Palestinian Nonviolence Expert Mubarak Awad to Address June 25 Peace Breakfast

Jonathan Kuttab Unable to Attend General Assembly of PC (USA)

San Jose, CA—Mubarak Awad, world authority on the promotion of nonviolence in Palestine and in the Arab world, will address the June 25 Peace Breakfast, sponsored by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship at the meeting of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in San Jose, CA. He has been described by Palestinians as the “Gandhi of the Middle East.” (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Christian human rights attorney Jonathan Kuttab was originally scheduled to speak. A Jerusalem court date prevents Kuttab from attending the breakfast, which attracts approximately 300 General Assembly participants. Kuttab has lauded the pioneering efforts of Presbyterians to engage in a dialogue of conscience with U.S. corporations who profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-born Christian, will take up Kuttab’s topic: “Following Jesus to a Just Peace in Israel-Palestine.” He will also enlarge the discussion of nonviolent strategies to include his work as Director of Nonviolence International, a Washington DC-based 501(c)(3) organization which has nonviolence projects in six regions of the world, including 22 Arab nations and Iran.

In 1948, at age five, Mubarak Awad experienced the death of his father in fighting between Arabs and Jews and became a refugee in the old city of Jerusalem. Instead of turning to violent retaliation, Awad came as a teenager to study the nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi at a Mennonite College in the United States. He earned a master’s degree in education from St. Francis University, Indiana and a Ph.D. in psychology from the International Graduate School of St. Louis, Missouri. In the United States, Awad was also exposed to the nonviolent leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. Awad is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Upon returning to Palestine, he co-founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in 1984 in Jerusalem. Awad contends that all traditions and religions can discover and embrace nonviolent approaches to social change, justice and peace. He helped to start the Palestinian activist tradition of planting new olive trees to replace trees destroyed by Israeli bulldozers in the expansion of the Israeli occupation and in areas of proposed settlements. His other nonviolent strategies include boycotts of Israeli goods, encouraging the use of Palestinian products and the non-payment of taxes, as well as education for cross-cultural dialogue among youth and adults in Israel-Palestine. His advocacy for nonviolence over nearly three decades has included his translation of key books on nonviolence in Arabic and Farsi.

For promoting nonviolent resistance to the occupation in the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, Awad gained opponents in both Israel and in the PLO. In 1988 he was deported from Israel, even though the Reagan White House had advocated in his defense. For the last 15 years, Awad has taught at the School for International Service at American University in Washington, DC.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, an advocate of nonviolence since 1944, first met Awad on a church-sponsored delegation in 1988. According to Peace Fellowship Moderator Emeritus Len Bjorkman, “While we understand the context for violence in Israel-Palestine, we reject the violence of the occupier and of the occupied. As Presbyterians and as Americans, we wish to do all that we can to support the work of Mubarak Awad and others who dare to unleash the power of nonviolence in a situation where violence has clearly failed all sides.” Participants at the General Assembly can visit with Mubarak Awad at the PPF booth #301 in the Exhibit Area on Wednesday, June 25, now scheduled from 2:00-3:00pm.