Skip to main content

Interview with Rev. Allie Perry

Rev. Allie Perry is a dedicated activist and chairperson of the steering committee for the United Church of Christ’s Palestine-Israel Network (UCC PIN). Her journey into activism began in high school during the tumultuous 1960s era, starting with her involvement in protests against the Vietnam War. From there, she gradually became engaged in various social justice causes, including anti-nuclear activism, Central American solidarity, and more. Rev. Perry’s understanding of the interconnectedness of these issues grew over time, and her faith led her to speaking out and focusing on peace and justice within her communities and congregations. 

Rev. Perry is currently the Worship Coordinator at the Shalom United Church of Christ in New Haven, and she works on the steering committee for UCC PIN, which emerged in response to a growing recognition within UCC for the need to address the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was formally established around 2011-2012 after many felt there was a sense of urgency due to efforts by some groups to oppose initiatives supporting Palestinian rights. UCC PIN now serves as a platform for advocating for justice and peace in Palestine-Israel within the UCC community, despite not being officially part of the church’s structure. 

One of the main challenges that UCC PIN has faced, according to Rev. Perry, has been navigating differing perspectives within both the UCC and the broader society on Israel-Palestine opinions. However, they have also experienced significant successes, such as raising awareness within the UCC community, advocating for divestment from companies complicit in human rights violations, and fostering a space for congregation members to go on delegations to Palestine and to see apartheid and occupation with their own eyes. This grassroots approach, despite limited resources, has enabled UCC PIN to make meaningful contributions to the cause of justice in Palestine-Israel. 

Rev. Perry mentions that her involvement in the steering committee at UCC PIN came later in her life and a few years after the call for BDS came out in 2005. Rev. Perry expressed that she initially had concerns about the seeming complexity of the Israel-Palestine conflict and its implications for the relationships she had with Jewish friends. However, a pivotal moment came in 2008 when Rev. Perry had the opportunity to travel to Palestine in a delegation led by Rabbi Brian Walt, who at the time served with Rev. Perry in the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. This experience opened her eyes to the realities on the ground and deepened her commitment to advocating for justice in the region. “My heart has been there ever since. Once you see, you can’t unsee. I was appalled at what I didn’t know, and that really led to my being focused on this,” Rev. Perry said. 

In 2012, Perry went on another delegation organized by Eyewitness Palestine, this time, she was the co-leader of the group alongside Rabbi Brian Walt. This specific delegation was made up of activists from the Civil Rights Movement, including great icons like Vincent Harding and Carolyn McKinstry. 

“We went to Nabi Sala and stayed overnight at the home of Basim Tamimi and his wife Nariman. We were there on a Friday when there was the weekly demonstration to go down the road to try and get to the spring. The spring was the water source for Nabi Salah but was claimed by an Israeli settlement. I will never forget that day, there was a little Palestinian boy who was in a Spider-Man suit and I just thought to myself, ‘there’s so much power here.’ We eventually peeled off from the demonstration and went up to a house overlooking the area so we could see what was happening. And we saw these Palestinian boys who gave me a whole new appreciation for what it means to pick up a stone and be like David and Goliath. We watched when they would pick up the tear-gas canisters that hadn’t detonated yet and throw them back at the military because they were being shot at, which went on for a long, long time. They were there to say ‘We will not be intimidated. We will not be cowered by this.’” 

Photo from Rev. Allie Perry, 2012. “This photo is from when I was on the Civil Rights/Human Rights delegation, these are the residents of Nabi Saleh beginning their weekly protest, heading down the hill on the main road of the village (at the base of which there is now a Israeli Military installation) to reclaim the village spring that has been seized and claimed by the check-by-jowl settlement, Halemish.”

 Photo from Rev. Allie Perry, 2012. “This photo is from when I was on the Civil Rights/Human Rights delegation, these are the residents of Nabi Saleh beginning their weekly protest, heading down the hill on the main road of the village (at the base of which there is now a Israeli Military installation) to reclaim the village spring that has been seized and claimed by the check-by-jowl settlement, Halemish.”

Rev. Perry shared another moment during that same trip in 2012 that greatly impacted her: “Another moment that stands out is when Amira Hass [a renowned Israeli journalist], came to interview Vincent Harding. As we sat on the floor, it felt like we were disciples because we’re sitting on the floor listening to Vincent Harding. This had been his first time going to Palestine, and he was just horrified by what he was seeing. And that’s where I heard him say, and I’ve quoted him so often on this, ‘once you know, you owe.’” Harding’s words resonated deeply with Rev. Perry, and they act as a powerful reminder of our responsibility to act in the face of injustice. 

Photo from Rev. Allie Perry, 2012. “This was on the terrace of Bilal Tamini’s house with Vincent Harding in the center and Bassam Tamini standing on the right side.” 

Rev. Perry commented on the fact that sparking conversations about Palestine within Christian congregations can be daunting but essential work. When we asked for recommendations, she mentioned that it’s crucial for Americans to continue these conversations and confront the uncomfortable truths about our country’s complicity in the occupation. In conversations with Christian Zionists, Rev. Perry reflects on ways she brings up Gaza, in hopes it will inspire other faith leaders to do the same. 

“I often tell the stories. I have a few slides about the occupation to help people understand, realize the reality, and set the context because a lot of people do not know the context, and I was one of those people. I mean, our language is very misleading when we talk about this as a conflict. People think and even talk about this as a war, as if this is two states. So you’re combating so much propaganda in this country that has such a large history of Zionism. I do think one thing that gets people’s attention is to draw a comparison, to help people understand settler colonialism in this country. There are comparison maps of the disappearing land in Palestine and the disappearing indigenous land in the United States. That’s a way to help people get it. The other is for people to understand our tax dollars – what they are doing, and the amount of support that’s going to Israel versus when we look at our communities and have people see that comparison. I’ve had people say, ‘well, we’ve got problems right here, how can we possibly be focusing on that?’ I say that the current reality really increases the imperative for that focus. Because we have to say, ‘look, our country is complicit’ — It’s like when friends drive drunk, you have to intervene — when our country is driving genocide with its complicity, we have an obligation to intervene.” 

Looking ahead, Rev. Perry is buoyed by the prospect of upcoming initiatives, such as UCC PIN’s Crisis in Gaza resource, the recent Stones Cry Out delegation to DC, writing letters to congress with other congregations, and more local organizing efforts within her congregation. With each step forward, she hopes to inspire others to join movements for peace, such as that of the Apartheid-Free Communities Initiative. For Rev. Allie Perry, the journey towards justice is not just a personal crusade—it’s a collective endeavor rooted in the belief that change is possible when hearts and minds unite in solidarity. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *