The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is a council of church bodies throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. In some ways, it’s like an extended family gathering. In fact, the MECC is organized around four families of churches – Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical/Protestant. Together, these churches are working to support each other and build bridges between people and groups in the Middle East.
MECC was founded in 1974 as a collaboration between the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant churches of the region. The Catholic church joined in 1990 as a fourth tradition on the council. Each of these four “ecclesial families” is represented by a president and members on MECC’s executive committee. Working as an ecumenical group is not always easy, and building a consensus among the different churches can be a long process. But the result is that MECC can offer powerful statements that carry the weight of their shared deliberation. Fr. Michel Jalakh is Secretary General of the Council, with the headquarters located in Beirut, Lebanon.
Submitted by a CMEP Partner
What images come to mind when you hear the words “little town of Bethlehem”? Idyllic, holy scenes of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus alongside friendly barnyard animals? For a North American living in Bethlehem, this cozy scene feels like a childhood dream. The reality of Bethlehem today disrupts such heart-warming visions with disturbing sights. For those who manage to get off the tourist track and visit the real Bethlehem, the image grows dim with three refugee camps, lack of access to natural resources and no freedom of movement for the city’s residents due in part to the separation barrier, constructed in 2002. And yet, like anywhere else, the people here feel a deep connection to and pride in their hometown.
The people of Bethlehem claim a hometown heritage stretching back thousands of years, documented in the Christian Bible and celebrated around the world by people who sing of its significance as the place where God arrived in human form on earth. For today’s Bethlehemites, geo-political realities of the past few centuries have added a heritage of pain that reaches back beyond the earliest memories of the city’s elders. Understandably, a narrative of pain and hopelessness consumes many. Read more
The organic farm on which the Tent of Nations project runs is known as ‘Daher’s Vineyard’. Owned by the Nassar family, this land stretches 100 acres and is situated 9km southwest of Bethlehem. Since 1991, the family has been fighting a legal battle to keep hold of the land since it was classified as ‘Israeli State Land’ and thus threatened with confiscation. The struggle is ongoing. However, with a commitment to peaceful resistance and through the solidarity of those who have visited the land, much has been achieved. Tent of Nations continues to work to protect and develop the farm as a place where people can meet, learn, work together, and inspire one another. Read more
By Molly Lorden
“Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.”
January 20, 2017 was an immense day of change for our country. For me, it carried additional significance, as it was also the day I returned from my first trip to the Holy Land. While experiencing the change of administration in our country, I am also processing a trip that changed my life. As I traveled in the land that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim holy, I had incredible opportunities. I visited various holy sites and learned more about the complexities of the conflict. My fellow seminarians and I also met with NGO’s and leaders committed to seeking peace. Read more
What happens when local role models lead unarmed movements and demonstrate to the world what is possible when grassroots leaders choose to act? This is the story that Just Vision seeks to share with audiences across the globe.
Through award-winning films, digital media, and public education campaigns, the team at Just Vision – led by internationally recognized filmmakers Julia Bacha and Suhad Babaa – brings attention to the under-documented stories of Israeli and Palestinian unarmed activists who are inspiring their communities to work together to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, and equality for all.
Over the last decade Just Vision has built a powerful platform and reached hundreds of thousands of people with their message. Their 5 films challenge the way many perceive protests and activism in the Holy Land, from the story of the unarmed movement in the village of Budrus to the Israeli and Palestinian activists in My Neighborhood and the nonviolent resistance during the First Intifada (The Wanted 18). The Boston Globe said of Budrus, “[This film] will single-handedly change how many people view the conflict.” Read more
by Claire Stewart
“Reconciliation is something bigger than just people who hate each other and making them friends. It represents the heart of God.” – Yoel
At the annual Musalaha Summer Camp, this statement rings true. Children play tag, paint pictures, compete in water games, and worship together. You would never guess that these children are breaking down cultural stereotypes and social barriers as they share meals and laugh with their cabin-mates. Each year, the camp brings together Israeli and Palestinian children to build friendships with the “other” as they learn to build relationships founded on peace.
Over 20 years ago, Salim J. Munayer founded the nonprofit Musalaha (which means reconciliation in Arabic). Out of a vision to see true peace between Palestinian and Israelis, he built an organization whose mission is to promote, advocate, and facilitate reconciliation based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Musalaha’s Philosophy of Reconciliation makes this clear: “It is our belief that Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundation of reconciliation, and that forgiveness and healing can only come through following His example and obeying His word.” Read more
In His Image – Women for Change release statement against violence
Nine Israeli and Palestinian women serving with different ministries in the Messianic Jewish, Israeli Arab Christian and Palestinian sectors of the Evangelical churches in Israel/Palestine have issued a statement opposing the use of violence. They invite you to join with them in prayer for the conflict and to endorse this statement.
Using a broad definition of violence as “any physical, emotional, verbal, institutional, structural or spiritual behaviour, attitude, policy or condition that diminishes, dominates or destroys ourselves and others”, the statement challenges the status quo of the deeply divided communities and calls for a renewed commitment to seek peace, justice and security for all in Israel and Palestine. The statement calls for a renunciation of violence in all its forms-military, political, social, psychological and spiritual-and condemns both the recent spate of attacks on citizens and the use of force to maintain the occupation. Read more
by Elli Atchison
The summer of 2014 was an ugly one in Israel and Palestine. The media was filled with reports of a war that devastated Gaza and filled Israel and the West Bank with anxiety and fear. But, out of this tragedy something beautiful began. Like a desert flower that blooms in the harshest conditions of nature, a brave group of Israeli and Palestinian women united to raise their voices and share their perspectives about daily life in the region.
Another Voice is a powerful blog written by eight Palestinian Christian and Messianic Jewish women. To protect themselves and their families, they write anonymously. But, despite a political structure that would have them be enemies, these “sisters in Christ” choose to pursue peace together. They share a common belief in Jesus, as well as the struggle to live amidst conflict on a daily basis.
Both sets of women felt a need to challenge the negative attitudes surrounding them. The Israeli women were tired of hearing about their government’s excuses for violence and lack of mercy. The Palestinian women were also weary of the hopelessness and despair that overwhelmed their people. Together they united to write about their lives, detailing the common struggles and joys of life on both sides of the conflict. Read more
by Elli Atchison
Peter and Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, March 2016
Peter is special…. and it shows. This young man from Bethlehem has a twinkle in his eyes and a magnetic smile that draws a stranger in close. Life has been challenging for him as Peter was born with hearing impairments that made learning difficult. This would ordinarily put him in a segment of Palestinian society that is marginalized and cast aside.
However, despite his inability to communicate with words, Peter is outgoing and makes friends easily. He is a talented artist and an accomplished olive wood carver. Peter thanks the Joy School for giving him the opportunity to learn and develop these skills. Read more
by Elli Atchison, World Vision
There is a refuge where people gather in the town called Beit Jala. The Women’s Child Care Society (WCCS) has been serving the community for more than 70 years. It was originally established as a first-aid center for refugees coming into Bethlehem during the first Arab-Israeli War in 1948. But today the WCCS does much more.
The mission of the WCCS aims to “provide activities to empower women, children, and youth in all aspects of life.” This is accomplished in a variety of ways. First, as the name suggests, it is a loving place where working mothers entrust their small children. Second, it provides low-cost housing to the poor. Third, the WCCS hosts engaging summer camps that encourage youth to appreciate their rich culture. Finally, it trains and provides employment for women who specialize in the unique style of tahriri embroidery. Read more