Author: Katie McRoberts

Eastertide Meditation with Fr. Ramzi Sidawi

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.

Merciful 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.

Eastertide Meditations with Dean Hosam

In this session, recorded on April 14, Bishop Elect Hosam Naoum joins Rev. Dr. Cannon. On January 30th, the previous dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, Rev. Hosam Naoum, was elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. As Coadjutor, Pastor Hosam will now be introduced to all the ministries of a bishop for about a year and a half, and will subsequently take over this office from the current incumbent, Archbishop Suheil Dawani. Hosam Naoum has been dean of Jerusalem Cathedral since 2012. Previously, he had studied theology in South Africa and the United States, and had long served as parish pastor in Nablus and Zababdeh (West Bank) and Jerusalem. He is particularly concerned about ecumenism and the inter-religious relations of his church. He has always maintained good relations with the German-speaking Protestant community in Jerusalem.

Maundy Thursday: Love One Another

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

I did not know Maundy Thursday existed until 2015. I was raised in a Christian home, went to church all my life, and never knew that the Thursday before Easter meant anything particular to my faith tradition.

Now I realize Jesus’ “last supper” and the events of that night have a meaning of their own as they led up to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

Maundy Thursday celebrates the very nature of God: love. Read more

Third Sunday of Lent: Love Your Marginalized Neighbor As Yourself

J. Nicole Morgan

“. . . his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman. . . . The woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ . . . .Many Samaritans from the town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” John 4: 27-29, 39

When I’m not thinking about peace in the Middle East, I’m thinking about peace with our bodies. I’m an embodiment theologian – someone who thinks about how our bodies relate to God and also our neighbors. We are all familiar with the idea of fighting our bodies and seeking to control them into submission in search of some spiritual or soul-purity. Think about how we often equate whether or not our bodies are healthy, or a certain size, with whether or not they are holy and pleasing to God – when there is no correlation between those two things. A well-documented tragedy of history (that many still ascribe to) is the belief that having a body of a certain race or ethnicity made one further from God. When we degrade the bodies of others, or we attempt to minimize the importance of bodies, we become disembodied. We lose the connection between the fact that God created our bodies in God’s image and that our presence walking around on this earth is an extension of being God’s presence on this earth. We’re supposed to show people who God is with the entirety of who we are. We are supposed to remember that we are looking at the image of God when we look at other people. Read more

Second Sunday of Lent: Justice: Making Things Right

Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” Read more

First Sunday of Lent: Grace Greater Than Hardship

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

During the 40 days of Lent, my thoughts are often consumed by the radical grace shown to us and the sacrifice of God’s son on the cross that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is a struggle to be graceful in my day-to-day life and, by my own admission, I live an extremely blessed and privileged life. Yet in 2017, I spent an entire trip learning from Israelis and Palestinians what it means to live a life full of grace, even in the midst of unimaginable struggle.

I was introduced to Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) through a trip my church took with CMEP several years ago. I spent eight days with the group learning from our Israeli guide, Eldad, and from our Palestinian guide, Hussam. For many of the group, it was their first trip to the Holy Land. It might as well have been mine for all I realized I did not know or was blind to the last time I traveled there. Read more

Checkpoint 300

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Genesis 35:19-20

Today, Rachel’s Tomb lies adjacent to Checkpoint 300 (also known as the Gilo Checkpoint). Several thousand Palestinians must navigate this checkpoint between 4 am and 7 am each weekday (Sunday through Thursday, for the Muslim population), to reach their jobs on the other side of the Israeli separation barrier. At this hour, these people are almost all men.

Israel began creating checkpoints in the 1990s, with the stated goal of enhancing the security of Israel and Israeli settlements, following the March 1993 deaths of nine Israeli civilians and six members of the Israeli military. Read more

Sami Awad: Building Relationships To Heal Historic Wounds

As a child, Bethlehem-born, Christian Palestinian Sami Awad watched as his uncle was arrested and then deported from Israel for participating in nonviolent resistance to the occupation during the First Intifada (uprising). Sami’s father, Bishara Awad, had become a refugee at the age of nine when his father was killed, and the family was forced out of their home in West Jerusalem in 1948. Sami grew up knowing these stories, past and present, experiencing historic pain as well as his own oppression. He began to examine the power of nonviolence but wondered whether he could truly love his enemies as his faith, and Jesus, commands in the Bible.

“Christians are called to be peacemakers. The Christian understanding of peacemaking is about how you bring communities together and build relationships of trust and respect between them. This is what Christ did. He went to these communities, he went to his enemies, and he engaged with them and never marginalized anybody. He had compassion, he had understanding, and he created a space for healing to take place.” Read more

Remembering Ambassador Warren Clark

Mystic — Warren Clark, 81, a retired foreign service officer and ambassador, who lived in Mystic and Washington, D.C., died of cancer on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 with family by his side.

Ambassador Clark served between 1959 and 1963 on active duty in naval air intelligence based in Morocco, writing and giving briefings to Sixth Fleet commanders on political developments in the Middle East. He then spent 33 years in the U.S. foreign service at State Department posts in Washington, the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Africa and at the United Nations in New York. He served as U.S. ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe from 1987 to 1989. While in Gabon he hosted a visit by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. In 1989 to 1990, as the first deputy to the assistant secretary of state for Africa, Ambassador Clark played a key role in shaping the George H. W. Bush administration’s efforts to nudge the apartheid regime in South Africa to peacefully relinquish power. Read more

Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher: Fatalities

Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip held marches on May 15 to commemorate the Nakba or “catastrophe”, which marks the forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

On Nakba Day in 2014, in the West Bank town of Beitunia, local Palestinians decided to gather around Ofer military court and prison to protest in solidarity with over 100 prisoners on a hunger strike against their administrative detention by Israeli authorities.

Among those to join the protest were 17-year-old Nadeem Siam Nawara and 16-year-old Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher. Read more

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