Violence and chaos in the Middle East have left many around the world hopeless and feeling helpless. As followers of Jesus, we refuse to be sidetracked by the temptation to despair.
Prayers for Peace (P4P) provides a way for Christians of diverse political and theological backgrounds to stand up for peace and unite in supplication to God with a special focus on prayers for the Holy Land. Prayers for Peace provides Jesus’ followers with the common language of prayer around which to mobilize their energy and passion for the land that gave birth to our faith. To combat the prevailing images of discord, Prayers for Peace will highlightpeace-building organizations that we may pray for them as they live out the reconciliation offered in the Prophets and Jesus’ message of peace.
Prayers for Peace is thankful for the partnership of our board member organization Evangelicals for Social Action in writing and sharing these prayers.
On March 29, 2002, the Israeli military rolled into northern Bethlehem on a mission inside the occupied West Bank city. Two days prior, a suicide bomber killed 30 Israelis and injured 160 during a Passover Seder dinner nearly 100 kilometers away in the northern Israeli town of Netanya [Times of Israel]. Men fleeing the military invasion took refuge in the Church of the Nativity, joining 46 clergymen and 200 civilians sheltering in the church at the time. Amira, a Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem was in sixth grade when the scenes unfolded during the 40-day siege.
In episode three of Women behind the Wall podcast, Amira, now age 26, recalls how the violence and occupation impacted her daily life. The army incursions were not limited to the church or directed solely at armed militants but reached into her neighborhood and even her own house. At one point, soldiers came in the middle of the night going door-to-door and ordered all of the males, including the young boys, out of their homes, where they were to stay all night outside. Movement restrictions were imposed so strictly that she and other children were unable to go to school regularly during that period. Her mother worked as a nurse and would stay at the hospital for days at a time because, otherwise, she would not be able to get to work. “It wasn’t like a normal life,” Amira remembers.Read more
Layali is an eleven-year-old girl who in many ways, sounds like a typical sixth-grader anywhere in the world. She likes painting, drawing, and swimming. However, as a Palestinian child from the West Bank, she has experienced life beyond her years and has grown up knowing she had limited rights compared to others. She expresses sadness about not being able to jump in the car and go to the ocean to swim as easily as Israelis or other common activities due to the occupation. “I can’t go to the zoo, and to the ocean, and to my aunt’s house.”
Layali’s experience, along with her mother’s, Hind, is featured on the first, full-length podcast episode of Women behind the Wall. Listeners are introduced to the mother and daughter who live in Bethlehem, and as a Christian Palestinian family, long for the situation on the ground to change. This episode introduces listeners to movement restrictions created by the system of checkpoints, walls, and permits for those in the West Bank and how that interrupts everyday life.Read more
Research suggests that standard peace and security processes routinely overlook the inclusion of women, even though a growing body of analysis shows that higher levels of gender equality are associated with a lower propensity for conflict, both between and within states [Council on Foreign Relations, 10/2016]. With that in mind, the Women behind the Wall podcast not only highlights female voices from the Holy Land but is hosted and produced solely by women who live and work in Jerusalem. The podcast seeks to amplify minority voices and perspectives, especially women’s experiences in the private sphere as it is affected by the public sphere. Read more
One of the most stunning things to me about living here is that despite the injustice, oppression, and hardship the people face, there is still so much life. Life goes on, in spite of the occupation. There is joy, and love, and laughter, and dance, and music, and celebration. And make no mistake about it: Palestinians know how to have a good time.
Last weekend, I was invited to come along with my host family to one of these celebrations: the baptism of the youngest member of the family, Zain. I have to admit, part of the reason I was so excited about this invitation was that many Greek Orthodox families still practice full immersion baptism of infants, something we Lutherans don’t do much of. My spirits were cowed only the slightest bit when I learned “just his hair” would be dipped.
I asked where this baptism would take place – in the Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour, near where my host family lives? My host mom looked at me like I was a little crazy. “No,” she responded, “in the Church of the Nativity.” Her tone indicated that this was an obvious and totally unremarkable fact. In my head I thought, oh of course, just going to go baptize cousin Zain at the church that stands on the location of Jesus’ birth, no biggie. Read more
This past Thursday, a few of the Jerusalem/West Bank Young Adults in Global Mission (JWB YAGM) and I were invited to gather at the Tent of Nations, a 100 acre farm just outside Bethlehem owned by the Nassar family. That night, the family received the 2017 World Methodist Peace Award, honoring their creativity, consistency, and courage in peacemaking and non-violent resistance.
A view of the Judean Hills from the Tent of Nations
The 100 acres of land that comprises the Tent of Nations farm was purchased by the Nassar family in 1916 and since then has been used to grow grapes, olives, almonds, and many other crops. The land remained in the Nassar family’s possession throughout the rule of the Ottomans, the British, and the Israelis. In 1991, however, the Israeli government declared the Nassar farm and the land surrounding it “Israeli State Land,” and began their efforts to confiscate the land. Since then, the family has continuously struggled to maintain possession of their familial land. (You can read more about their legal struggles here.) Today, the farm is surrounded by the Gush Etzion Settlement Bloc. You can see Israeli settlements from almost every vista on the farm. According to the Geneva Convention and the United Nations, these settlements were built in contradiction to international law. Read more
The documentary As It Happened: Ongoing Stories of the Nakba follows four Palestinian students from Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society who, along with retired Australian drama teacher Ray Goodlass, create a series of small plays about their own personal experiences with the Nakba in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. It is both heartbreaking and hilarious, but above all this small documentary articulates very real stories of ordinary young men and women who have lived through incredible difficulties.
Alrowwad is located in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, in the West Bank. Alrowwad, or “Beautiful Resistance” is an independent, dynamic community-based not-for-profit organisation which strives to empower women and children through targeted and creative programs using non-violent means. To “live for Palestine rather than die for Palestine.”
The documentary has been nominated for several awards and is the debut film by Sara Aurorae. Sara is a senior program manager working with young refugees and has a masters degree in human rights law. She has studied and worked extensively on human rights for refugees and is a peace activist.
Thank you for the work of individuals like Sara Aurorae and the energy they invest in sharing the lives of people living in challenging situations around the world. Please touch the hearts and minds of everyone who sees this documentary and encourage them to work towards justice and peace in their own lives and in the lives of others.
CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.
I can relate to the prophet Elijah, when he stood in the wilderness waiting for God. The story, found in 1 Kings 19:1-18, tells of the unusual way that God met him. Having just helped Elijah defeat Queen Jezebel’s spiritual team in a “made for TV showdown”, we would expect God to communicate in another dramatic way.
God sent powerful winds, a ground trembling earthquake, and a roaring fire that all got Elijah’s attention. But He was not in any of these. It was actually in a final, gentle whisper that the Lord spoke.
My first trip to the Holy Land was a little like this. I was on the typical pilgrimage with my church. I was so excited to “walk in the footsteps of Jesus” and actually see all the places I had always read about in the Bible. And like Elijah, I too, was praying that God would reveal Himself to me. Read more
What does it mean to work for peace and justice? It means to persist in hope, in faith and steadfast in our prayers and actions. Over the last three and a half decades, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has served as a spiritual home for those embracing the call for justice in the Middle East and has mobilized thousands of individuals to embrace a more holistic understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and call for an end to violence in the Middle East. None of this would have been possible without the inspiring vision and commitment of CMEP’s Founding Director, Corinne Whitlatch.
Before her time with CMEP, Corrine started her journey at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) working for the Middle East Peace education program in 1978 where she toured the states with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists to talk about coexistence and elevating the voices of both peoples. After her time with AFSC ended six years later, Corrine decided to move to Washington D.C and continue working on the Middle East. After six months, she found a job with the American-Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. During this time, the National Council of Churches had organized members to compose a Middle East group and after a year, hired Corrine part-time as the Middle East Task Force Coordinator. After a year with both organizations, CMEP received funding to hire her full time as the Founding Director. The goal was to form a coalition of church bodies who would jointly come together to form a common advocacy message around the region and to do so, she worked diligently to expand the coalition to incorporate more Christian denominations for a more comprehensive and formalized working group. With a background in Political Science and History, Corinne’s leadership shaped the foundations of the organization that is known today. Read more
Ten years ago, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish lost three daughters, Bessan, Mayar, and Aya, and one niece, Noor, to an Israeli tank shelling of his home in Gaza. It happened just before he was scheduled to do a phone interview on an Israeli TV station, which then broadcasted his grief and cry for help in the wake of horrific violence. Read more
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. (Matthew 28:6)
Easter Sunday is all about liberation. Liberation from death and the limitations of this world. Christ’s resurrection on the cross reflects the greatest triumph of Christian belief and tradition; death has not prevailed, for life has overcome. He has risen!
History is wrought with stories of contemporary struggles for liberation around the globe—from the black toil for freedom and autonomy in the United States; to Jewish realities of genocide and grotesque global anti-Semitism; to the present-day struggles between Palestinians seeking to“shake off” the physical bonds of occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza; and many other examples of people groups seeking liberation and freedom. Read more