Category: Prayers for Peace (P4P)

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 Christians for Social Action in writing and sharing these prayers.


Prayers4Peace: Chokehold

Chokehold: Dispossession, Domination, and Systematic Disintegration of the Palestinian People
By Susan Nchubiri, Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem

According to a report by B’Tselem, in 1967, Israel annexed 7,000 hectares of the West Bank land to the municipal borders of Jerusalem and applied the Israeli law there. However, the residents of the annexed area were not given Israeli citizenship but a “permanent resident permit,” legally meant for immigrants who choose to reside in another country other than their homeland. However, I must note that most of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories have no other homeland.  In addition, it is rare for citizenship to be revoked, but the government can cancel a resident permit at any time if, for instance, the permit holder fails to observe the law of the land.  

Israel’s illegal annexation and occupation of the Palestinian territories continues to grow and intensify through discriminatory land laws and the expansion of settlements, separation barriers (walls and fences), and checkpoints that restrict movement, including access to education, livelihood, worship, medical care, and freedom of association. The occupation is in contravention of the UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967.  

The Coalition Center for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem reports that the Israeli government has taken 88% of the land in Jerusalem, leaving only 12% to the Palestinians. Moreover, even this 12% is under threat of confiscation through the use of absentee law, restrictive building laws, the Master Plan (Jerusalem Urban Planning), development plans, and green zoning. Without any land reserves, the Palestinians are forced to live in overcrowded neighborhoods and make “illegal” adjustments to their homes to accommodate their growing families. However, on the other hand, the Israeli authorities encourage Israeli settlers to move into Palestinian neighborhoods. For instance, there are about 75 settler units in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem, while no Muslims or Christians are allowed to live in the Jewish quarter of this Old City. 

Here I will name a few of the violations of the Palestinians’ human rights:

  1. Absentee Property Law of 1950 is used as the basis for the forceful transfer of Palestinian property to Israelis. Absentee law and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970 grant Israelis rights to claim properties they allege were owned by Jews before 1948. However, the Palestinians do not have similar rights or claims. (Please see the UNHRC report of February 2021).
  2. Discriminatory urban planning and land confiscation through the Master Plan
  3. Restrictive, substandard, and inadequate access to education for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem   
  4. Demographic control through restrictive residency status – if a Palestinian with a Jerusalem ID lives in another city for six months, even in the West Bank, they risk losing their property and residency status.
  5. The Law of Return is discriminatory as it applies to Jews only. Therefore, Palestinian refugees cannot return. 

Let me share with you how the Israeli authorities use the Master Plan, an urban planning and land confiscation tool, to impact the Palestinians in East Jerusalem negatively. Israeli laws make it difficult for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) to obtain construction (including renovation) permits. On the other hand, Israeli extremist organizations such as Ateret Cohanim and Amana have no problem getting these permits. Therefore, many Palestinians add to their houses to accommodate their growing families without the needed permits, which is deemed illegal. Rajabi, whose house was recently demolished, shared that another family in the neighborhood had been forced to sell their property to a settler three years ago. The family had legally tried to remove the demolition orders and get a building permit but were unsuccessful; therefore, having no alternative except to continue the very costly court battle, the family sold the house to a settler. This forceful property transfer to an Israeli settler canceled the demolition order. The Israeli settler is comfortably living there with his family. It clearly supports what the Palestinians describe as the Israelization of Jerusalem. This is a strategy through which Palestinians are forced to transfer property to Israelis. The issue at hand is not the house itself but who builds and owns the house. Israel claims Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (read about Israel’s nation-state law that states “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people”). 

Israeli authorities use house demolitions as one way to choke the Palestinians. We visited a family in Silwan whose house was demolished on May 10, 2022. Our team had visited the family on May 8 and learned that one family member had received a phone call from the Israeli police saying the house would be demolished any day soon. In less than ten days, the house was demolished. The family had been fighting against the confiscation of their property since 2000 when they were ordered to demolish the house. The building housed five brothers and their families.  A total of 35 people lived there. They had added apartments to the building “illegally” because they had severally applied for construction permits but never received permits. For this “illegal” construction, the family had been paying a monthly fine of 4,000 Shekels(NIS). The ground floor was a source of income for the family because it was rented as a medical center. The medical center served several thousand people in the neighborhood. Therefore, the loss of the property has left the whole community without medical access and 35 people, including children, are homeless and traumatized.

Mr. Rajabi, one of the brothers, shared that during this 22-year court battle to retain their property, the family has paid over 700,000NIS and the equivalent of USD 217,000 in fines for “illegal” construction and lawyer fees. One part of the house was not under demolition order, but it was significantly damaged.  Though some of the family members are still living there, it is dangerously unstable and unsuitable for habitation. They also said the family would be issued a demolition bill between 200,000 to 250,000(NIS)/ or USD 62,000 to 77,400. If the family does not pay, they fear the Israeli authorities will use this to take the remaining piece of property.  Rajabi has five beautiful little girls that were in school when their house was demolished.  When they returned home, they were horrified. They did not understand why their home was a mound of rubble. Rajabi kept asking, “how can I teach them peace?” He also said, “the Israeli authorities and the settlers do not want to see happy Palestinians.” He was referring to the destroyed family swimming pool, which was not part of the demolition order but was knocked down in the process. The police gave the demolition alert on the first day of Eid al Fitr, which is an extraordinarily important day for Muslims where they celebrate the end of Ramadan. It is important to note that a demolition alert does not indicate a day or time when it would happen. It could take place a few hours, days, or weeks after the issuance. 

Rajabi said he was not allowed to speak in the Supreme Court, which determined his case. He further said, “the judge who heard my case is a settler living in the Efrat settlement in Bethlehem. So, how could he rule favorably for a Palestinian?”

Rajabi works at an Israeli shop and says he does not have any animosity toward the Jewish Israeli people, but he opposes the cruel policies of Israel. “Israel is against my children.” It labels Palestinians as terrorists. “We are not terrorists,” he continued, “They destroy our humanity.” He compared how the international community has responded to the Ukrainian plight and how it has responded to the Palestinians’ pleas over the years. Unfortunately, he said, “the only thing Israel gets for the oppression and cruelty to the Palestinians is a rebuke or a United Nations Security Council Resolution. Israel does not respect resolutions. The international community’s words are hollow. The world must stop the talk and start to work.”  

As of 2013, the State of Israel had been condemned 45 times in resolutions by the United Nations Security Council. List of United Nations resolutions concerning Israel. This shows that Israel will not listen to any rebukes and will continue to violate international human rights law in treating the Palestinian population. The world must stop the talk and start the work. 

When Rajabi’s house was being demolished, Silwan felt under siege. For several hours the Israeli police blocked off all access to the area and escorted three bulldozers to Rajabi’s home. When asked how many police were there, he said there were far too many to count. In addition, the people doing the demolition acted cruelly toward the family. The police guarded them as they smashed items the family could have salvaged. What was the reason for this?  

Rajabi has lived for many years with policies and daily routines that show Israeli authorities treating his family and other Palestinians as second-class people and unwanted neighbors. “They want us to go,” Fares said, “we don’t.” So he and his family stay on their land. “We ask to be left alone, to retain our property, to be given permits to renovate when necessary, and to be left free to go to work without harassment and detentions.” 

Rajabi asked us to use his name when telling his family’s story. He wants their story told. He wants to tell the story himself. He wants to present his case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the courts in Israel have failed him and the Palestinian people.  But if going to the ICC is impossible, then the task is ours. I join Rajabi in urging the international civil community and their governments to “…stop the talk and start the work.” Issuing statements of condemnation needs to be accompanied by actions that will pressure the Israeli government to amend the chokingly oppressive and discriminatory policies.

The Rajabi family is one of the thousands of Palestinian families subjected to this inhumane and unjust practice. They have property ownership documents, but the courts will not honor them. “All the Israeli government wants is for us to go out of Jerusalem. But where must we go?” Rajabi asks. For instance, in Silwan, where Rajabi and his relatives live, there are 87 demolition orders affecting about 1500 people in extended families. Where will these families go?  Where is justice for these families? The following statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(UNOCHA) demolitions demonstrate how widespread the demolitions and evictions are for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, its cruel and discriminatory treatment of the Palestinians, and denial of human rights must end. Israel must stop using “security” as an excuse to oppress people. This is the work you and I must start to do. 


Dear God, there is a great displacement of people caused by unjust and inhumane systems.

We pray for the refugees, the internally displaced persons,
and those who are illegally being dispossessed
of their land and property.

Strengthen their resilience and their hope so that they do not despair.

We ask this through Christ our brother.

Amen


Susan Nchubiri is a Maryknoll Sister and a Master of Global Affairs student at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, specializing in International Peace Studies. She is currently serving as an Ecumenical Accompanier with the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI program. She previously worked as a community organizer in Haiti where she founded 2 self-help women’s groups, a micro-credit co-operative, a community garden and goat-raising project for a youth group. Before that she has worked as a campus minister and pastoral care giver to students, migrant workers and prisoners in Hong Kong. Susan had also worked in campus ministry in Chicago and volunteered weekly at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.  She was program director at Euphrasia Women Refuge Center and at Maria House Imani Projects in Nairobi Kenya where she worked hand in hand with the social workers and instructors to support vulnerable women and children.

If you would like to learn more about the EAPPI program, please visit their website.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: A Brief History of the Work of the American Baptist Churches in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt)

By Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary Emeritus, American Baptist Churches

American Baptist work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) began with the appointment of Dr. Wes Brown in 1973 to serve as the director of the Center for the Study of Religions which was situated in Jerusalem. From 1978-1984, Dr. Brown served on the staff of the Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research in Tantur, led the Jerusalem Rainbow Group which was an interfaith group encompassing Jews, Muslims and Christians and provided leadership to the Ecumenical Theological Fraternity. Dr. Brown later became the American Baptist representative to Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

During these years American Baptists became sensitized to the issues related to the occupation of the Palestinian Territory by the State of Israel and the ongoing conflict between the two. Two specific policy actions were taken by the denomination during this time:

  • Policy Statement on Human Rights – 1976, which included “The right of citizenship in a nation, to participate in the political process, to form political parties, to have a voice in decisions made in the political arenas, to be secure from fear of deportation or expulsion, to emigrate and to have political asylum.”
  • Resolution on the Middle East and Arab-Israeli Issues – 1980, which affirmed “the right of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders” and “the right of self-determination of the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank (called Judea and Samaria by others) and the Gaza Strip.”

In 1984, American Baptists were founding members of Churches for Middle East Peace and have vigorously supported a two-state solution and decried the continuing encroachment on Palestinian territory as provocative and destructive of a two-state solution, while also condemning attacks upon Israelis. This coalition has been the primary vehicle for American Baptists’ work for peace with justice in the Middle East.

From 2002-2015, American Baptists co-led Peace Pilgrimages to Israel and Palestine with the Church of the Brethren to further educate our constituencies about the issues. These pilgrimages intentionally engaged with Israelis and Palestinians in an effort to understand the issues, to redress Evangelical Zionism, and to inform our prayers and our advocacy for peace.

In the same timeframe, American Baptists launched an effort in interfaith understanding between Baptist Christians and Muslims. Three North American dialogues were created and held with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). American Baptists also cofounded Shoulder to Shoulder, an effort by Christians, Muslims and Jews to address Islamophobia in the US post-9/11. ABC was represented in the conference that led to the Marrakesh Declaration and subsequent interfaith efforts by the Peace Forum of Abu Dhabi. These efforts were rooted in ABC’s concern for peace in the Middle East.

In addition, American Baptists have been a supporting organization of the Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) and its efforts in education among the Palestinian people, and have participated in humanitarian relief efforts and the resettlement of refugees in the US through Church World Service.


Lord God, thank you for the historic and present day
engagement of ABC and their efforts toward
supporting and encouraging peace and justice
in the Middle East.

Go before them and CMEP in their continued efforts
as they work alongside other Christians, Jews, Muslims,
and people of all faith traditions to promote a
resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict
and an end to the occupation of the Palestinian people.

In Jesus’ name.
Amen


Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley is one of the longest serving General Secretaries (2002-2015) of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA),  having retired January 4, 2016, as the pastoral and administrative leader of the 1.3-million-member denomination. To learn more about the American Baptist Churches, USA, visit their website: https://www.abc-usa.org/


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Blue Wolf – A Sinister Surveillance

Blue Wolf: A Sinister Surveillance
By Susan Nchubiri, Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem

In November 2021, Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of army veterans against the occupation, gave testimonies about a very sinister method of surveillance. They call it  Blue Wolf. Blue Wolf is a facial recognition app used to surveil, monitor, and control Palestinians in the oPt. See Israel Surveils.  To give you an example, one morning, as we were doing a school run (walking around the Old City monitoring if the Israeli soldiers were denying children to go to school or if they were searching and harassing school children), we saw a young Palestinian man aged around 17 or 18 years old, detained and surrounded by several Israeli border police. The officers constantly talked on the phone while one officer body-searched the young man. Six other Israeli officers arrived at the scene a few minutes later, including one who had stopped us earlier and checked our documents.  The youth was clearly in distress. I invite you to take a moment and see yourself surrounded by more than a dozen heavily armed police officers talking to you in a language you do not understand. After a while, the young man was escorted by three Israeli police officers to stand facing the surveillance cameras at the corner of the street. They asked him to speak loudly on the phone, with one of the officers listening in. Although we did not understand what he was saying or hear anyone speaking back to him, we gathered that they were trying to verify his identity.  

Another example is the story of Brahim (not his real name), a 14-year-old Palestinian boy from Sheikh Jarrah who has been arrested and brutally beaten four times in one year. His troubles began when the state authorities evicted Brahim’s Palestinian neighbors, and an Israeli settler family moved into that house. The Israeli settlers installed several cameras, including one that faces Brahim’s house door. The first time he was arrested, he had been playing with friends on the street near his home. The family was not told why he was arrested. The second time he was arrested, he was walking home. The third and fourth times, the police raided his home at 3 am and took him away. Each time the family is not given a reason for their child’s arrest. The family believes it is a way of intimidating and increasing pressure on them so that they move out of the house to have another settler move in. Brahim’s family home has an eviction order, but they took the case to court.  The trauma from beatings and arrests has left Brahim with high anxiety, which he relieves by chain-smoking. He has developed sight and hearing issues, and his parents report that he wakes up several times a night screaming for help.

One might think that the Israeli authorities will have accurate identification with this high-tech surveillance app (Blue Wolf). However, last week (May 27, 2022), we visited a family in the Old City of Jerusalem and met Nadhim (not his real name), an 18-year-old Palestinian young man. He shared that six months ago, while walking with his friends in the Old City, he was brutally assaulted by a group of more than a dozen Israeli border police who descended on him with blows and kicks even when he was on the ground. The assault resulted in 3 broken ribs, head hematoma, chest contusion, and numerous bruises.  He said, “I thought I was going to die that day, and I did not know why they were trying to kill me.”  The next day the Israeli soldiers told the family that it was a mistaken identity.  But was that kind of brutality warranted even if they had caught the person they were looking for? Why does the Israeli police force use such power?

Nadhim and his family have faced unprecedented hostility from the Israeli police and harassment from the settlers who moved next door to them. Like many other Palestinian families who are unfortunate to have a settler neighbor, they live in fear. This young man was first arrested when he was 15 and on his way to school. He was in Israeli police custody for one week and two weeks under house arrest. While in custody, he was beaten badly by the police. He has since been arrested nine more times, and the reasons are never given. His three brothers have also been arrested multiple times. He dropped out of school at 15 because he could not concentrate in classes after the first assault and arrest. He got depressed and did not want to leave his house. His mother, who is from Gaza, has applied for a resident permit for 25 years and has not received one to date. As a result, she cannot leave the Old City of Jerusalem to visit relatives in the West Bank. Family separation or disintegration is one more tool the Israeli occupation authorities use to control the Palestinians in the oPt.

A flying checkpoint. A daily occurrence in the Old City of Jerusalem (photo by Werner – EA- 04/17/2022)

If this sort of injustice happened in other democratic countries, it and all other incidents would have warranted an investigation and probably a prosecution, but every Palestinian in oPt that we have talked with about filing a complaint has said something along the lines of, “we will be wasting our time to report to the Israeli authorities because nothing will be done. Even when we are being attacked by settlers and call for help, the police come and just watch over us as the perpetrators beat us, vandalize, and destroy our property.  If we dare protect ourselves, we get beaten and arrested by those who should be protecting us. It is only in this country where a thief comes to your home, and when you call the police for help, the police come to beat you up and arrest you while the perpetrator walks off happy.” To whom do these people turn for help? How on earth can this type of inhumanity happen and continue to occur in myriad ways?

Recently, a former Israeli soldier told us that their orders in the oPt are to protect the Israeli settlers even when Israelis have started the clashes. What would you call this kind of discrimination? Why criminalize one person and vindicate another just because of their race? 

I teared up the other day when we went to Sheikh Jarrah, and the Palestinian young men there said it is normal for the police to attack and arrest them when they call for help. Two young Palestinian men who were not involved in the Jerusalem Day clashes were arrested. Fadhil (not his real name) started running home when he saw the Israeli settlers descend into his neighborhood. He wanted to be with his family, but the Israeli police stopped him and arrested him. The Israeli officers then walked to Fadhil’s parent’s house and asked his young brother Nashir (not his real name) to come outside with them for questioning. When they got to the street, Nashir was handcuffed too and taken to the Israeli police station. We went the following day to check on the family. The parents were not home; they had gone to the police station to seek release for their sons. Their younger son (19 years) has been in jail for four months and hasn’t been brought to court yet.  

We spoke to Rahima (not her real name), who told us that when the Israeli police saw her crying as they beat a young boy, they asked her, “why are you crying? Beating terrorists is normal.” She told us the boy the Israeli police officer was assaulting was only ten years old. She told the officer that it was not normal for an adult to hit a child and that the child was not a terrorist. The little boy had not committed any crime except stepping into the street to see what the commotion was all about. Rahima also told us that her parents, especially her dad, have taught them never to hate anyone, including the people who continue to harass them in Sheikh Jarrah. She said, “we have learned that hate destroys you, not the person you hate.”

Every day, when I walk in the Old City of Jerusalem or stand at the Checkpoints and witness how young Palestinian boys and young men are roughly handled by the Israeli police officers, I can’t but conclude that Palestinian youth is criminalized. When a Palestinian man attacks an Israeli, the reports on media are usually “a terrorist attack.” Still, when the Israeli settlers raid homes, attack Palestinians and vandalize Palestinian places of worship, nobody reports these incidents as terror attacks. Is terrorism racialized? Only one kind of people can be terrorists and not the other? What would happen if the media reports were balanced and honest? 

If the Blue Wolf was meant for security purposes and not surveilling Palestinians, why are we having medical reports of people attacked by settlers in Sheikh Jarrah indicating that unknown assailants assaulted them?  Furthermore, there were video clips on social media and the neighbors of the settlers who carried out the incursions and the assaults. Again, Israel is misusing the term security as a cover to surveil, intimidate, harass, and continue the occupation of Palestinian territories.  No country has the right to hide oppression under the guise of security. 


Dear God of love and compassion,
we humbly come to you crying from the depths of our hearts.

God, may you be attentive to the voice of our supplication.

We pray that you transform us, especially those who
inflict pain and injustice on others.

We pray for the restoration of dignity for all.
Amen


Susan Nchubiri is a Maryknoll Sister and a Master of Global Affairs student at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, specializing in International Peace Studies. She is currently serving as an Ecumenical Accompanier with the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI program. She previously worked as a community organizer in Haiti where she founded 2 self-help women’s groups, a micro-credit co-operative, a community garden, and a goat-raising project for a youth group. Before that, she worked as a campus minister and pastoral caregiver to students, migrant workers, and prisoners in Hong Kong. Susan had also worked in campus ministry in Chicago and volunteered weekly at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.  She was program director at Euphrasia Women Refuge Center and at Maria House Imani Projects in Nairobi Kenya where she worked hand in hand with the social workers and instructors to support vulnerable women and children.

If you would like to learn more about the EAPPI program, please visit their website.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Transformation

Transformation
by Rev. Su McClellan, Senior Church Engagement Manager at Embrace the Middle East

The day I first set eyes on the separation barrier is one that I will never forget. Back in 2004, the village of Abu Dis near Jerusalem had been sliced in half by 30 feet of vertical concrete, stretching as far as the eye could see. The local grocery store had been cut off from the houses it served. Families and neighbours had been forced apart and looking at its wounding presence broke my heart.

My next stop was the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was such an appropriate place to reflect on what I’d just experienced. In that garden, Jesus faced the consequences of human sin, but it was also the place where he chose to go to the cross and transform it. Jesus took the worst possible human violence and transformed it into a bridge, reconnecting humanity with God. Sitting in the church reminded me that walls, rockets, bullets, and checkpoints are not paragraphs in the final chapter. The resurrection tells the story of healing, forgiveness, new life, and therefore new possibilities and we are all invited to write ourselves into its narrative.

Embrace the Middle East has been part of the story since 1854. Originally founded as The Turkish Missions Aid Society in 1854, an evangelical charity supporting missionary work among Armenian Christians in Turkey, the name was eventually changed to Embrace the Middle East in 2012. Its vision is to tackle poverty and injustice in the Middle East through education, community, and healthcare. It forms partnerships with churches and Christian organisations that offer their services to all in need in their communities, regardless of their national identity or beliefs. Their work changes lives. 

The challenges faced by Embrace’s partners, in what is known to many as the Holy Land, are many and complex. Yet, despite these challenges, they continue to show and tell the story of God’s love. Since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 over a million olive trees have been destroyed as a result of settlement expansion, military zoning, and settler violence. Embrace’s partners have responded to this destruction by planting thousands of replacement trees, supporting Palestinian farmers, and standing up for human and equal rights. Something violent and brutal has been transformed into something beautiful and fruitful.

We have supported partners in Gaza, who when faced with the destruction of last year’s war, responded by providing counseling and therapy, often through the medium of the arts, for children and young adults. In Jericho, our partners are providing leadership training for young people. The programme includes taking them on trips to discover and understand their rich Palestinian heritage – giving them reasons to stay and work for peace with justice. Hopelessness and despondency are transformed into tenacity and the courage to dream.

For many children, growing up in the shadow of the occupation leaves terrible scars both physical and emotional. Embrace’s partner Musalaha reflects the reconciling love of God by training both Palestinian and Israeli young women in the Stages of Reconciliation, Conflict Transformation, and Listening. The project won’t change government policy, but it does offer the possibility of the transformation of relationships at a grassroots level.

After his resurrection, Jesus’ body still carried the scars
of the violence inflicted upon him.


Transformation does not hide from what has been and
the Holy Land and all those who call it home

will carry the scars of its history into the future,
just as Christ carried his into eternity.

But scar tissue is also a sign of healing,
and it is for healing and hope that our partners work so diligently.

Of course, we pray for the day when justice will flow like rivers through Israel and Palestine. But until that day comes, please pray for the partners and friends of Embrace the Middle East who, in following Christ, make transformation possible.


Rev. Su McClellan, Senior Church Engagement Manager, has been at Embrace the Middle East for 15 years and works in the Church Engagement Team. She regularly leads Encounter Tours to Israel and Palestine, giving Christians the opportunity to see for themselves the impact of the ongoing conflict on the people who call the land home. Su is also curate at Coventry Cathedral, home to the Community of the Cross of Nails, an international network of peacebuilders.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Grieving the Loss of a Prophetic Peace Activist

Grieving the Loss of a Prophetic Peace Activist – Dr. Ron Sider 
by Nicole Morgan, CMEP Executive Administrator

Dr. Ron Sider was a prophetic voice in the name of peacemaking and the founder of a CMEP board organization (Christians for Social Action). In addition, he served as an advisor and teacher to two CMEP staff members. He was the D.Min. Thesis Advisor to Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, and during the completion of my Master of Theological Studies, Dr. Sider was a Professor to myself (Nicole Morgan) – a former Sider Scholar and current CMEP Executive Administrator.

I learned of Ron Sider’s death as I was finishing up work last Friday afternoon and was hit by a wave of sadness. The world is more peaceful because Ron existed in it. The loss of his presence with us is a grief so many of us share.

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon remembers his influence, “It is hard to put to words the profound impact Ron Sider has had on my life both academically and spiritually. He and I would regularly discuss and often disagree about ideas like James Cone’s theology of the cross and whether or not pacifism was the only answer to living out the Gospel in a violent world. As my dissertation advisor, Ron advised me and heavily edited my thesis on ‘the spiritually transformative process of learning to love your enemy.’ His memory will live on in the ministry and efforts of myself and so many as we continue to work toward peace and advocate against injustice. Ron will be greatly missed!”

As a student at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University a decade ago I studied the intersection of theology and Public Policy and took several of Dr. Sider’s courses. I served as a Sider Scholar with Evangelicals (now Christians) for Social Action/Sider Center on Public Policy.

When I began seminary, I was not familiar with Dr. Sider or his work (having grown up in a more conservative evangelical environment). The first time I met him I was immediately aware of his kindness and humbleness. He greeted me while I was on a tour of the seminary. He wore a simple suit jacket with elbow patches and carried a briefcase with worn corners. I researched him later and learned of his most famous work: the book Rich Christians in the Age of Hunger published decades earlier. It was easy to imagine that the man I had only briefly met at that time was still living the principles of those convictions.

Once I was a student of his and had the chance to interact with him, that first instinct proved true. He welcomed debate in the classroom, shared reasons we should be cautious of putting too much into the scholarship of any one theologian, and challenged us to dig deeper.

In the class on Just War and Pacifism I took with Dr. Sider, he talked to us about how non-violence has not been tried. Not really. Nations devote billions of dollars to war. There are military schools and a large number of the population are trained to enforce the violent and deadly methods of using war to settle disputes. But non-violent direct action does not have government-funded training centers at that scale. National budgets are not prioritized to really try non-violent direct activism. In 1984, Sider spoke to the Mennonite World Conference along this same idea, and eventually, the Christian Peacemakers Team formed. Still not to the scale of the resources the world gives to wage war, but once again Sider’s prophetic vision was part of what set in motion a call to live by what many consider “radical” principles of peace and faithfulness.

Today the [now] Community Peacemakers Teams work in several locations around the world, including Palestine, where they are working to build “partnerships to transform violence and oppression.” CMEP’s former board chair Nate Hosler and our Executive Director traveled in 2019 to Northern Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams and learned directly about their impact on the border communities in Iraqi Kurdistan.

While Sider’s work and leadership have had such an impact on broad Christian culture, I most remember him for the significant impact he had on me. Because of the context of my religious upbringing in which men were the ones to lead, Ron was one of the first people to affirm in me my right to study theology and Christian leadership. I don’t think he knew he did that or that it was a goal of his, but the simple fruit of his authentic faith that viewed women as equals spoke volumes to me. When Ron spoke of his beloved wife, Arbutus, he talked about her work and her passions and the hobbies they did together. I was so used to hearing wives praised first and most often for their beauty and domestic skills. The pride in his voice for who his wife was as an individual felt like freedom for me.

I am grateful to Dr. Sider for his prophetic voice to Christianity, and for his quiet humble witness that made such a difference to me and to the world.


God of peace:

we thank you for the lives of faithful Christians
who have dedicated their lives to the mission of seeing
your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
We ask for your comfort for those who grieve.
Teach us to have the courage and patience
to live the radical truths of peace and holiness,
to invest our time and resources into feeding the hungry
and settling disputes without violence.

In the holy name of Jesus,
Amen.


If you would like to share a memory of Dr. Ron Sider, please use the comment section to share your thoughts, comments, or prayers.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Revisited – Being Children of God

Prayers4Peace: Revisited

At Churches for Middle East Peace, we understand that the work of holistic peacebuilding and advocacy is ongoing, and sometimes, the issues we faced in the past are still present with us today in a variety of ways.

With Prayers4Peace: Revisited we would like to occasionally share some of our previous Prayers4Peace blogs with you that we believe are still important messages to us today. We hope that you are encouraged as you continue supporting in prayer those working towards a just peace in Israel, Palestine, and the broader Middle East.


Being Children of God

by Sarah Withrow King, Former Deputy Director of Christians for Social Action
Originally posted November 19, 2013

Lord Jesus,

We are mothers and fathers;
we are sisters and brothers;
we are a family connected by your love.

God, we acknowledge that we are all your children. Each of us created in your holy image. Each of us created to love you and to love one another.

God, we praise you as the creator and caretaker of all children. You see all of your children. You love all of your children. You want every child to flourish in communities of care and concern. We praise you, Holy One.

God, we confess that we have failed to love well. We confess that we see your children with eyes clouded by past hurts and prejudice, by fear and uncertainty. We see one another not as recipients of your precious love, but as enemies and strangers. We see one another, not as children see other children, with curiosity, joy, and excitement, but as  enemies view enemies, with animosity, anxiety, and mistrust.

God, we mourn for your children.
We mourn especially for children who nurse at their mother’s breast while rockets scream through the sky;
For children confused by prejudice,  unaware of the history written on their forehead.
For children who cannot go to school; for children who hunger and thirst; and for children who are sick but cannot access medical care.

God, we mourn for your children who live soaked in fear, instead of your love.

Lord Jesus, help us to love well.
Help us to see the old and the young;
the Christian, the Muslim, and the Jew;
the Syrian, the Israeli, the Iranian, the Pakistani,
the Japanese, the American…
every body as part of your body.

We love you, Jesus.


The original story was written by Sarah Withrow King, Deputy Director of the Sider Centre at Eastern University, and an associate fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Revisited – Running for Human Rights

Introducing Prayers4Peace: Revisited

At Churches for Middle East Peace, we understand that the work of holistic peacebuilding and advocacy is ongoing, and sometimes, the issues we faced in the past are still present with us today in a variety of ways.

With Prayers4Peace: Revisited we would like to occasionally share some of our previous Prayers4Peace blogs with you that we believe are still important messages to us today. We hope that you are encouraged as you continue supporting in prayer those working towards a just peace in Israel, Palestine, and the broader Middle East.


Running for Human Rights

Sara Burback, a former volunteer at Churches for Middle East Peace.
Originally posted May 15, 2018

On March 23, I had the opportunity to join over 7,000 runners of all ages gathered in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, awaiting the signal to cross the starting line to begin the 6th annual Palestine Marathon. Established in support of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State,” the route of the Palestine Marathon begins in front of the Church of the Nativity and runs through two refugee camps. In order to demonstrate the restrictions to freedom of movement within the West Bank for Palestinians in their daily lives, runners journey alongside the eight-meter-high separation barrier and around the guard towers posted in various parts of the wall’s route.

The Palestine Marathon is a unique official race, in that most participants carry a personal motive for running, tied to their view of human rights and their fundamental right to movement within their homeland. “I’m running for the freedom of my people, the Palestinians,” says Jack Sara, the President of Bethlehem Bible College. “As I’m walking, I’m praying that the Lord will give mercies upon this land.” For Palestinians, the land of Palestine represents their history and collective identity as a people, and the race is an opportunity to physically express this intimate connection to the land and their right within this space to live out their narratives and freedom of movement. It is a collective voice expressing the need for change within a system that does not recognize their basic rights.

As a runner who has had the opportunity to participate in this race for the past three years, the general motivation comes from the view that the race is an opportunity to demonstrate the inherent need for change within the system of forced separation between Israelis and Palestinians. This is most clearly seen in their lack of freedom of movement, which is encountered on a daily basis by Palestinians in the West Bank. Whether traveling by foot or commuting from Bethlehem in the West Bank to Jerusalem, Palestinians face the separation barrier, pop-up checkpoints and sporadic road closures, checkpoints to cross from the West Bank into Israel proper, and settler-only roads across the West Bank, which Palestinians are forbidden from driving on.

“I’m running for freedom of movement,” said a runner from the city of Tubas in the northern West Bank. “…We need to breathe, we need to fly, we need to swim…[these] barriers are no longer accepted. The international community should pay attention.” One family pushing two strollers on the race course said they were running for freedom and their children. Many runners viewed the race itself as a physical form of expression of their need for free movement and their basic human rights, and the race was a way for participants to collectively demonstrate this by running, walking, or in some cases, dancing their way through the course.

The message of the race has annually drawn a number of international participants as well, who have traveled from throughout Europe and the United States to run in solidarity alongside the local community in a unified act of civil resistance. Participants carried flags from Finland, Ukraine, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, and other countries as a message of international recognition of the Palestinian struggle for equality. One runner from Norway was participating in his third Palestine Marathon, saying that he brings a group every year to experience the beauty of Palestine and to meet the people.

As an American Christian, this race holds significance for me as a way to encounter the city of Jesus’ birth in a way that lives out his work of redemption for the land and its people. When I reflect on his words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and the justice that Jesus calls his disciples to yearn for through showing mercy and seeking to be peacemakers, I find the simple act of running as a way of connecting with his message of reconciliation and sending a resounding “NO” to the injustice in the land. It is a way of being part of a larger story of peacemaking, which we can all find our role within, both as individuals and as part of organizations.

A number of international NGO workers based in the West Bank and Jerusalem also participated, including a team from UNICEF. “We’re here today with our own children to run for children in the State of Palestine,” said Genevieve Boutin, the Special Representative to the State of Palestine from UNICEF. “For children and young people still developing, the physical and mental benefits of sport and play set the foundation for healthy development and lifelong learning. It also gives them an opportunity to express themselves in a positive setting.”

Canon David Longe, the Chaplain to the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, said he was running to raise funds for cancer treatment in Gaza, where the Anglican church runs the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, but lacks the resources to treat cancer patients there. Despite obstacles of cost and the blockade on Gaza, their goal is to build a cancer unit in the hospital to ensure patients in need of life-saving treatment have proper access.

American runner Celia Riley has participated in the race every year since it began in 2013. She runs in solidarity with the local community in Bethlehem and describes the race as a journey for her: “Combining my heart for justice and running, hours side-by-side with people from all over the world, experiencing the Palestinian community around us, we become witnesses to their hospitality but we also see the humanity that’s restricted by the walls and checkpoints.”

Being present in the story of this race is a contribution to a much larger narrative. It is a narrative of the collective right to movement, the firm belief that peace can prevail in the Holy Land, and that God is in the midst of this place and continuing the work of redemption here. This redemption took place as each runner ran alongside the immense separation wall and crossed the finish line, and as they retold the story of overcoming adversity to run a challenging course on a very hot day to be part of a collective story of community. Being part of this shared story recognizes the shared belief that we are contributing not only to changing the present conditions, but working towards a future in which the huge physical wall we faced together will one day come down and that future generations will be part of a shared narrative of redemption and reconciliation that was written for them, beginning with crossing the finish line of this race.

Returning for the past three years to participate in this shared journey is an honor and story I will keep telling. It is a reminder that each of us has a role in dismantling the physical, emotional, and political walls we face in our own lives and collective narratives, and that it is our sacred duty to recognize these walls within ourselves and stand in solidarity alongside those who face these walls and help tear them down.


Jesus, I thank you for showing us your heart for justice through your everyday pursuit of peacemaking.

I thank you that your Spirit continues to live among your people in the Holy Land through the work of engaging in dialogue and participating in acts of creative civil resistance.

May your message of reconciliation continue to be heard, and may it spread among the Israelis and Palestinians there, so each person recognizes their role within a shared narrative of redemption of the land.

And may we all support this peacemaking through our own everyday acts of peacemaking.

Amen.


In the spring of 2022, CMEP’s own Manager of Middle East Relationships, Kevin Vollrath, also ran this race.

Kevin says, “I initially decided to participate in this race to help pace someone doing one of their first half-marathons. I got to know him through an organization called Right to Movement, where I’ve made many Palestinian friends committed to fitness and advocacy for Palestinian rights, especially the right to travel. Running all over Bethlehem, starting and finishing at the Nativity Church, and passing the separation barrier, refugee camps, and social hubs was a way to celebrate the life and culture of Bethlehem as well as acknowledge the many injustices surrounding it.”


The original story was written by Sara Burback, a former volunteer at Churches for Middle East Peace.

To find out how you can volunteer with CMEP, please visit our website.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Beyond Dehumanization

Beyond Dehumanization
By Susan Nchubiri, Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem
 

As I write, my heart is heavy with sadness and anger at the horrific dehumanization and hatred toward the Palestinian people by the Israeli military and police. This week has been especially painful for most Palestinians because of the senseless and brutal killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-respected journalist from Jerusalem. She was fatally shot, and her colleague, Ali Samoudi, was seriously injured by a bullet to his back, but he survived. The journalists were shot while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank. This area has experienced numerous Israeli military raids and lockdowns since March 2022, when some violent attacks were carried out in Hadera and Tel Aviv by individuals alleged to be from the camp or nearby. The raids and lockdowns have not only traumatized the civilians but also affected them socially and economically because those who work in Israel were denied entry into Israel. Jenin was closed even during Ramadan and the Easter Holy Weeks; therefore, people from that area could not participate in their special worship ceremonies in Jerusalem. This use of collective punishment by Israeli authorities is a violation of human rights.

On May 13, as the mourners carried Shireen’s casket, the Israeli police intervened by beating and throwing stun grenades at the mourners, including the pallbearers. What threat was a dead body? What security threat did pallbearers pose? At one point, the coffin almost fell to the ground. Why not let the family, friends, and the city mourn their daughter, sister, and friend? Shireen was a courageous journalist. One mourner I saw carried a poster with these words Shireen spoke at the 25th anniversary of Al Jazeera, “I chose to become a journalist to be close to people. It may not be easy to change reality, but I was at least able to bring their voice to the world.” Thousands of people came out to say goodbye to their beloved Shireen. Even her death has brought the voices of the Palestinians out to the world. 

As the armed officers terrorized the mourners, they also confiscated Palestinian flags, smashed the hearse’s window carrying Shireen’s body, and removed a Palestinian flag. It is reported that thirty-three people were injured, and some were hospitalized. Several Palestinian mourners were arrested, and most of these arrests were carried out by Israeli officers dressed in civilian clothes. Some in our team witnessed 3 of these arrests.

The international community has reacted with words like: “We were deeply troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner” (Blinken – US Secretary of State). A statement from the European Union says, “The EU condemns the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behavior by the Israeli police against the participants of the mourning procession.” Many other internationals expressed their displeasure, but what does this mean for the Palestinians living under the occupation? What does this mean for people who live without knowing whether they will be allowed to go to work, school, place of worship, or farmland, or when they leave home if they will return without being harassed and violently attacked by the police or settlers? The inhumanity that the world saw during Shireen’s funeral is just one incident. It is one example of what Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories endure daily, whether in arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of access to their livelihood, worship, or any form of movement. Even after the condemnation of Israeli action at the funeral procession by various world leaders and internationals, on May 16, the Israeli military again attacked mourners going to the funeral of Walid Al Shareef. Walid succumbed to gunshot injuries incurred on April 29 at the Al Aqsa compound when the Israel police stormed the compound beating up the worshippers. It is reported that over 50 people were injured at the funeral and were brought to Al Maqseed hospital.


Firm action to pressure Israel to respect human rights and end the occupation must accompany the words of condemnation from world leaders. Each of us has a responsibility to do something to bring a positive change to the oppressed brothers and sisters in Palestine.


Susan Nchubiri is a Maryknoll Sister and a Master of Global Affairs student at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, specializing in International Peace Studies. She is currently serving as an Ecumenical Accompanier with the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI program. She previously worked as a community organizer in Haiti where she founded 2 self-help women’s groups, a micro-credit co-operative, a community garden and goat-raising project for a youth group. Before that she has worked as a campus minister and pastoral care giver to students, migrant workers and prisoners in Hong Kong. Susan had also worked in campus ministry in Chicago and volunteered weekly at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.  She was program director at Euphrasia Women Refuge Center and at Maria House Imani Projects in Nairobi Kenya where she worked hand in hand with the social workers and instructors to support vulnerable women and children.

If you would like to learn more about the EAPPI program, please visit their website.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: An Easter Never to Forget

An Easter Never to Forget
By Susan Nchubiri, Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem

“Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees who were telling him to admonish his disciples to keep quiet. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,“ He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
(Luke 19:37-40).

On April 5, 2022, our first full day at the EAPPI placement house in East Jerusalem, we went to a parish in Beit Hanina to meet with the Palestinian youth and scouts leader. He gave us a rundown of the upcoming two Holy Week services. The youth and scouts were charged with organizing the processions. At this meeting, Rafi, the youth and scout leader, quoted these words, “if they keep silent, the living stones will shout out.” He added, “the Israeli authorities want to silence the Palestinian Christians, but we won’t be silenced.  We have hope in the Risen Savior”. I heard the same words again on Palm Sunday, the EAPPI Handover Service (between Team 82 and my team), and Holy Thursday. I have heard these words proclaimed at Mass several times, but never did they have a similar impact on me as they do now. These words struck me deeply when a young woman speaking to the Church leadership and the faithful gathered at Bethpage at the start of the Catholic (Western Churches’) Holy Week. She said, “If they keep silent, the living stones will shout out, the living stones will speak…. We are the living stones; we shall speak for us and for Palestine, we shall uphold our faith, and we shall speak for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. We want you (Church) to include us.”

On Palm Sunday, as thousands of worshippers processed down the hill waving palm and tree branches, national flags, and singing “Hosanna,” occasional groups broke into dance and shouts of jubilation. I kept thinking of the many Palestinian Christians who had wanted to enter Jerusalem that day to celebrate this special day in their faith tradition. They could not because the Israeli authorities denied their permits to enter Jerusalem. I watched as flags from different countries of Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia waved above heads, pilgrim groups’ flags, scarves, etc., contributing to the colorful procession. BUT not a single Palestinian flag, scarf, or lapel pin bearing the Palestinian flag colors. They had been ordered not to bring their flags or even wear a scarf or a lapel pin with their flag colors. Should one be found to break this order, the procession would be stopped. Israeli authorities usually apply collective punishment. When a single Palestinian violates a law, the punishment extends to their family and sometimes the whole village. One example is a parent or a sibling related to anyone in jail will be denied entry into Jerusalem. Another example is from the Jenin refugee camp, where after a young man from a nearby village attacked people in Tel Aviv, the Israeli military went on raids in the camp.

With all the joy and jubilation around me, I felt sad. I kept hearing the words, “if they are silent, the living stones will shout out.” Indeed, at this Palm Sunday procession, the living stones were shouting out. And when at an entrance to the Old City, New Gate, the police officers started blocking the scout procession to St. Savior Church, the faithful stood their ground. They would not let the police change the route because this might set a precedent.

Israel not only denies the Palestinians access to fundamental human rights but also the right to self-determination. For this, Israel has received a lot of condemnation from the international community, but nothing has changed.

Jerusalem is claimed by three Abrahamic faith traditions (Christians, Jews, Muslims) as their inheritance and hence their holy city. The Christian faith has two large divisions: Eastern and Western Churches, and each starts its liturgical calendars at different times; therefore, Jerusalem ends up with two Holy Weeks for Easter. For Muslims, the schedule for Ramadan is guided by a lunar calendar, and for Jews, the timing of Pesach is somewhat consistent. Every 30 years or so, Easter, Pesach, and Ramadan overlap. The weekend of Friday, April 14 through Sunday, April 17 marked this rare overlap.

Initially, I had assumed that this would be a spectacularly memorable weekend in a positive way but listening to the news, reading social media, and receiving information from our security and field officer, my assumptions and aspirations of a special holy weekend were dashed. It was clear that tensions were high leading into this period. We braced for the worst and prayed for the best. Some Israeli ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers had planned on entering the Al Aqsa compound (Islam’s third holiest site) during Pesach (April 14-22) to perform a ritual animal sacrifice, which is illegal according to the status quo agreements and a provocative act. The Muslim community had vowed to protect their sacred space. On April 14, during the dawn prayers, heavily armed Israeli security officers stormed the Al Aqsa compound chasing away worshippers. The Israeli authorities allowed the afternoon prayers to go on as usual but then disrupted them again the following morning. The Catholic Way of the Cross celebration went on without any harassment from the Israeli security forces, although there were many of them along the path.

The Catholic and the Orthodox Church’s liturgical calendars being different meant that the Orthodox Church was celebrating Palm Sunday when Catholics celebrated Easter Sunday. Both celebrations were taking place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I was designated to monitor access to worship at this site while also participating in the service. However, due to the two groups having their services simultaneously, the church was overcrowded and extremely noisy, so I felt I could not pray. I checked with my fellow accompaniers, and they told me that there were clashes at one of the gates to Al Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif. I decided to join them to monitor the situation.

I had left the chaotic but joyful “noise” at the Holy Sepulcher Church and its safety for the deafening sounds of stun/sound and lights bombs, gunshots, pushing and shoving, shouting, screaming, and ambulance sirens. Instead of celebrating Easter, new life, and the resurrection with joy, reverence, and jubilation, I was amid violence, pain, anger, and frustration. Several injured people were brought out on stretchers to the Red Crescent ambulances. Was this the reason why Jesus had cried when he entered Jerusalem? As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes (Luke 19:41-42).

When we sensed the clashes escalating, we moved away and returned later and stood at a safe distance, and when that space got unsafe, we moved again. While the Palestinian Muslims were being denied entry to Al Aqsa/Haram al-Sharif, my companions who went to monitor access at the site found around 30 or more Israeli Jews walking freely into the same compound. On April 15, more than 150 Palestinian worshippers were injured, and more than 400 others were arrested. This is only a little glimpse of how discriminatory the Israeli authorities are toward the Palestinian people. These words hit me again: “if they are quiet, the stones will cry out.” The Palestinian Muslim community wanted to go to the Mosque to pray, but they were constantly harassed and denied access. The gates are guarded by heavily armed police all the time.

On Holy Fire Saturday, the Orthodox Church’s celebrated day before the Orthodox Easter, brought another awakening of how arbitrarily the Israeli authorities apply their laws against the Palestinian people. Palestinian Christians from the West Bank were denied permits to attend this holy feast. A great majority of Palestinian Christians living in Jerusalem were denied access to the Old City. My teammate and I arrived at the Old City at 7:30 am to make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the celebration of Holy Fire was taking place. We found every alley/street leading to the Christian quarter and the Church barricaded with metal bars and hundreds of police officers. We tried to access the Christian Quarter and Church compound from 7:30 am until 4:00 pm. Although the police brutality was not as pronounced as with the Muslims, there were a few violent beatings and arrests of worshippers trying to go to Church. The Orthodox Christians were trying to go to their holy place to worship in communion with each other. The Christians trying to get to Church and the Muslims trying to get to the Mosques are not criminals. Why do the Israeli security officers use excessive and brutal force to stop them? Why criminalize a people? “If they should be quiet, the stones will speak, will cry out.”

The Holy Fire Day was the only day that my movement in and out of the Old City of Jerusalem was restricted. Why was I so frustrated? The Palestinians go through these horrible experiences every day. They can’t move freely in their own land, and they can’t access their places of worship, education, medical care, work, etc., without permits. Reflecting on this experience brought tears to my eyes, not because of my own frustrations but the heightened awareness that this was the “normal” life for the Palestinians under the occupation. How can this inhumane living be normal? Talking with a teammate who had previously tried hard not to get angry or sad about the Palestinian situation, she acknowledged that Holy Fire Saturday experience had put her over the edge. She felt anger, despair, and sadness. Experiencing the restrictions and violence against us made the reality hit home. It is one thing to be in solidarity, empathize with another person, and have a different reality when one experiences those things, not by choice. One cannot adequately understand or feel the pain of another person. You can only feel your own. On this day, when we were denied access to worship and a police officer pushed me, I felt very sad. If this is repeatedly happening, how will I shield myself from being sensitized into accepting it as “normal” life under occupation?


Are you the stone being called to cry out, shout out the injustice
the Palestinians are suffering under the occupation laws?
Are you willing to speak to the forces that give Israel such liberty and power to oppress a people?


Susan Nchubiri is serving with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) as an Ecumenical Accompanier. Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the WCC. If you would like to learn more about the EAPPI program, please visit their website.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Prayers4Peace: Small Things with Great Love

Small Things with Great Love
By David Hindman

“Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place.” (Hebrews 13:3)

“I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me… I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 25:36b, 40)

In 2006 and 2009, when I was the United Methodist campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, I was privileged to spend time with Daoud Nassar and his family at Tent of Nations outside Bethlehem in the occupied Palestinian territories. We planted trees and heard stories of their faithful and resilient efforts to embody Christ’s ministry in the place where Christ was born. Their 100-acre farm has been in the family’s possession for more than a century but is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements; from those settlements and other Israelis, they have experienced constant harassment. Although they have documents proving their ownership of the land, Daoud and his family have been embroiled in legal wrangling with Israeli officials for more than 30 years. Despite these hurdles, occasional acts of vandalism and intimidation, and frustrations, this Christian family continues to live by the motto, “We refuse to be enemies.”

Some years after my experiences, David Benedict, a fellow retired clergy and member of Williamsburg United Methodist Church, also visited and worked at Tent of Nations; currently, he serves on the Advisory Board for Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA). Thanks to organizations like CMEP (Williamsburg UMC is a Partner Congregation), FOTONNA, and other allies, we were distressed to learn that earlier this year, a group of 15 masked men came onto the Tent of Nations property and severely beat Daoud and his older brother, leading them both to be hospitalized. We felt disheartened by this news, coming as it did after yet another delay in the legal process of finalizing registration of their ownership and last summer’s destruction of more than 1000 trees by Israelis. David and I wondered if some of the destroyed trees had been planted during our visits.  What could we do to communicate our care and concern and bear witness that the Nassars were neither forgotten nor abandoned? With the above scriptures in mind, we invited members of Williamsburg UMC to send messages of care, concern, encouragement, and hope. On two Sundays during Lent, we provided cards with messages of hope at a table in a high traffic area of our facilities. We encouraged members to sign their names and offer positive and faithful messages to the Nassars. We could not travel to the farm physically, but we could be with them spiritually in this simple but essential way. This action sparked many conversations as nearly 100 members of the congregation offered their prayers and affirmations. True, the Nassars are not literally prisoners in jail; but we imagine they may feel stuck every time their way forward is barred. They are being mistreated in unnecessary and unjust ways while they do so much to be faithful in their commitment to peace with justice for all; our efforts seem small. We hope and pray that “while we cannot all do great things, we can all do small things with great love” (St. Teresa of Calcutta).


A prayer in the words of Graham Kendrick:

Until your justice, Burns brightly again
Until the nations, Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation, And bring you their praise.

God of the poor, Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts, Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love, From a spark to a flame.”


  David Hindman is a retired United Methodist clergyperson living in Williamsburg, VA. To learn more about Williamsburg UMC, visit their website.


Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

1 2 3 22