• October 26, 2002
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    Christian Peacemaker denied entry to Israel
Christian Peacemaker denied entry to Israel Kathleen Kern, Bible scholar and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, was denied entry to Israel at Ben Gurion Airport yesterday. Kern, a forty-year old writer of Sunday School materials , was on her way to join the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Israel/Palestine. On numerous trips with CPT over the past eight years, Kern has repeatedly intervened in conflict situations to reduce violence and to protect human rights. She has been assaulted by Israeli settlers, but never arrested by Israeli authorities. Kern is the third member of CPT to be denied entry in the last five months: Michael Goode of Chicago (IL) and Kurtis Unger of Winnipeg (MB) were denied entry in June and August.

Kern was scheduled to be part of the CPT Rapid Response Team, based in Jerusalem and charged with responding as quickly as possible to attacks or threats of attacks against any civilian populations, Israeli or Palestinian.

The Rapid Response Team is in part a renewal of an action Kern initiated in response to bus bombings in 1996: when the #18 bus in Jerusalem was bombed two Sundays in a row, Kern and another CPTer publicly declared their opposition to all violence, and proceeded to ride the #18 bus the following three Sundays.

"Kathy is the least threatening person you can imagine," said Mark Shelly of Rochester (NY) Mennonite Fellowship where Kern is a member. "She knows what she believes and can state it clearly, but she is never harsh or rough, verbally or physically. She is always working to try to understand others' positions. She has been a leader in improving Jewish/Christian/Muslim dialogue in our area. She values her friendships with Jews and Muslims highly, and she is committed to reconciliation -- helping people understand and respect each other."

Also Wednesday at Ben Gurion Airport, harassment by Israeli authorities led four Palestinian church leaders to give up their attempt to attend a conference in London. Bishop Riah Abu El-Asal, Head of the Anglican Church, Bishop Munib Younan, Head of the Lutheran Church, and Bishop Boutros Mouallem and Abbouna Elias Chakour of the Greek Catholic Church were on their way to attend follow-up meetings on the Alexandria Declaration, an initiative for interfaith dialogue between Christians, Moslem, and Jews.

"The Israeli government is using the US led international climate of anti- terrorism and Iraq war fever to run rough shod over Palestinians in general and human rights workers in particular." according to Gene Stoltzfus, Christian Peacemaker Teams director. "This is done by tightening the noose at Tel Aviv's Airport or on the ground restrictions and arrests of human rights workers as well as with renewed home demolitions and attacks on population centers. Kerns rejection at Tel Aviv Airport is a wake up call for all Christians to start doing something about the blood that is flowing in that place called the Holy Land."

Kern was part of the exploratory delegation that set up the CPT project in Hebron in June 1995. As of this writing, CPT has had no direct contact with Kern. Allowed one phone call from the airport holding cell, she called an Israeli friend. On the basis of that phone call, we believe Kern is now being flown back to the US.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches. CPT P. O. Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680 tel. 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291, E-Mail cpt@igc.org WEB www.prairienet.org/cpt