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.
“Can we take a moment to realize where we are and appreciate how we got here?”
At the end of my question the eight of us quietly split, each finding a spot to reflect. Peering through the dark, I notice a place at the base of a nearby dune and amble over to it, feeling my feet displace the sand beneath them with each step. Here, at the base of the dune, I remind myself of where I am– on top of a phenomenally massive mound of sand, at night, in the middle of Oman. As I stand, I hear grains of sand blow along the surface of the dune, carried by the cool nighttime breeze, and I wonder if ripples are forming around my feet. Am I becoming part of the desert? Read more
My recent vacation travels took me to northern England, where a friend and I walked a substantial portion of the route of Hadrian’s Wall, and then on to Berlin, where the Berlin Wall lives on – in spite of having been torn down 30 years ago. Both experiences awakened memories of the time I spent in Palestine, looking at the “Separation Barrier” from a number of different perspectives, passing through its numerous checkpoints and monitoring those same checkpoints as a human rights observer.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to build a wall, intended to keep the “marauding barbarians” from the north from invading Roman-occupied Britain in the south. Construction on the Wall was begun in 122 AD, and it was completed some seven years later. It stretches just over 70 miles (we walked about 50 of those miles on our week’s visit!), and was a masterpiece of engineering. Parts of the Wall were as high as 20 feet (including ramparts) and the route also included lookout towers (every 1/3 mile), mile castles (every mile!) and Roman forts (about every five miles). Read more
Have you ever walked into a place and immediately became aware of its sacredness? I remember standing outside Seville Cathedral in Spain a year ago; it was nine in the morning and I was waiting to enter the doors amongst a mass of people. The city was alive and buzzing around me as I stood. Thanks to a little luck and good planning, I was able to be one of the first people into the cathedral. The second I walked through the doors I could think, breathe, and be. My face turned towards the heavens, following the sound of my footfalls as they echoed up into the highest arches. I could smell the remnants of incense that had been carried through the grand halls, welcoming the Divine to this place. At this moment I understood why these places are called sanctuaries. I understood the desire to be shielded from the world in its strong walls, surrounded by reminders of the holy.
Yet, sanctuary, this sacred and peaceful word comes with baggage. It implies that these holy places are confined, restricted, and separate. I think this does a disservice to both our world and its Creator. I believe that holy spaces surround us… Read more
Although I’ve crossed through Checkpoint 300 many times by now, this is my first time doing it alone. It’s easier, still, to travel in groups. Friends provide emotional support amid the stress of a military checkpoint. At least this time I’m crossing into the West Bank; I shouldn’t have to interact with any Israeli soldiers on my way, since entry into the West Bank is not strictly controlled as entry into Israel is. All I have to do is navigate the winding path through the cement and metal halls.
As I turn the first corner into the checkpoint, following behind a young woman carrying her sleeping toddler in her arms, I’m briefly startled to see a man kneeling face down on the ground. He’s facing away from me, towards the thick metal fencing that encloses us. As he sits back on his heels, I hear him murmur in Arabic, and I realize he is praying. Praying, here, of all places. Read more
A series of vignettes on my experiences at Israeli checkpoints.
Genna and I sit next to each other on the bus. It’s a Friday morning, meaning many Palestinians will be traveling into Jerusalem to pray. Genna and I opted to take the bus through the Tunnels Checkpoint today rather than walking through Checkpoint 300 because of this. We know Checkpoint 300 will be busy, and because of our blue passports we are able to choose the easier route into Israel proper from the West Bank. My host family and hers both are supportive of this choice, although they were not shy about reminding us that this is not a choice they have.
The weight of my privilege, which allows me to travel into and out of Jerusalem whenever I choose, only grows as the bus approaches the checkpoint and pulls up onto the sidewalk. Wordlessly, the younger Palestinians on the bus (those under 60 or so,) stand and exit the bus. Rain or shine, they stand in a line outside the bus to have their papers checked by Israeli soldiers who are likely no more than 19. Genna and I, with our foreign passports, are allowed to stay on the bus with the elderly. Read more
“I finally understand the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” – Mother Theresa
This is the hardest it has ever been for me to board a plane. I usually run towards the metal bird, eager to begin my journey, but this time my feet drag, slowed by the tear my heart furthered with every step… Step. Remember the bustling souq. Step. Remember the warmth of the hugs from Mom and Dad and Bubba. Step. Remember the depth of the conversations I had here. Step. Remember the laughter of friends in the States. Step. Remember the spontaneity of life in the Middle East. Step. Remember the joys of going to school at Calvin. Step. Remember the amazing smells of spices, incense, and perfumes. Step. Remember vegetables? Step. Remember the sheer class of the abaya and dishdasha. Step. Remember the comfort of jeans. Step. Remember the ways this place helped you grow. Step. Remember that learning is not limited to places or spaces; now it’s your turn to share what you learned with others. Step.
Our classroom is hot. It’s hard to focus. We’ve begun to notice the increasing temperatures outside that hint at the impending heat of summer. Our professor, Ustaadha Latifa, senses our drifting thoughts and makes her way across the whitewashed room and to the window. Her black abaya sways with each step, creating the illusion of floating, which, when paired with her petite frame, is easy to believe. She unlocks the window and allows fresh air into the room. As the breeze flows in, it brings with it the distant sound of the call for prayer, a welcome melody that has been too far from my hearing for too long. I close my eyes for a brief moment and simply listen. I feel the air involuntarily leave my lungs in a satisfied exhale, the kind that only happens in moments of deep contentment. This moment, hearing the call for prayer for the first time since I moved to Ibri, reminds me of our group’s week of prayer back in Muscat…
The sound of devoted believers raises me to consciousness. I don’t have to open my eyes to know it’s 5:30 am and dark outside. I am informed of these facts simply by listening to both my internal clock and the calls for prayer echoing throughout the city. What would it be like to be one of the devoted who wake up every day before 5:30 and make their way to the mosque; those who turn towards Mecca again at mid-morning, noon, mid-day, and sunset? Read more
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
In my time here, I have met many incredible individuals who face the impossible realities of occupation. Providing for their communities, families, and yearning for freedom, I am inspired by the power of the individual in the midst of this intractable conflict.
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.