In this session, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, CMEP’s executive director, speaks with His Eminence Archobishop Angaelos. On 18 November 2017, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos was enthroned as the first Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London. He specializes in advocacy work and youth ministry and travels around the world to speak at youth conventions. He was conferred the honor of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty The Queen for ‘Services to International Religious Freedom.’
God of mercy and compassion, of grace and reconciliation, pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East: Jews, Muslims and Christians, Palestinians and Israelis. Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust, despair to hope, oppression to freedom, occupation to liberation, that violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces, and peace and justice could be experienced by all. – Reverend Said
Father Elias Khoury is a Palestinian Citizen of Israel from the Northern Israeli city of Haifa, where he was raised in the Greek Orthodox Christian community. He graduated from the National School for Practical Engineers from Technion Israel Institute of Technology and then started his engineering career. Fr. Khoury was ordained to the priesthood in 2002 and served until 2011 as an assistant priest in St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Acre, Israel. From 2006 to 2011 he served as secretary and member of the Greek Orthodox Ecclesiastical Tribunal that handles family law matters for the Greek Orthodox community in the Holy Land. He earned a Bachelor of Law degree, LBA, from Ono Academic College in Kiryat Ono, Israel, and a Masters degree in Theological Studies, at the Hellenic College – Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 2014 he has served as the parish priest at St. Patrick Greek Orthodox Church in Jadeidi Village near Acre. He also holds a position as a culture and religion teacher at Bairuni High School in the village. In his pastoral role, he focuses on interfaith engagement with Muslim religious leaders in Jadeidi, as well as improving community access to theological education through the establishment of an Orthodox church library. He is married with three children.
In the spirit of Father Khoury’s interfaith work and engagement, this week’s prayer comes from Rabbi Sheila Weinberg:
Two peoples, one land, Three faiths, one root, One earth, one mother, One sky, one beginning, one future, one destiny, One broken heart, One God. We pray to You: Grant us a vision of unity. May we see the many in the one and the one in the many. May you, Life of All the Worlds, Source of All Amazing Differences help us to see clearly. Guide us gently and firmly toward each other, toward peace.
V. Rev. Fr. Hrant Tahanian was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. His great-grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. After graduating from Soorp Hagop Armenian School in Montreal, he continued his studies in Pure & Applied Sciences at Collège Montmorency, in Laval. He then travelled to the Armenian Orthodox Seminary in Lebanon (the only such institution that survived the total destruction of Western-Armenia, and relocated to Lebanon), where he finished his B.A. in Armenological & Theological Studies. After being ordained a priest, according to the 17 centuries old tradition of the Armenian Church, he served in the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Lebanon, as director of the Cilicia Museum. In 2012, he was appointed to be the pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Church in Vancouver, where he served the community for 5 years, whilst working on a M.A. in Theology at the Vancouver School of Theology (UBC). In 2017, he was appointed to be the Ecumenical and Inter-religious Officer the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Lebanon, where he now lives.
God of all creation, bring justice and peace to our world. Teach us to be peacemakers. Guide us in our pursuit of justice and the common good. Inspire us to welcome all, forgive all, and love all. Direct us as we walk in the shadow of Jesus: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Inspire us to perceive the world through your eyes, that we might find hope and joy each day, supportive of each other, for the sake of your Kingdom. Amen.
Rev. Najla Kassab is President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Director of the Christian Education Department for the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL). She received her Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990. In 1993 Rev. Kassab received the first preaching license offered to a woman by NESSL. In March 2017, she became the second woman to be ordained as a minister in NESSL. She lives with her husband, Joseph Kassab, and three children in Beirut, and her work takes her frequently to Syria.
Creator God, who knows our fears and trepidations, guide us with your presence as we seek to be companions to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Give the people faith that better days lie ahead, and inspire them to unity in the face of injustice and oppression. Let us pray that soon the day will come when nations will reach out to each other rather than rise up against each other.We ask that you preserve the unity of families, the innocence of children, and the courage of parents. We ask that God accompany the people of the whole region as they seek a period in which kingdoms and republics alike base relationships on mutuality rather than fear, and on the future rather than the past. Amen.
In this session, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, CMEP’s executive director, speaks with Fr. Ramzi Sidawi OFM. He was born in Jerusalem in 1972. At the conclusion of his maturity studies he entered the Order of Friars Minor where he took his first vows in the year 1996 and the Solemn ones in the year 2000. After completing his formation and studies in Theology, he received Priestly Ordination in 2002, he spent a short period of service in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Transferred to Rome to complete his studies in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University Antonianum, he graduated in 2006 and defended the doctoral thesis in 2010. While preparing to defend the thesis, he was appointed parish priest of the Parish of Saint Anthony of Padua in Jaffa – Tel Aviv, Israel. Along with this assignment, he also began teaching Dogmatic Theology in the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum in Jerusalem. From 2013 to 2016 he was director of the Terra Santa Boys School in Jerusalem and from 2016 he is the General Administrator of the Custody of the Holy Land.
God, Grant us grace in abundance. The land of our Lord’s life and
ministry is filled with violence, fear, and want. As followers of Jesus
Christ, we wish to come together for good and for your glory. Grant us
mercy as we share our pains, fears, and aspirations, that we may listen
and better understand our brothers and sisters in Christ, while we
pursue peace, justice, and restoration. May the walls that divide be
turned, becoming a table by which we seek communion with one another,
and with you. In this spirit of unity, we pray together the prayer of
humble access: We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful
Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant mercy. We
are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But
you are the same Lord whose eternal nature is to have mercy. Grant us
therefore, gracious Lord, that we may eat the flesh of thy dear Son
Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may continually dwell in
him, and he in us. Amen.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover Festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the King of Israel!” Jesus found a donkey and rode on it, just as the scripture says, “Do not be afraid, city of Zion! Here comes your king, riding on a young donkey.” His disciples did not understand this at the time; but when Jesus had been raised to glory, they remembered that the scripture said this about him and that they had done this for him. John 12:12-16
The worldwide Easter celebration among Christians begins with the triumphal entry of the Prince of Peace into the holy city. Recognizing the true identity of Jesus as Messiah alongside fellow worshippers is a communal act that bolsters unity in the body of Christ. Over my years living in the Holy Land, I have witnessed scenes of global unity in Christ on the streets of Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday, local Palestinian, Israeli, and visiting Christians ascend the Mount of Olives and walk among the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Thousands of Christian pilgrims representing countries all over the world wave palm fronds and sing praises in different languages while marching down across the valley and into the Old City of Jerusalem. It is by far one of the most joyful scenes in Jerusalem each year.Read more
I approached a diner counter and was asked to sit down on the pedestal seat, put headphones on, close my eyes, and place my hands flat on the counter in front of me. After a short period of still silence, I heard someone whisper in my right ear, “What are you doin’ here, n—-r? You don’t belong here.” I cannot recall the next two minutes and twenty seconds in detail, but I can remember how my body felt and responded. I remember being yelled at, pushed off my seat, and feeling vibrations on the counter. Yet, this simple whisper had the hairs on my arms raised, and my heart beating out of my chest. It triggered a traumatic memory of my own. While I am a Caucasian female that the interrogator was not speaking to, I clearly connected with the reaction of fear and danger. At that moment, I was able to briefly and incompletely put myself in the shoes of a black individual who experienced harassment and abuse, but usually over many months, if not years. I cannot imagine living a life, day in and day out, in such terror and uncertainty. Read more
Just a little over one year ago, I returned from a three-month term of service with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). I lived in Bethlehem, experienced daily life in this Palestinian city, saw both its beauty and its devastation, witnessed both the warmth and the despair of the Palestinian people. Hardly a day passes when I don’t long to return.
When it comes to the long conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, I’d like nothing better than to find a safe place to sit, from which I could simply defend one side and condemn the other. Moral certainty is so comforting.
But I cannot. I illustrate my ambivalence with a personal story. On April 5th of last year, just three weeks before my term ended, I went to Jerusalem on a day off, taking the bus from Beit Jala, a community that abuts Bethlehem. When that particular bus route passes through the separation barrier that seals the West Bank off from sovereign Israeli territory, all the Palestinians are required to get off and stand in line outside while their permits are checked. Internationals like me get to stay on the bus while two soldiers board and proceed down the aisle, long guns pointed at the floor, checking passports. When all the checking is finished, the Palestinians re-board and the bus continues on its way. Read more
Meaningful engagement by American Christian in the Holy Land in the hopes of contributing towards a sustainable, just peace is both necessary and possible.
One chilly Minnesota Saturday in the early months of 2002, I found myself listening in on a conversation between parishioners in my small Orthodox church while we made candles. The radio was reporting news of what became known as the Nativity Church Siege in Bethlehem, and my fellow parishioners were weighing in on their thoughts about the crisis. None of us had ever been to the Holy Land, but this faraway event in a place we only knew through Gospel readings and icons still had an impact in our humble little parish and its parishioners.
More than sixteen years after that morning of melting down paraffin wax in a church basement, my life and the welfare of the Palestinian Christian community of Bethlehem so impacted by that Siege have become forever intertwined. I spent ten years living and working in the city of Bethlehem district, finding a place in the community of my Palestinian Christian wife and sharing in the struggles of the local people. Yet even with the very unique set of circumstances, I feel that my fellow American Christians do not need such a significant personal connection to become engaged in the pursuit of a sustainable, just peace in the Holy Land.
This is the second entry in our Advent 2019 devotional series. For the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Day, we will be releasing Advent reflections from voices in the Holy Land. Catch up now: Advent I: Hope, Advent II: Peace, and Advent III: Joy.
Loving the Stranger
Destructive policies, actions, and statements are all over the news these days. While this dismays and deeply disturbs many of us, maybe it is useful to try to see the glass half full.
Leaders around the world have gained power by relying on fear-mongering, hate-filled incitement, supremacy, and an encircling of the wagons in a laager or ghetto mentality while undermining both democracy and the world order established post-World War II.
Such subversion of critical agencies such as the United Nations, international law, organs of accountability, or basic civil rights forces us to choose the reality in which we function. We can either go with the masses down the dangerous road to full-fledged fascism, apartheid, and dictatorship, or we can step back and choose differently and fight for human values.
That freedom of choice is a blessing many do not enjoy, but for those of us who believe firmly in the spiritual way – whether via the wisdom of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or other religious doctrines valuing truth, love, freedom, goodness, empathy, caring (especially for the weak or The Other) and the sacred, holistic nature of life – this is a period in which to reclaim those values.