” for butchering people just going about their lives in restaurants, concerts and as they moved across their city.

We also mourn and draw attention to the over 40 Lebanese deliberately slaughtered only days ago – including Sh’ia Muslims, Christians and Druse – by two ISIS suicide bombers in Beirut.

We remember in profound sorrow the Israelis and Palestinians – Jews, Christians and Muslims – who are dying amid a rapidly escalating cycle of condemnation, division and violence in their homeland.

We recognize the Muslim and Christian Syrians who are desperately seeking to escape from the horrors that ISIS and others are inflicting on them in what was once a thriving nation.

And we must not allow ourselves to forget Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who we all mourned, when he washed onto a beach as his family sought to escape the constant terror that Syrians now face.

Today, with one voice, we must remember the horror of Paris and horrors across our globe. But we must do more. We must reaffirm our commitment to the core values in our many traditions and beliefs, and to our shared humanity.

There are many possible responses to today’s horror in Paris. Sadness fills us. But this is also a time to recommit to one another. To standing together amid our many differences, to honoring our neighbors and joining with them to stand against the aberrant extremism that threatens us all.

Let us stand together and, with strength, proclaim enough!

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Father Sava Travels to the U.S.

Father Sava Janjic, a Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action who has been tirelessly pursuing peace and reconciliation in Kosovo for decades, concluded his recent trip to the U.S. last week in Boston, where he presented at the Colloquium on Orthodox Christianity and Humanitarianism: Ideas and Action in the Contemporary World. The Colloquium was sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Office of Inter-Orthodoxy, Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations. Father Sava and Joyce Dubensky, Tanenbaum CEO, both had the privilege of sitting on the Colloquium’s “Experiences from the Frontline of Crisis Response and Delivery (Around the World)” panel on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Prior to his trip to Boston, Father Sava traveled throughout California with His Grace Bishop Maxim of the Western Diocese before spending a few days in Washington DC and New York. While in New York, Father Sava spoke to an intimate gathering at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava on Tuesday, May 5, about life in Kosovo and the plight of Kosovo Serbians.

Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky with Peacemaker Father Sava Janjic

Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky with Peacemaker Father Sava Janjic

During his talk at St. Sava, Father Sava touched on a number of topics. He lamented the “second class” treatment of Kosovo’s Serbs; expressed concern over ethnic and religious extremism; and described how his monastery, Decani Monastery, was vandalized late last year with graffiti by ISIS sympathizers. While the Serbian Orthodox Church does not get involved in politics, Father Sava told the audience that the church promotes the equal treatment of all citizens, engaging in interfaith dialogue to help foster communal bonds among Kosovo’s differing sects.

Despite difficult challenges and numerous setbacks for Kosovo, Father Sava believes it’s critical to maintain hope and to continue to strive towards peace and a better world. He refuses to give up on his people.