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Friends International Center in Ramallah (FICR)

Kathy Bergen

Kathy Bergen is currently the Program Coordinator for the Friends International Center in Ramallah.

For 12 years, Kathy was the National Coordinator of the Middle East Program of the Peacebuilding Unit in the national office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The AFSC is a Quaker organization that works for peace and social justice in the US and around the world. The work of the Middle East Peacebuilding Programs are rooted in Quaker values and principles and carried out within a framework of human rights and international law.

Prior to coming to the AFSC, Kathy lived in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was the director the International Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ICCP). This office was established in 1983 after the United Nations organized the first International Meeting for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on the Question of Palestine in Geneva. The ICCP office coordinated information and solidarity work among more than 1,200 NGOs and over 400 individuals from around the world, including Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, working on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kathy lived in Jerusalem from the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 until after the Gulf War in 1991. During that time she spent seven years working as the Peace Education and Advocacy staffperson and Associate Director for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), based in East Jerusalem. Her work took her into the local Palestinian Christian and Muslim communities and the Israeli peace movement. Kathy was a resource for study groups who came to the Middle East from universities, seminaries, colleges, and churches from around the world. During her time in Jerusalem she was involved in inter-faith dialogue and taught courses at the Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem.

In addition to working with MCC for seven years, she worked as the Public Relations staffperson for the Palestine Human Rights Information Center (PHRIC), established and directed by Dr. Jan Abu Shakrah. PHRIC was an office of the Arab Studies Society in East Jerusalem, directed by Faisal Husseini. During that time she was charged with public relations for PHRIC, setting up a public relations desk for PHRIC, and helping to fundraise for PHRIC.

Kathy also worked with Reverend Dr. Naim Ateek, the priest of the Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem and a group of seven Palestinian Christians (The Palestinian Theology Group, including Jean Zaru) to plan and to organize the first Liberation Theology conference in Palestine, which took place in Tantur in March, 1990. Her work centered on fundraising for the conference and organizing the conference because she felt that the theological thinking needed to be done by Palestinians and not internationals. The Palestinian Theology Group later established an office in East Jerusalem and, among other things, continues to organize international conferences. This office later became known as Sabeel, the Palestinian Liberation Theology Center, based in East Jerusalem, with Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek as its founder and continuing director. Jean Zaru, the Presiding Clerk of the Ramallah Friends Meeting, along with Abuna Elias Chacour are founding members of Sabeel and co-Vice-Presidents of the Sabeel Board of Directors. While living in the US, Kathy was a member of the international board of the Friends of Sabeel - US and Canada.

After the second Intifada began, Kathy and five others established the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, which now consists of more than 200 NGOs in the US working to change US policy towards in Palestine and Israel.

In 1982 Kathy received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, Indiana. Prior to studying for the pastoral ministry at the seminary, she taught elementary school in Winnipeg, Manitoba and in southern Alberta. She has a Bachelor of Theology (BTh) from the Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, Canada; Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Religious Studies and Sociology and Bachelor of Education (BEd) degrees from the University of Manitoba, Canada; pre-masters degree in Educational Psychology and Counseling from the University of Manitoba, Canada. Kathy has published many articles in magazines and has contributed chapters to four books. She is a co-author of the book Justice and the Intifada. A special interest of Kathy's is interfaith relations and dialogue.

In March, 2006 and prior to coming to Ramallah, Kathy was given a special recognition award by ADC (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) Philadelphia for her work on behalf of the Palestinian people and her support of the Arab American community in the US.

Kathy grew up in Coaldale, Alberta, Canada, where she received her high school and elementary school education. She and her parents are Russian Mennonites, who immigrated to Canada in 1949. In 2005 she became a member of the Ramallah Friends Meeting. Kathy has traveled extensively, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Africa, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, and South America/Caribbean.

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