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Organization: AEI-Open Windows
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

During the recent Intifada (2000-), Palestine experienced a serious escalation in the repressive methods of occupation, including military violence against people, land expropriation, house demolitions, tree uprooting, and the widespread application of traveling barriers such as checkpoints.
During the last year, there has been progress towards a demilitarization of the Intifada and a culture of democracy in the Palestinian Territories. However, it seems that the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza settlements will coincide with a tightening control over the West Bank and East-Jerusalem. If the Israeli government works towards a division of the Palestinian Territory into small enclaves, it is not likely that the present small steps towards a culture of peace can be upheld or developed, as such a fragmentation will generate a culture of despair and possibly violence.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

The greatest obstacles are the continuing occupation and the settlement process which do not allow the Palestinian Territories to become a viable state in the short as well as the long run. Presently, the international community either tacitly supports the occupation or settlement process, or it is critical but unable to translate criticism into preventive or corrective policy.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

ACTIONS AEI-OPEN WINDOWS 2000-2005

Marches
At the initiative of AEI-Open Windows, "Justice and Peace" marches were held at 31 December 2002 and 2003, led by the heads of Churches, imams and various local and national authorities, with the participation of thousands of people who demanded an end to occupation and an opening of Jerusalem. AEI was secretary in a preparatory committee that included other Palestinian organizations like Rapprochement, Wi'am, Holy Land Trust, and PNGO.

Right to education in Palestine ("Let Our Children Go to School")
Together with the heads of the churches and imams, AEI-Open Windows organized a series of meetings, vigils, picket-lines and walks in and around the Church of Nativity Square (2002-2003) to demand the right of education for Palestinian youths. We received help in distributing a petition from among others, the Middle East Council of Churches in Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate, the Bethlehem Association in the US, Pax Christi, IKV, Nonviolent Peace Force, and Rapprochement. It was signed by some 1500 persons from a range of northern and southern countries, and submitted through Pax Christi at the UN Commission for Human Rights (2003). It brought AEI into contact with various Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, church and educational organizations in Holland, Belgium, US, and also Israel.

Living in the Holy Land: Respecting differences
An AEI-Open Windows project (1999-2005) that is designed to promote understanding between Israelis and Palestinians by exposing students to each other’s religions viz., Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The project runs on separate tracks due to the political and practical difficulties in organizing direct school-to-school exchanges between Palestine and Israel. A 250-page manual contains information about some major themes within the three religions: a) the meaning of the land, b) justice and c) compassion.

Christian and Muslim Interfaith reading group
Read, Reflect and Act is an activity planned and carried out by Christians and Muslims from the AEI youth groups. They
1. read passages from the New Testament and the Koran, choose passages that shed light on a theme
2. reflect silently and in dialogue on the passages' meaning for their personal life and the life of their communities
3. consider plans for action in the service of individuals, groups and societies, like visiting a retrait center in Beit Sahour or a house for the elderly in Bethlehem.  
The project aims at exposing Christians and Muslims to each other’s cultures and religions on a grassroots educational level, and at promoting, in a practical way, human values like help, neighborhood, and solidarity.

Christmas Peace and Justice Wishes and Prayers campaigns (2001-2004)
Pax Christi International, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), Church and Peace and the Presidency of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions have supported the initiative of AEI-Open Windows, the Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (CCRR) and Wi'am Center in Bethlehem to invite all its international members to e-mail wishes and prayers for peace to Bethlehem in the Christmas period. AEI coordinated the action on the Bethlehem side. We received in 2004 some 500 wishes and prayers. A large part of the wishes and prayers received were read and distributed in different social and religious gatherings and celebrations.

Developing non-violent scenarios
We developed projects (2004-5) in which some dozens of youths are facilitated in the development of non-violent scenarios in facing the Wall.

UN Peace Day 2003 and 2004
We celebrated the UN Peace Day at celebrations at the Lutheran Church (2004) and St Catherine's Church (2003) in Bethlehem. Prayers and wishes collected during the previous year were pronounced.

Popular arts and cultural events
To develop the community, which is for us an important element in building "internal peace," AEI organized a singing choir of Moslems and Christians from different geographical places. The songs emphasize Moslem-Christian living together. Other cultural community-building events were annual celebrations of a Teacher’s Day, both in Ramallah and Bethlehem, monthly fieldtrips for Moslems and Christians, and joint Iftars (breaking of the fast during Ramadan).

Internal sessions on spirituality and non-violence
AEI-Open Windows has six groups who have weekly meetings on topics related to human development, peace and non-violence. They present concepts of non-violence and peace building through reading of Koran and Bible, reflections, readings of prayers, drama, and sometimes TV episodes, radio fragments, newspaper articles and other aids. It also uses non-violence and peace education materials which AEI receives from the Pax Christi U.K. section and others. From time to time guest speakers have been invited to lecture and discuss topics of peace and conflict resolution, conflict prevention and other human rights issues. Workshops have been held during various community-building fieldtrips in the environment in which other students and teachers participate as well.

International school exchange projects on peace and non-violence
It is one of the AEI-Open Windows’ strengths that it has the school, student and teacher networks, as well as a computer lab, that enable the development of international computer exchanges on peace-related topics. In the Sharing Stories project are presently 20 Dutch and Palestinian school communities involved with some hundreds of students, 15-17 years old, writing stories about violence (2002), identity (2003) and dreams/reality (2004). Other school exchnges are in development, especially a UNESCO-sponsored arts exchange with youngsters in Germany, France, Rafah (Gaza) and possibly Haifa (Israel).

Cooperation with international monitoring and protection groups
AEI-Open Windows has cooperated with United Civilians for Peace (Holland), Quakers Peace and Social Witness (UK), and presently the EAPPI (World Council of Churches) in hosting international volunteers who come, among other things, to monitor human rights violations and protect the local population.

Visits of peace groups
International exchanges and encounters that involve Palestinian youths and adults support a culture of peace. AEI-Open Windows has received many groups and delegations at her office in Bethlehem. Just some recent examples: The student parish of the Dutch University of Twente showed interest in developing a relation with AEI, and organized a visit of 15 university students May 2004 in the context of an exchange program. During Christmas 2004, a group of some 40 Pax Christi peace pilgrims visited Bethlehem, and AEI arranged a week-long program for them, which included various creative non-violent actions like Wall-painting and balloon-lifting. Conversely, AEI-Open Windows delegations went to peace meetings in countries such as Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, UK, Canada and US. AEI-Open Windows held also various consultation meetings with the partners Pax Christi and IKV (Interchurch Peace Council).

International Palestinian-Israeli exchanges
AEI-Open Windows is partner and member of various organizational committees in the All-in-Peace and Peace It Together, both international networks that prmote Israeli-Palestinian educational encounters in countries like Greece and Canada. AEI-Open Windows is also partner in the Dutch-Palestinian-Israeli "Justice and Peace campaign" (2003-2005), which organizes meetings, trainings and non-violent activities on the issue of restrictions on freedom of movement, in which Palestinian and Israeli youths participate.

Publications
AEI-Open Windows has developed a series of publications ("Culture and Palestine series") which help to develop a culture of peace. The brochures and books, and recently two brief films, present the culturally and religiously rich heritage of Bethlehem and Palestine. They also include oral histories and diaries of Bethlehemites and Hebronites, and experiences of oppression and non-violence. For a full list, see www.aeicenter.org

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

AEI-Open Windows advices the Secretary General and UN Assembly to develop political conditions which help to stop Israeli settlement building and expansion, and the building of the Segregation Wall, in accordance with the Advisory Opinion given by the International Court of Justice in the Hague (July 2004). The implementation of international law in the Palestinian Territories is the major factor that would move people from a culture of despair to a culture of hope.

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

A) Pax Christi International, to which AEI-Open Windows is affiliated .
B) Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) network
C) Local partner of Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (World Council of Churches)
D) Local partner of United Civilians for Peace (Netherlands: Novib, Pax Christi, IKV, Cordaid, ICCO, Church-in-Action)

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

a) Development of a Youth House in Bethlehem in which Palestinian youths gain hope through cultural and community activities.
b) Development of a School of Communication for international exchanges, especially the communication of Palestinian identity/reality towards an international audience.

Postal address of organization

P.O.Box 681
Bethlehem
Palestine via Israel

E-mail address of organization

aei@p-ol.com

Website address of organization

www.aeicenter.org

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Education for a culture of peace

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

Free flow of information and knowledge

Highest priority country of action (or international)

Palestine

Second priority country of action (or international)

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Organization: AEI-Open Windows

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