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.
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.
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.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! (Mark 16:6)
He is Risen!
The Good News of the Gospel of Christ is the liberation of the soul one experiences through the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the cross. This is what Christians around the world celebrate on Easter Sunday.
I was deeply moved this past week when I had the opportunity to host a Pilgrimage to Peace webinar about freedom and oppression with two guests from our partner organization Combatants for Peace. Both Sulaiman (Palestinian) and Tuly (Israeli) had experience serving as militants fighting on behalf of their people. Their stories tell of how they sought physical liberation through force… Suli as a Palestinian resistance fighter, and Tuly as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Israeli military. Read more
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Holy Saturday is the day we wait. On this side of the resurrection, we know what we are waiting for. The disciples and followers of Jesus did not. It was just a day after the death of a person they dearly loved and the death of hope for the future. Read more
In the Passover Haggadah — a kind of “roadmap” through the Passover story recited at the Seder meal — there is a handwashing ritual at the beginning before the eating of the saltwater-laden greens and the matzah, often referred to as the “bread of affliction.”
At this year’s Seder table, that ritual hand washing will certainly take on new meaning: In this time of pandemic, the entire world now sees such a quotidian act as one that can literally save lives. But even before this year, the act of pouring water over your neighbor’s hands has always been very meaningful to me. Like many of the small acts and Haggadah recitations performed during the Seder, the handwashing ritual reminds me of why this Jewish tradition is the one I find most meaningful. Whether it’s the caring intimacy of washing another’s hands or the reminder that — as the water trickles into the bowl on our bountifully-laden table — limited access to clean water has lead to death in places like Gaza or Flint, on this one night I will be ritually connected with a community that shares my values and vision of the future. Read more
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
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
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25
I’m frequently asked how I maintain hope in the face of such challenging realities related to my work. With policy decisions from the White House that fail to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all of God’s children in the Middle East, to a polarized and hyper-partisan Congress, how is it possible to believe we can actually shift U.S. policy toward one that centers justice and honors the equality of all in the Middle East? All of this is exacerbated by a global pandemic and virus that will have even more devastating effects on marginalized communities. I will admit it can be quite difficult at times. I’m not a naturally optimistic person. But as CMEP’s Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon often reminds us, “despair is the luxury of the privileged.” Who am I, as a privileged U.S. citizen, to give up, especially when so many in Israel/Palestine continue to struggle daily for a future in which all people living in the land we call Holy have full equality and rights under the law? Giving up is simply not an option. Read more