A song, a song high above the trees with a voice as big as the sea…
This year included the voices of many people exclaiming loudly the injustices they experienced and witnessed firsthand. Consider the story of Mohammed El Kurd, who raised his voice to talk about the realities his family suffered from settlers while living in the East Jerusalem of Sheik Jarrah. I wrote about his story in the article “From Child Displaced to International Activist” on the Do Justice blog of the Christian Reformed Church. The world first learned about El Kurd’s story from a Just Vision documentary called “My Neighborhood” featuring Mohammed when he was only eleven years old. At that time, in 2012, Mohammed’s family lost a portion of their home to settlers who moved into one side of his grandmother’s house. By 2021, Mohammed’s story hit international media, where he and his sister once again faced the threat of displacement as a part of the dozens of Palestinians from the neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah being forced out by opposing claims of Jewish settlers. The activism of Mohammed and his sister Muna had such an impact that Time Magazine named them both on the list of 100 Most Influential People of 2021.
May we have ears to hear their story.
By 2021, the economic crisis in Lebanon reached one of the worst in modern times resulting in severe hardship for the majority of families living in the country. Over the past several years, women activists have continued to raise their voices speaking out against the rampant corruption, financial mismanagement, human rights abuses, and inequalities they experience within Lebanese government and society. The voices of Lebanese women have helped lead the way in these “landmark mass protests” calling for change and new methods of governance and political accountability. Within the church, female clerics like Rev. Najla Kassab, an ordained minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, spoke out about the need for hope and the necessity to rest on “God’s Healing Grace” in response to COVID19, the Beirut explosion, and the devastating financial crisis. You can hear her words on “God’s Healing Grace in Beirut” from her talk at Calvin Theological Seminary. May we have ears to hear.
September 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) hosted some educational webinars to address questions about the history of the region’s geopolitics, how Christians are being affected, and the response of CMEP’s member communion – the Armenian Orthodox Church. These webinars can be viewed on our website and include “Christians in Peril” and “An Introduction to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.” May we have ears to hear.
Stories from the Middle East can sometimes seem disheartening, but may we have the courage to pray “break our hearts for the things that break the heart of God.” Might our ears be opened to hear the stories of young men and women in Sheik Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Israel.
May we have the courage not to ignore the devastating challenges affecting Lebanon and be encouraged in hope about how women and other Christian leaders are helping lead the way in offering a response to the significant needs that exist there. Likewise, we cannot ignore the church’s history in Armenia, just as it’s critically important for us to understand what’s happening in Nagorno-Karabakh. These are just some of the stories from the Middle East that we must hear.
Lord God, give us the wisdom, courage, and strength to not only have ears to hear these stories but also the grace to respond.
Written by Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
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