Recap from the World Without Walls Tour
Last month, Rev. Tita Valeriano and Rev. Allison Tanner participated in a delegation that brought anti-wall activists from the United States to Palestine. Participants witnessed the occupation first hand, and met with Palestinian organizers to share strategies for resistance. FOSNA interviewed Rev. Valerian and Rev. Tanner about their experiences.
Why did you decide to go on this delegation?
Rev. Tita Valeriano: As an immigrant, perpetual foreigner, and as a person of faith, I have deep commitment to learn and serve with the oppressed. In the past, I felt that globalization has a lot to do with the connections between powers in the world, who have shared the values and strategies of an oppressive regime. We have power – power to resist together, power to sustain our work and commitment, power of community, power of unwavering hope that we can overcome the evil of this world.
Rev. Allison Tanner: I started working for the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity on sanctuary issues and went representing them. I went to bear witness to what was happening, to learn about how people are facing injustice and fighting for freedom, and to open my mind to how the destructive powers of the world separate people. This helps me understand my ministry better and how to be even more involved in bridge building.
What did you witness while you were there?
TV: I witnessed the resilience of the people, all ages, men and women, and even of various classes. Their situation has been experienced already by three to four generations of Palestinians. I listened to their stories of struggle and dehumanization, of chaos, of the perpetual ruins amidst new walls. But in those stories and in their voices, I also heard voices of hope, love and trust in each other, family and fellow human beings. There is anger but not hate, clear vision and dreams of freedom. I also heard their strong invitation to continue our work wherever we are for justice. While telling our stories through our own experiences and struggles of oppression here. We face the same injustices: discrimination, racism, taking away our freedom of mobility and to live as fully human beings. We cannot let the empire, the oppressive regime and government, continue this abuse of power. It has to come down.
AT: I witnessed very tangible very visible colonization, racism, apartheid, second-class citizenry. The US has benefited from these things, but has made it subtle and elusive. To see first hand this very oppressive and visible way in which the Israeli government is abusing people opened my eyes to ways in which this is happening under the cover of daily routine. I had not connected all the dots because of the culture I have inherited, which hides oppression as normal. To be be in a country where that was more visible first hand through separate IDs, people not able to enter the same cities, ride on the same roads, that at any time you were susceptible to mistreatment, questioning, interrogation, detention. Many of these things happen to my friends of color through the police system: technically they are free to travel anywhere but in fact it is dangerous to go there or there, and should be avoided. This made the connection really palpable because of how overt this was for Palestinians.
What you think matters most for us to think about based on your experience?
TV: Understanding the oppressive systemic regime that is duplicated in other parts of the world, especially here in the USA, so that we can learn how to address and overcome this abusive power.
The importance of stories of hope and the inspiration and empowerment that comes from actual protest strategies and resistance of the leaders of popular resistance movement. I also think that we cannot underestimate the true power of community, of relationship, and of the spirit of the people who belong to the land.
AT: We are not just standing in solidarity, which is of course deeply felt. We also recognize the ways our communities are developing and cultivating theses structures and how we can be actively challenge them. I feel that in my ministry, in a middle class congregation with a history of white culture (even though the congregation makeup is diverse) I can see the layers of colonization and the ways these effect my congregation and my community. We need to challenge that. How can I, as someone who has lived in a land colonized for centuries and born into the legacy of that violence, how can I bear witness, actively?
What can churches and church leaders do?
AT: That’s a good question and quite frankly answering that question will be the focus on my next weeks and months in life trying to articulate. Part of it is a matter of asking different questions, with critical eyes that inform my ability to stand alongside and help me be a better partner in following the leadership of others. It means working with youth to raise questions and offer deeper education. My community is just beginning to really connect with the sanctuary movement, and having this experience gives me a greater sense of urgency of this, and strategically how to do it. We cannot be paralyzed by ignorance.
What is your main takeaway for the road ahead and November 9?
TV: Walls not only separate us from another, they destroy our common humanity. But they cannot kill the spirit of courage and hope: that justice will prevail.
AT: We are all affected by these walls and isolation. In some ways protesting the material reality of walls is symbolic of acknowledging the walls that divide and isolate and separate us, whether it be the wall of race or class or minority status, the walls of ageism and generations, presumed differences in our goals. These walls divide in an attempt conquer and distract, in an attempt to separate us from our nature as connected human beings who are living truncated existence because we are so separated.
Everyone needs to turn up, in whatever way they can, in their communities on November 9th to be part of the World Without Walls campaign. This is about intersectional justice, and it is a moment to demonstrate our collective goals.
To hear more about Reverend Tanner’s experiences in Palestine, and how they inform her ministry, check out her blog: givingvoicetothestruggle.com.