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Palestinian, Jewish voices for peace to speak in south-central Kansas

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A prominent Palestinian Christian speaker for peace and a nonviolent solution to the deadly tensions in Israel-Palestine will visit Bethel College later this month.

Following a mandate from Mennonite delegates to the biennial convention of Mennonite Church USA, Jonathan Kuttab, a human rights lawyer and frequent lecturer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be joined in different locations by a representative of Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP).

Kuttab will give three public presentations in south-central Kansas. April 17, he is at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church (655 South Lorraine, Wichita) and April 18 at Bethel College, at 7 p.m. each time. He also speaks in Bethel’s weekly chapel service April 19 at 11 a.m. Both Bethel events are in the Administration Building chapel.

Laura Tillem of Wichita, a retired computer programmer, community organizer and editor, and a lifelong activist for peace and human rights, will join Kuttab for his two evening appearances.

Tillem, a native of Brooklyn, New York, lived in the Boston area for several decades before relocating to Wichita in 1999. She has been active since 2002 with Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas, based in Wichita, and is a member of JVP.

Together, Kuttab and Tillem will explore prospects for peace in a new political climate, highlight diverse Jewish and Palestinian perspectives on Israel-Palestine, and invite audiences to participate in a shared vision for how Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews can live free, dignified and whole lives in the land.

The tour is one effort to implement the Mennonite Church USA “Israel/Palestine Partners in Peacemaking” resolution, adopted in Kansas City in 2015.

That statement challenged members of MC USA to “strive to understand more fully the social, economic and political context in which [Palestinians] live, work and pray; reflect on our own theological and political understandings of the land of Israel-Palestine; and discern ways we can seek a more just future for all peoples of Israel and Palestine.”

At the same Kansas City convention, delegates tabled a separate resolution that included a call for MC USA to join the “boycott, divest, sanction,” or BDS, movement against Israel. After two years of study and revision, that resolution is coming back to delegates this summer in Orlando.

The goal of the “Jewish and Palestinian Voices for Peace” tour is to raise the profile of Palestinian and Jewish groups in America working for peace in Israel-Palestine, said Jonathan Brenneman, a tour organizer and the coordinator of Israel/Palestine Partners in Peacemaking as a volunteer with MC USA.

“We are especially excited that Mennonites will be introduced to JVP members who live in their communities,” he said.

Kuttab will be in North Carolina before coming to Kansas, and will also visit eastern Pennsylvania, Ohio, northern Indiana, Illinois and Virginia, through the end of May. He will be joined in these areas by local representatives of JVP.

JVP is a peace organization with nearly 50 chapters across the United States, whose members are “inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.”

Kuttab was born in West Jerusalem. When he was a teenager, following the Six-Day War in 1967, his family moved to the United States, where his father, George Kuttab, a Mennonite pastor, did significant work in the Philadelphia area.

This led to Jonathan Kuttab’s learning about Messiah College, a Brethren in Christ school in Grantham, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Messiah and then from the University of Virginia law school.

In the 1980s, Kuttab returned to Israel-Palestine as a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee. He has also served as a lawyer for Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine.

He cofounded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence, Al-Haq (a non-governmental Palestinian human-rights organization) and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners. He serves on the boards of the Jerusalem-based Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Bethlehem Bible College and the Holy Land Trust.

Kuttab attends Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

He will conclude his Kansas tour in Manhattan, speaking (again with Tillem) at Ecumenical Campus Ministry (904 Sunset Ave., Manhattan), a student organization of Kansas State University, at 7 p.m. April 19.

For more information about the Jewish and Palestinian Voices for Peace tour’s stops in Kansas, or elsewhere, contact Jonathan Brenneman, jonathanb@mennoniteusa.org

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2016–17 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

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