"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Friday, January 12, 2007 Abbie Coburn's Palestine Journal -- Part I
I first met Abbie Coburn very briefly when I was in seminary and she was the young daughter of the co-rector's of my friends' (Manny and LouAnn Faria)parish in Danbury, CT. But I really met Abbie last month on a trip to San Francisco. My friend Kevin Jones hooked us up for a drink one night because he knew this was someone I'd want to know. He was right.
Abbie is pretty amazing -- and she's doing a pretty amazing thing. We sat there over a beer that night and she said she wanted to go somewhere where she could make a difference, where she could see a story that's not being reported on American television. She had chosen the occupied territories of Palestine ... and she wanted to leave in a month. She wanted to go there and learn and be changed and then come back here and tell the religious communities in America what she had learned. Could I help her?
I didn't know if I could help her, but I told her how great I thought her idea was and connected her with some people who might help. Through email, I introduced her to Bob Tobin, former rector of Christ Church, Cambridge, who has dedicated his life to the plight of the Palestinians. I also hooked her up with Michelle Spike, who serves with me on the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns, who had a conversion experience during her trip to Palestine in 2004 and is now as passionate an advocate as I know for the Palestinians. I also tried to hook her up with Stephanie Rhodes, an ECM alum who spent a semester in Bethlehem and surrounding areas, and Lara Friedman, the legislative director of Americans for Peace Now (and an old high school friend).
And then off Abbie went. And she started sending back these amazingly, brutally honest and eloquent emails to us. Finally, I asked her if I could post them here to begin to share them with a wider audience. She agreed and so here is the first one. This one is more of an introduction, but trust me, they get better and better. I'm heading off to Miami with Robin for the weekend so probably won't get to post another one until Monday evening (so far I've received six from her), but I'll try to do one a day after that so you don't have too much to read and you can feel like you're traveling with her. Once she gets back, I'll get some pictures from her so you can share that part of her story, too.
So with that ... here's Abbie:
Greetings from San Francisco! I hope you all are having a peaceful beginning to the Gregorian New Year. I started mine with a wonderful motorcycle ride along the Pacific coast. Not too shabby...
In any case, the real reason for this email is to let most of you know that in 24 hours I will be on a plane to Palestine where I will spend the next 2 weeks, returning January 17. I will be spending the first week with a group called Birthright Unplugged (www.birthrightunplugged.org), and the second week I think I will be in Jerusalem visiting with Sabeel (a Palestinin christian organization) and connecting with a few other organizations. We shall see.
There are many reasons for this trip and quite a few of you have been included in helping me get to this point, so I wanted to include you in the rest of the journey as well. Some of you are already in Palestine, or have been, doing work that I admire and respect. And some of you knew me long ago, when jetsetting around the globe was a natural occurence in the life of Abbie Coburn, and I wanted to include you in these new adventures.
The conditions in Palestine are getting worse everyday as more Jewish settlements are going up on Palestinian land, and as the wall closing Palestinians in gets longer and higher. I want to be a witness to what is going on there. At this point in my life I don't want to turn my back. Some important people in my life have been witnesses to the atrocities of life in Palestine and the occupied territories. And here in San Francisco there has been quite a bit of teach-ins and demonstrations to show solidarity with Palestinians who are being killed on a daily basis.
However, I have found that while the Jewish peers I have are organizing around solidarity with Palestine, the Christian communities I am part of are not engaged in the conversation. It is as though we, as Christians, don't want to step on anyone's toes. I am looking to change that through this trip and through follow-up work done after this trip. I'll keep you all posted as those thoughts develop. Where to go from here? I also want to encourage you to challenge me and help me in how to proceed from here. Many of you were witnesses to South African apartheid, and can help to bringing an end to what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza.
As many of you can attest to I have not been known for my mass emailing capabilities, however I feel that I am not taking this trip just for myself, but rather for the purpose of being able to converse with all of you about it. And to hopefully find ways to encourage others to get involved to stop the apartheid happening in Palestine. So, for better or worse, you can expect to hear quite frequently from me in the next two weeks.
In the meantime, know that you all are on this list because you have made a difference in my life and have helped me get to this exciting place in my life. I hope you are well and enjoying yourself.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."