By Martha Miller, Converse II
What images come to mind when you hear the word Palestine? War ravaged landscapes? Angry rioters? Young people hurling stones at armed soldiers? These are the images far too many Americans have come to expect from Western media regarding Palestine and its peoples.
Recently, Dr. Anne Lipe, Assistant Professor of Music Therapy at Converse College, introduced the voices and images of a new movement toward peace by young Palestinians. The Living Non-Violence Summer Camp in Ramalla is a manifestation of their hope for non-violent resolutions to the conflicts that have wreaked havoc on Palestine and its people for more than half a century. The camp is a production of Love Thy Neighbor, an ecumenical, interfaith organization dedicated to promoting non-violence in Israel and Palestine.
In a multimedia presentation of her work in the summer of 2007 with the Living Non-Violence Summer Camp, Lipe provided a glimpse of the efforts by Palestinians to promote the skills of non-violence to their children as they participated in drama, visual art, creative writing and dance to learn alternative ways of relating to one another.
“So many Palestinians are weary of the violence,” she says. “They see that it hasn’t worked in all these years. It isn’t the way to peace. There are those who think is impossible, but there are numbers of dedicated individuals who have worked to educate peoples of the region in the skills of non-violence for years.”
Lipe’s journey of non-violence education began with her first contact with one of them, Rev. Mitri Raheb, Pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and Director of the International Center of Bethlehem.
“I shared with him about music therapy,” she says. “He didn’t have to be convinced. He already believed in the role of music for cultural transformation. He said ‘Many people think culture is a luxury can’t afford, but it is an element of survival. It’s the art of celebrating life in a context dominated by death and violence.’”
The principles that guide the efforts of Love Thy Neighbor are those that were taught by Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Organizers and team members see that these principles, gleaned by King from Mahatma Ghandi, worked in America during the Civil Rights Movement and in South Africa in the breakdown of Apartheid, and they believe they will work in Palestine as well.
“Non-violence is the harder way to respond,” Lipe says. “It takes a lot of courage to be non-violent in the face of those who are demeaning you. As Ghandi taught, non-violence has to be a way of life which starts within the heart.”
To understand why children need training in non-violence, Lipe says it’s important to understand the context in which they live.
“First and foremost, Palestinians live under military occupation. They are the ethnic majority, displaced and living as internal refugees.”
She adds that Israel is resettling the West Bank and annexing land at an alarming rate. House demolitions occur without recourse when the Israeli government claims the land. Infrastructure for the settlements is inaccessible to Palestinians. A separation barrier snaking in and out of Palestinian territory cuts them off from jobs and families. Movement restrictions, physical roadblocks with arbitrary checkpoints and the requirement of security permit