Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt - Day 3

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.

It's not all work and no play here in Egypt. On Sunday, TFD Network Coordinator Nabil Sisostres, and his family took us to Ein Sukhna on the Red Sea for a day of relaxation. Rather, as much relaxation as you can have with two 4-year-olds!

Nabil, his wife Safi, mother Nana and twins Simon and Skylen entertained us at their beachside condo. And since Sunday is a work day for most Egyptians, we had the sands nearly exclusively to ourselves.

We walked the shoreline picking up seashells and pieces of coral. We basked in the sun on powdery soft sand. We inspected the jellyfish the kids found. We watched a constant parade of oil tankers on the horizon, heading for the Suez Canal. It was a delight. As the sun went down we celebrated Nabil’s birthday (a day late) with an Arabic birthday song and a trick candle that sent Simon and Skylen into fits of laughter. Safi’s cake was delicious!

The super highway between Cairo and Ein Sukhna is beautiful—in the median are giant Egyptian urns and pharaonic sculptures. The trucks and cars use separate roads. And the speed limit is 10 km/hr faster than any other road in Egypt!

Nabil and Safi thanked us for the day at the beach house—they seldom take the time away from home and work to enjoy it. We assured them that we would be happy to fly in anytime they needed a getaway. They thought I was joking.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt - Day 2

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.
Back in Cairo, we met with one of the first organizations to enlist in the Joining Hands-Egypt network: Association for Protection of the Environment (APE). This group works in Moqattam with the community of garbage collectors, the Zabaleen. APE has been offering training to the women of the community in paper-making, rug weaving and patchwork along with literacy classes and children's programs. Since March of this year they have been holding civic education workshops as part of the Together for Family Development (TFD) campaign. We met with the APE project leadership.
The APE staff told us about their approach to enabling citizens. They worked with a television production company to create a role play illustrating the important elements of active citizenship and presented it in four locations and at the big Coptic Orthodox Church in Moqattam. They selected 10 women from the community to take the workshop to their own neighborhoods--training trainers. The role play was recorded and now can be shared with other organizations.

The staff told us they feel that the people of Moqattam now know the language of politics, they can think for themselves about candidates and issues, and they have a new sense of responsibility to take part in the upcoming elections.

I asked if the common people had access to candidates so that they could express their concerns and raise the issues that are important to them. The women told me that the candidates would not meet with the voters, but instead would make appointments with community leaders (i.e., the priest at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Moqattam). After thinking a minute, one of the ladies from the community commented that they needed to make sure that the priest knew what the critical issues for the Zabaleen actually were!
There is concern, of course, that intimidation and violence will erupt at election time--especially in the slums of Cairo--which would keep people from going to vote. Husbands would keep their wives at home rather than expose them to danger, so the women would not be able to participate.
The final request from the staff of APE and the women who have taken part in the civic education program: "Pray for us and all of Egypt during these uncertain times."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt – Day 1

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.

I've been waiting since February for this visit to our Joining Hands partners in Egypt--those plans were interrupted by the revolution. Last Sunday, when Dave Best and I were preparing to leave, news of violence in Cairo caused a flurry of phone calls and emails from concerned family, friends and PC(USA) staff.
We made the decision to leave on Tuesday as scheduled. We came with the understanding that our itinerary would be adjusted, to avoid areas of high tension. The Joining Hands network here decided in March that it was imperative that they adjust their campaign for 2011 to focus on enabling people to be informed citizens for the upcoming elections. After a three-day workshop for network representatives, each member organization designed a project especially for their own community.
Nancy Lister-Settle is in the back row, standing, second from the right.
David Best is in the center, middle row, seated.
On our first day, Dave and I traveled to Alexandria to hear from partners there about their project. Nada Thabet and Village of Hope work primarily with families of children with disabilities. They designed a program to teach political terminology, how to assess parties and candidates, the electoral process, and understanding political campaigns. They decided to work in primarily in poorer areas of Alexandria because people there were generally less educated and had less access to information. Even though their workshops were promoted to the families they serve, they were open to anyone elegible to vote.
We met with women who had already completed the training; their experience was profound:
"The women are humble, simple people and they were very excited to learn new things!"
"We didn't know political terminology, so we had been easily influenced before--after the training we could think for ourselves."
"We thought our voice and our votes were useless."
"If you see something that isn't going well, you can vote for better representatives who share your concerns."
One woman told us that before she came to the training she knew little about politics, and she wasn't searching to know more. She said the training opened the door and transformed her and the other women she works with.
In addition, the larger association of organizations in Alexandria, all working with the disabled, agreed to all support a candidate or party who put the rights of the disabled in their platform. They are also working with officials to make voting accessible to adults with disabilities.

As our conversation ended I asked the women if they believed that the people who had attended the trainings would all vote. They replied, "No, not all of them. Probably 90%."
Nada and the Village of Hope also created a small, easy to understand booklet as part of their training for political life--these will be available to anyone.
The next morning Dave and I enjoyed a relaxing morning with Nada and her family beside the sea. It was easy to imagine a brighter future for Egypt after talking with our Alexandria partners.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Circle of Trust: A Soul Tending Group for Spouses of Clergy

Spouses of clergy know they often face unique and specific challenges in their lives and in their roles, roles often not well defined, as partners in a clergy couple.

The stresses of these challenges may at times push them up against important ways in which they thought they knew about themselves, their family systems, their friendships, and their own religious and spiritual beliefs.

Individuals married to a pastor have a “position”, whether wanted or not. With this position comes an image or a role which, if not seen clearly as an opportunity for growth in one’s own spiritual journey, can result in becoming trapped in ways of living and behaving that are not authentic and life-giving.

A Circle of Trust will focus on the spirituality of the clergy spouse and address topics such as learning to trust oneself, understanding and creating healthy boundaries, finding one’s voice, and facing change and transition. Kathy Reardon from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, has put together this workshop for clergy spouses which will focus on cultivating spiritual growth. She needs at least six participants but no more than eight to hold the class. The deadline for registration is October 20, 2011 so if you are interested, please contact her at DMPCC as soon as possible to register.

This circle of trust will meet on the first Tuesday of the month from 10 a.m.-Noon at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Ave., in Urbandale (near the Panera Bread restaurant on 86th Street and the Presbytery office). Enrollment is limited to eight.

This series of seven sessions is scheduled for November 1, and December 6, of 2011, and February 7, March 6, April 3, May 1 and June, of 2012. Cost per person is $280 (The Des Moines Presbytery has agreed to pay $50 per participant.).

If you have questions or need more information, contact: Chris Davis (Clive, Heartland), 515-771-2017 or Mary Ellen Stanley (Leon, First), 641-442-5301.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Join SMTF in an Interfaith Special Event on Palestine-Israel U.S. Policy!

What would eight million dollars-a-day do for our economy, our state, and our nation?Israel receives a free gift of $8.0 million a day from the U.S. government and our taxes. And it’s used for oppressive policies against the Palestinian people.
Come to the U.S. Policy in Palestine--Israel Conference, Oct. 14 and 15, in Ankeny, Iowa. More information and background on the critical issues in the Middle East will be provided and you'll learn how Iowans can make a change to U.S. policies.

An interfaith group under the umbrella of American Friends Service Committee, www.afsc.org/iowa, has brought together individuals from the Des Moines and Eastern Iowa areas to sponsor the conference, U.S. Policy in Palestine--Israel: Engaging the Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace, Oct. 14 & 15, at Our Lady of Immaculate Heart Church, 510 East First St., Ankeny.

The Presbytery’s Social Ministries Task Force is a contributor and member, the honorably retired Rev. Liz Knott, is one of the event planners and they have been planning for almost a year! There will be four plenaries and four tracks of workshops on various issues. Registration fee: $30 and includes three meals in the registration price. Friday and Saturday evening a Mediterranean meal will be served!

The keynote speakers will be spell binding!
  • Phyllis Bennis of the Institute on Policy Studies and author of numerous books on the Middle East;
  • Ali Abunimah, a first generation Palestinian-American and founder and executive director of the Electronic Intifada http://electronicintifada.net/diaries;
  • Josh Ruebner of the U.S. Campaign to End The Occupationwww.endtheoccupation.org;
  • Lynn Pollock of Jewish Voice for Peace www.JewishVoiceforPeace.org and
  • Laila El-Haddad will have stories about the Gaza strip.
A complete program listing is available on the AFSC website.

Please encourage our Presbyterian members to come and learn. Brochures and registration materials are available from our Presbytery Office or go online to: www.afsc.org/document/palestine-israel-conference-iowa-october-2011 or www.afsc.org/story/iowans-focus-peace-palestine-israel