"State conference to review resolution on companies who allegedly profit from destruction in Palestine"
Tuesday, May 29, 2007On the Web at:
More than 2,000 delegates at the annual meeting of the United Methodist Church's Illinois Great Rivers Conference June 6-9 will consider a resolution calling for "phased, selective divestment" from such companies. The IGRC covers the southern two-thirds of Illinois.
The UMC's Virginia and New England conferences have already adopted resolutions urging divestment studies. The Baltimore-Washington conference considered such a resolution last week, and about half a dozen more are in the works. The UMC's next general conference is next year.
A similar divestment plan adopted by Presbyterian Church USA leadership in 2004 was drastically toned down at that denomination's 2006 gathering. The United Church of Christ approved a divestment process in 2005.
The Rev. Danita Parra, one of the 15 sponsors of the IGRC resolution, said Friday that if the petition is passed, she believes Caterpillar would qualify as one of the multinational companies which, in the resolution's words, are "profiting from illegal demolition of Palestinian homes, destruction of Palestinian economy and confiscation of Palestinian land."
The resolution urges the United Methodist Board of Pensions and United Methodist General Board of Church and Society to review investments "following United Methodist guidelines which require a period of information gathering and evaluation of alternative means of intervention before undertaking a boycott."
"I'm not suggesting that we kill these corporations," said Parra, pastor of Tonica United Methodist Church, adding such divestment probably wouldn't have much impact on the corporations. "I'm not suggesting that people who are United Methodists who work for them cease working for them.
"What I am concerned about is, we have a position as a church and I believe we need to follow through as a church. To say we are standing for peace and justice in the Middle East conflict and to have our pensions invested in a way as to not support that position is wrong."
Susan Katz, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Peoria, said such efforts are counterproductive.
"While the intended effect of a divestment effort may be to bring peace to the region, the actual result of any divestment effort is the delegitimization of Israel and the affirmation of Palestinian terror tactics," Katz said. "A policy of divestment polarizes people and does not encourage dialogue or discussion. Efforts should instead be guided towards reconciliation and common ground."
Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Michael Miller can be reached at 686-3106 or email@example.com