Jack Chivo: Open letter to new United Church moderator Gary Paterson
Dear Moderator Gary Paterson,
I would like to congratulate you on your election as the new moderator of the United Church of Canada, especially as the first openly gay person to be chosen for such an important position in the largest Protestant church in our country. Having followed your activities in Vancouver for a few decades, not as a member, I am sure that you will dedicate your efforts to enhancing the church's image not only among your congregants, but with the Canadian public at large. I'm sure you'll be bringing along your personal experiences, as someone who not a very long time ago would have been shunned and marginalized.
As I read in the Georgia Straight, your long-time spouse, Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson, mentioned your recent two-month sabbatical in Israel and Palestine and the concerns you expressed about the fate of Palestinians under what you described as "occupation".
Tim added that yours is a "prophetic voice" on "various social issues in a world that is broken".
I couldn't agree more with the assessment, which makes me wonder about your recent trip to the Middle East, and some unexplained silence from you and your church.
When I read the resolutions calling for a boycott of goods produced in what are called "occupied territories" because of the "sufferings" of the Palestinian people—a boycott which you appear to endorse—I was highly surprised, even dismayed, by the lack of any concern about the fate of the Syrian people slaughtered for more than one year by a murderous dictator, Bashar al-Assad, with over 20,000 people already dead, hundreds of thousands injured and maimed, entire neighbourhoods, towns, and cities flattened by merciless artillery and aerial bombardments, and many more hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes and living in unspeakable conditions in neighbouring countries.
As your church appears to always be concerned with the Palestinians, didn't you learn, while there, that over 1,000 Palestinians living in Syria have been so far massacred by Assad's forces, with lots of others injured?
Where is/was a resolution calling for the boycott of products from Syria coming from you or the General Assembly? It still export goods to Canada, while the killings are occurring on a daily basis.
Where is your "prophetic voice" in condemning these barbaric acts and expressing yours and your church's unambiguous anger and outrage?
On the same topic, did you ever consider the boycott of products coming from Turkey, which has occupied Northern Cyprus since 1974, from where where almost 180,000 Christian Cypriots were chased away by the invading Turkish military—the majority there from biblical times, having been displaced by almost 200,000 Muslims brought over from Mainland Turkey? With not one church, Christian school, or institution still functioning!
Doesn't this sound like "ethnic cleansing" to you, or as a decades-long "occupation?"
Where is the United Church of Canada call for the boycott of China for its occupation of Tibet and persecution of dissidents?
I am not asking you to stop criticizing Israel, when warranted, but why the blind eye on terrible atrocities in the same area?
If the answer to all of the above is "yes", as it should be to any decent human being, why the unexplained silence?
Which brings me to my other questions for you. While in Israel, you surely enjoyed the Pride parade in Tel Aviv, with some 50,000 participants: gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender, Jews and Christians, Muslims and others, top politicians and regular folks in attendance some two months ago. It was the 14th straight year it was hosted there. There were no incidents, nobody was harassed or taunted. It was fun and everyone had a good time.
During your sabbatical did you also experience a similar event in Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, or Gaza City?
Did you learn that in Israel for decades, not only in the society at large but even in the army, openly gay and lesbians are accepted without any problems and are recognized and promoted solely on their own merits. Their same-sex partners are fully recognized and they enjoy all the benefits as those in traditional marriages. This is years before this was the case in most civilized countries, including the United States.
And the answer is?
Aren't you concerned at all about the fate of people with a different sexual orientation in Gaza, the West Bank, or in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, to name but few neighbouring states where gays in particular are regularly threatened, attacked, and beaten, thrown in jail, even killed, for no other reason than because of what they are? The huge majority are still hiding "in the closet", fearing for their lives.
Would you and Tim walk hand-in-hand in any of the countries above, at any time, or hug each other in public, as other couples do? For how long would you be safe?
I fully realize that this world might be broken, but if you want to fix it, how can you and the United Church of Canada ignore the atrocities in Syria, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt, where your Christian brothers and sisters, along with many Muslims, are being slaughtered every week. What about the fate of those with a different sexual orientation in that part of the world to which you and your church pay so much attention?
In your first news conference, you were quoted as saying that the United Church of Canada faces the challenge "not to get paralyzed, but to be people of hope", and I wholeheartedly agree with your position. Unfortunately because of your silence, which might be considered acquiescence, what kind of hope do you and the church offer to the victims in Syria and all over the Middle East, and to those suffering there because of their sexual orientation?
I pray that you will take a forceful position soon.
Jack Chivo is a retired journalist who lives in West Vancouver.
SPY vs SPY
Aug 23, 2012 at 7:35pm
I am starting to believe, that you believe, that Israel is in the same brutal league as Syria, Turkey and China when it comes to the Vulgar treatment of minorities.
And that no one should criticise Israel for the Total Destruction of the Palestinian People until Syria, Turkey and China clean up their act.
Just whose example is Israel following!!!!!!!!!
I can only guess that it is too much of a challenge for Israel to be a leader in Peaceful Coexistence.
Aug 23, 2012 at 8:34pm
Jack, you are taking the words out of my mouth! (Just kidding... Few people know how to express themselves as eloquently as you do!) Thank you for sharing this with us!
Aug 23, 2012 at 9:49pm
Gimme a non-prophet irreligious disorganization any day.
Aug 23, 2012 at 9:59pm
"Where is/was a resolution calling for the boycott of products from Syria coming from you or the General Assembly? It still export goods to Canada, while the killings are occurring on a daily basis."
You may want to check your facts on this one, Canada currently has sanctions against Syria on Imports, you can check that out at:
Sanctions have been an ongoing and tightening process for over a year with the allowance of only food exports to Canada since December of last year.
Aug 24, 2012 at 10:22am
Ya...the Maples Leafs weren't that bad last year either if you look at Columbus or Edmonton, Jack.
Don't any of the editors at the GS READ his 'columns/rants' and then simply write back..."Come on Jack, this isn't even good troll bait. Do better."
Aug 24, 2012 at 2:13pm
I think those negative commentators here miss Jack's point....that there is a double standard in these issues that at the very best can be called hypocrisy. Of course he's wasting his breath on all those idealogues who can do no better than spout the usual rhetoric ad nauseam.
Aug 24, 2012 at 2:17pm
Stan: perhaps you should check you facts. The only boycott of goods to and from Syria here are: "On July 6, 2012, Canada imposed further sanctions against Syria under the Special Economic Measures Act in response to the continued gravity of the situation in Syria. The measures announced today in a statement made by Minister Baird further expand Canada’s targeted sanctions against the Syrian regime and those that provide it with support.
The announced measures prohibit the export, sale, supply or shipping to Syria of a number of goods that can be used for internal repression as well as in the production of chemical and biological weapons, listed in the new Schedule 2 of the Special Economic Measures (Syria) Regulations. They also impose an assets freeze and dealings prohibition on two additional entities associated with the Assad regime."
Also I think it's important to know that all of the Arab nations have been conducting a combined boycott against any Jewish company or individuals....but hey they aren't ant-semitic just anti-Zionist......;) Sound familiar?
Aug 24, 2012 at 2:25pm
Typical Jewish diversion combined on the side, with an even more despicable panegyric to depravity. The author may feel proud of his cynical foxiness; in fact he shows just stupidity and wickedness. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah, you degenerate fool.
Aug 24, 2012 at 2:43pm
Jack nice try at distraction from the Israel Palestinian tragedy.
I am sure both the Church and this new spokesperson would condem injustice anywhere.
What about the Anti-Christian hate in Isarael especially by the Orthodox against Christians and indeed by large numbers of Israelis.
What about the tragic irony of how civilian Palestinians are treated in some ways the Nazi treated Jews such as...
- Arbitrary expropriation of property and land
- the highly restricted movement of civilian Palestinians
- the 50 year corral of the Palestians in a large prison in effect cut off from the rest of the world with restricted access.
- the deliberately really labelling of products exported as Israeli when it is produced in Palestinian land Dates are an example.
There are many other attrocities committed against the civilian Palestinian population both by Israel and Iranian backed paramilitary groups.
Most Palestinians are caught in this cross fire for the last 50 years.
Aug 24, 2012 at 3:14pm
Nobody writes about the homophobia in Islamic countries!!
The new moderator is openly gay, and great to have him there, But where is his stance on the terrible persecutions faced by GLTB in this part of the world??
Do the above writers advocate or approve of the persecution of gays??