Introduction To Sabeel
Sabeel, Arabic for “the way” and also “a channel” or “spring” of life-giving water, is an ecumenical grassroots center for liberation theology among Palestinian Christians, that seeks to promote peace with justice in the Middle East. The Sabeel center is in Jerusalem. It was founded following an international conference in March 1990, which placed Palestinian liberation theology in relationship to other liberation theologies from around the world. (See Faith & the Intifada, edited by N. Ateek. M. Ellis, and R. Ruether, 1992).
With an ecumenical steering committee of clergy and lay theologians, the two main aims of Sabeel are to search for ways to strengthen the faith of Palestinian Christians in Palestine and Israel and to share the life and witness of the Christian community with visitors from abroad.
The programs at Sabeel encourage adults and youth to “do” theology in their daily lives as they search for what God is saying to them. Examples of the programs and projects are listed below. In 2000, Sabeel published a document, “Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine_Israel”, which offers a detailed summary of the work of Sabeel in this regard (available at www.sabeel.org).
Sabeel strives to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.
Seeking to support the peace and justice ministry of Sabeel, geographical groupings of Friends of Sabeel are being organized worldwide. Friends of Sabeel North America, including the chapter in Canada, aims to support the ecumenical ministry of Sabeel through prayerful actions and financial resources, education of North Americans about the faithful witness of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land, and advocacy for a just resolution in the region.
Sabeel’s liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to lead them to act for justice and love, to work for the unity and renewal of the church, and to transform society. Sabeel is committed to a prophetic ministry in solidarity with the oppressed. It strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, non-violence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities.
Without a theology that is biblically based and relevant to people’s daily realities, it is difficult to maintain faith and hope. Indeed, Palestinian Christians have plenty of political analysis but a shortage of theological anchoring. Yet, with organized opportunities for, and training in theological reflection, they become empowered by the spirit of God and are filled with new vision. Agonizing over issues of justice and peace has become a theological necessity, as well as a political one.
Canadian Friends Of Sabeel (CFOS)
Following a successful Conference in Ottawa in November 1998, a group of Canadians from across the country pledged to form a national Friends of Sabeel group. Currently a chapter of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOS-NA), we have our own national steering committee and are working towards becoming a more independent Canadian group. The steering committee has completed several projects, including the publication of Truth and Reconciliation: Voices for Peace in the Holy Land, a book and study guide based on the sponsored conference held in Ottawa in 1998, and the production of the video Stuck with the Truth, based on the 2001 Solidarity Visit in Jerusalem. In addition, CFOS coordinates other projects focussed on education and advocacy, such as the sponsorship and co-sponsorship of speaking tours and conferences, meetings with government officials, solidarity visits and networking with Canadian churches and other groups working for a just peace.
In the fall of 1999, members in Toronto held a second conference in Canada, thereby inspiring a local group of Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) to be formed there. More recently, local groups have also formed in Hamilton and London, Ontario. The Ottawa group continues to remain active, and other groups are beginning to take shape all across the country.
While remaining a chapter of FOS-NA, CFOS has a national structure of its own. Local groups are represented on the national steering committee of CFOS, which in turn is represented on the steering committee of FOS-NA. This structure allows two-way communication between the local groups, CFOS, FOS-NA and Jerusalem, and encourages input and ideas from everyone. CFOS strives to do meaningful work across the country and with FOS-NA in partnership with Jerusalem.
Vision Statement Of Canadian Friends Of Sabeel
Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) is a national support network for Sabeel, Ecumenical Center for Liberation Theology in Jerusalem. Sabeel strives to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians and the wider Palestinian community, as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action. In response, CFOS empowers, enables and equips its members to realize Sabeel’s ministry through education, advocacy and solidarity in Canada. CFOS fosters collaboration with other Canadian groups and is part of Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOS-NA).
International Friends Of Sabeel (IFOS)
International Friends of Sabeel (IFOS) was organized out of the desire by members of the international community to support the work of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. IFOS is involved in education, advocacy, conferences, solidarity visits, partner-to-partner projects, and financial contributions. Regional chapters have been established creating a network of friends throughout the world who work in partnership with Sabeel to help bring about a just and durable peace for Palestine and Israel.
The Sabeel website (www.sabeel.org) provides updates and links to other organizations. Sabeel also hosts visits in Israel/Palestine through the Ahlan wa sahlan program (in Arabic “to welcome”). This program aims to give visitors an accurate depiction of current events, and features options varying from a contemporary Way of the Cross to an evening of Palestinian food and music.
Friends Of Sabeel North America (FOS-NA)
Seeking to support the inclusive peace and justice ministry of Sabeel, geographical groupings of Friends of Sabeel are being organized worldwide. FOS-NA incorporates members in the United States and Canada. We aim to support the ecumenical, inclusive ministry of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center through prayerful actions and financial resources; educate North Americans about the faithful witness of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land; advocate for a just resolution in the region based upon international laws regarding self-determination, human rights, religious tolerance, and the sharing of natural resources; and coordinate activities between North America and Palestine/Israel to network as effectively as possible. Specifically, we offer program support for Sabeel-Jerusalem, program support for Friends of Sabeel in the U.S. and Canada, support for salaries for full-time Sabeel staff member(s), publication of the Cornerstone newsletter, and support for regional, national, and international conferences.