October 13, 2012

Nonviolence Leaders Delegation Arrives in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM - On October 11, an historic delegation of leaders from the nonviolent U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, younger civil and human rights leaders, and educators arrived in Jerusalem. The delegation is sponsored by the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI), as part of its Palestinian/Israeli Nonviolence Project.

Ms. Dorothy Cotton -- who is a member of the delegation -- is the former Director of Education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was the only woman on Dr. King's executive staff, and is now a Distinguished Fellow at DCI, the institute that bears her name and is committed to carrying on her life work. Others among the delegates were also close colleagues of Dr. King's.

While individual Civil Rights movement leaders have visited the West Bank, DCI believes this is the first delegation dedicated to building a relationship between the leaders of the Black-led freedom movement of the 1960s and the growing Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement and its Israeli allies. Delegates are meeting with Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, as well as several Palestinian villages and refugee camps at the forefront of the grassroots nonviolent movement.

The delegation's goals are to increase visibility of efforts to bring justice, security and human rights to all people in the region, to learn more about the practice of nonviolent direct action and explore effective ways to build solidarity and social transformation in both the Palestinian/Israeli and US contexts. The delegation will explore ways to support efforts to ensure human rights, justice and security for all. Upon their return, the DCI and members of the delegation will help inform people in the US about the Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent movement, with a special focus on the role that the United States plays in supporting the status quo or fostering change.

Delegates bring their long-standing commitment to and experience with nonviolence as a philosophy, way of life and strategy for social change, as well as their life-long encouragement for the role of "ordinary" people in extending democracy and human rights.

"I'm energized by Dr. King's observation that 'we must learn to live together on this planet as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools," said Ms. Cotton. "I'm glad to be learning from those struggling to live together in this part of the world."

"We have come to encourage people who are applying nonviolence in their own context, to learn with and from them, and to let them know they're not alone, said Dr. Vincent Harding, chairperson, Veterans of Hope Project and professor emeritus at Iliff School of Theology at the University of Denver, DCI national advisor and another former colleague of the late Dr. King. He continued, "It is so important for us to exchange experiences and ideas across international, generational and religious lines. Although we have just begun this journey, I've already been inspired by meeting with young Palestinians and Israelis who are working on bringing justice to the situation here."

The Dorothy Cotton Institute, based in Ithaca, NY, USA, seeks "the full realization of a just and peaceful beloved community in which all people understand, respect, protect, and exercise full human rights."  It does this by working to develop, nurture and train leaders for a global human rights movement; build a network and community of civil and human rights leaders; and explore, share and promote practices that transform individuals and communities, opening new pathways to peace, justice and healing.

Delegates will be posting reports to their blog at http://dcidelegation2012.blogspot.com