Ten Mennonite Congregations Are Twinned with Communities in Gaza
by Joe Roos, MennoPIN Steering Committee
October 23, 2020 – At the 2017 Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando, FL, delegates passed a landmark resolution about Palestine and Israel entitled, “Seeking Peace in Israel Palestine.” That resolution encouraged congregations and individuals to find ways to support the people of Palestine in their struggle for peace, justice, and freedom.
The Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN) followed up on that resolution by launching the Mennonite Twinning Initiative with Gaza in 2019.
The Twinning Initiative brings the implications of the 2017 MC USA resolution into the pews, matching Mennonite congregations with churches, mosques, hospitals, schools, clinics and nonprofits operating in Gaza.
The Initiative builds relationships between MC USA congregations and entities in Gaza by sharing histories, profiles, letters, photos, videos and other elements to help build understanding of each other’s circumstances and challenges in working for peace.
As of this month, ten MC USA congregations have become Twinning congregations with entities in Gaza. These congregations, from Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Virginia, have paired with divisions of the Youth Vision Society, the Culture and Free Thought Association, and the Gaza YMCA. Additional communities in Gaza are being sought.
Manhattan (KS) Mennonite Church is a small congregation with a big heart. They teamed up with the part of Youth Vision Society (YVS) that addresses hunger in Gaza. Just after the coronavirus exploded in the United States, some YVS staff members joined Manhattan Mennonite in a Zoom Sunday morning worship to hear from each other’s communities. Later, the Manhattan congregation helped YVS with their Hand to Hand project which distributed over 600 boxes of food and hygiene items (see photo].
One member of the YVS staff expressed excitement about the collaboration with Manhattan Mennonite: “We are so thankful for the help you’ve given us to meet this need.”
While all of Palestine is suffering tremendously under the crushing Israeli military occupation, Gaza bears unimaginable devastation resulting from the thirteen-year Israeli blockade. Compounding that suffering are the Trump Administration’s decisions to cut all U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports Gazan refugees and to eliminate all other U.S. humanitarian aid for Palestinians.
Although visiting Gaza is blocked by the Israeli government, the Twinning Initiative provides an opportunity to have direct relationship with and show support for the people of Gaza.
The benefits of these relationships have been two-fold. On the one hand, our Gaza friends have been greatly blessed by the support and care they feel from congregations in the United States.
At the same time, our U.S. congregations have been deeply moved to hear directly from people in Gaza about their suffering under COVID-19, periodic bombings by Israeli missiles and the devastating impact of the blockade. Our congregations have also seen Palestinians’ resilience, courage and hope amid their suffering.
We are grateful for the seeds of love, trust, and hope that are beginning to grow and bear fruit through this Twinning Initiative.
Learn more about MennoPIN’s Twinning Initiative with Gaza at their website.