Submitted by Pax Christi Genesee County
Roula Alkhouri, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Batavia, will be the featured speaker at the Pasta for Peace free spaghetti dinner, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, at First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St. in Batavia.
The program is sponsored by Pax Christi Genesee County. Her subject will be “Syria Today."
Pastor Alkhouri says, though her family in Syria is not targeted, “The danger comes from the surrounding violence. There are bombs, bullets, and shrapnel that might hit them randomly. They have also struggled because of the economy. Work for many people is irregular and often disrupted.
"The price of basic commodities has risen dramatically. My father has been actively helping in some peacemaking efforts in his own town. He is working with the leaders of his community to insure that Muslims and Christians work together and not hate each other."
She says, “It would be in the interest of the U.S. to help with a peace process. The problem is that we are not seen as fair arbitrators. First, we have a strong prejudice against Islam. In a way, Islam has replaced the Soviet Union as our enemy. Secondly, we are seen in the Middle East as siding with the corrupt leaders who oppress the people. We and the rest of the Western countries have supported dictatorships in the Middle East and exploited those connections to our benefit, for example our relationship with former Egyptian leader Housni Mubarak.
"Thirdly, our unquestioned support of Israel at the expense of justice for the Palestinians makes people in the Middle East suspect of our commitment to a just peace in the Middle East. Fourth, our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is seen by the majority of Middle Easterners as an unjust manipulation and use of force to protect our interests in Middle Eastern oil.”
According to Pastor Alkhouri, “The roots of this civil war right now go back to the colonial divisions of the turn of the 20th Century, and the French and British of the region to guarantee their access to oil. This goes back to the Sykes-Picot agreement between (mainly) the French and the British around the time of World War I where after the fall of the Ottoman Empire the French and the British took over the divided regions and worked with the local groups with a policy of divide and rule.
These divisions were not based on cultural connections and traditions but on colonial interests, namely oil. For example, in Syria the French empowered the Alawites against other groups. That is why today the violent conflict that is taking place in Syria is difficult to solve because people have harbored ill feelings against each other for decades and there is a strong sense of lack of trust.
She states further, “Another important factor in the 'Arab Spring' is the rise in food prices.” She quotes the Economist, “the Middle East and North Africa depend more on imported food than anywhere else. Most Arab countries buy half of what they eat from abroad; and between 2007 and 2010, cereal imports to the region rose 13 percent, to 66m tonnes.
"Because they import so much, Arab countries suck in food inflation when world prices rise. In 2007-08, they spiked, with some staple crops doubling in price. In Egypt local food prices rose 37 percent in 2008-10.”
She adds, “Unsurprisingly, the spike triggered a wave of bread riots. Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco saw demonstrations about food in 2008. They all suffered political uprisings three years later. The Arab Spring was obviously about much more than food. But it played a role."
"The food-price spike was the final nail in the coffin for regimes that were failing to deliver on their side of the social contract,” according to Jane Harrigan of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
Pax Christi Genesee County is a chapter of the national Catholic Peace Movement, Pax Christi USA. Pax Christi operates on an interfaith basis locally. The group hopes that its Pasta for Peace series will help promote better understanding of important topics, regionally and beyond.
More information is available at <http://PaxChristiWNY.weebly.com>. Questions may be referred to Pax Christi moderator William Privett, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pre-registration calls to either: Joyce 757-2218, or Trudy: 599-3302.