Rev. Stacey Duensing

Rev. Stacey Duensing

By Claus Grue*

A little more than a year ago Rev. Stacey Duensing went on a trip to Israel-Palestine together with her denomination, the Reformed Church in America. She returned home to the United States with a different perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A perspective she wanted to share with a broader public audience.

“Having travelled in the West Bank and stayed with Palestinians, I was moved by their stories and the hope I saw in their faces, despite the difficult conditions under occupation. It made me aware of what was going on and I felt a call to speak with the same voice of peace and justice as my Palestinian brothers and sisters”, she explains.

Luckily, a long-time colleague, Rev. John Paarlberg, shared her call and when the World Council of Churches launched its “12 Faces of Hope” Seek #JusticeAndPeace campaign last year, he immediately took the initiative to bring it to the USA.

Since then, the 12 Faces exhibition has been displayed in six churches and one office in the Albany area, upstate New York, and there are more bookings in the calendar for the spring.

In the Lynnwood Reformed Church, where Duensing serves as a pastor, the exhibition was displayed earlier this year, for a week up until Sunday, when the worship service was followed by a discussion led by Paarlberg.
“It has been very appreciated and definitely raised people’s awareness here of the situation for the Palestinians. Many are not aware of the level of the conflict. This exhibition, with its compelling testimonies from Israelis and Palestinians alike, has been an eye-opener”, Duensing says.

Paarlberg, who retired last year, but who keeps busy by advocating for justice and peace for the Palestinians, sees the exhibition as an entry into human rights issues:
“So many people know about the Israel-Palestine conflict, but are not aware that it is about human rights, rather than religion. Most people in America assume that all Palestinians are Muslims, which is not true. Furthermore, the media coverage of how it is to live under occupation and how Palestinian children are treated, is sparse. Such sad realities are often news to people here. The 12 Faces exhibition gives us an opportunity to raise these issues and put them into a human rights context,” Paarlberg concludes.

Both he and Duensing feel that the awareness of the hardships and injustices that Palestinians have to endure is slowly on the rise, not only among people in their communities, but also among local politicians, including the Albany area representative to the U.S. Congress. Signatures have been collected by church leaders for a petition addressing the issue of military detention of children.

*Claus Grue is communication consultant for the World Council of Churches.

Related links:

Seek #JusticeAndPeace in the Holy Land

Faces of hope and moments of justice and peace (WCC news release of 25 July 2017)