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.
Already, this year has been filled with conflict, death, despair, and destruction. Memphis, Moon Bay, Jerusalem, Jenin, Ukraine, Armenia, Brazil, and on and on. May the words of Psalms 36:5-11 remind us of God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, abundance, life, and light.
Liturgy of the Palms: Matthew 21:1-11 🌿 Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a 🌿 Psalm 31:9-16 🌿 Philippians 2:5-11 🌿 Matthew 26:14-27:66
Palm Sunday continues to be one of the most sacred days leading to Easter – especially in Jerusalem. Crowds start their procession on the top of the Mount of Olives. The sacred city of peace can be seen in the distance, with the golden Dome of the Rock glistening in the sun. The world’s holiest city to the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – Palm Sunday exists as one of the holy days observed in Christianity.
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Written about in the Gospels, we are told that if the people did not cry out to worship Him, even the stones would cry out (Luke 19:40). Words often sung on Palm Sunday include: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)
A Palm Sunday hymn that has been sung for 14 centuries to commemorate Palm Sunday is “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” by Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans. Theodulf spent the last two years of his life imprisoned for treason against the King of France, and thus his declaration of Christ as the “Redeemer King” remains all the more bold.
During medieval times, and we can imagine later celebrating Palm Sunday in Jerusalem during the Crusades, this hymn was used as the procession where priests and people would gather outside of city walls and march toward the gates. Much like Palm Sunday is celebrated today, people waved branches and flowers, singing the words “All glory, laud, and honor.” During medieval times the procession would follow a living representation of Jesus seated on a donkey; then, before the gates were opened, a children’s choir would sign in Latin the refrain – echoed by the crowd. At the completion of the procession, the group would enter the cathedral for mass. On this Palm Sunday, sing or read through this historic hymn as a prayer of praise.
During election season, if you turn on your TV or flip through your mail, you will often be greeted through a commercial or a campaign mailer with the message “Washington is broken.” Capitol Hill, specifically Congress, is not often viewed as a place where good things happen. After living in DC for almost a decade, I admit to being annoyed by the often-flippant caricature of a city that is more vibrant than outside politicians would lead us to believe. I cannot dispute that Congress is a challenge to navigate, especially for those of us seeking an end to the occupation and a future in Israel/Palestine where all people can flourish. If I’m being honest, I sometimes wonder if there is any point in trying to move Congress. Even the positive steps seem too little, too late.
1 Samuel 16:1-13 🌿 Psalms 23 🌿 Ephesians 5:8-14 🌿 John 9:1-41
Select a Scripture passage to reflect on
Read the passage, preferably out loud, two or three times
Meditate on a word or phrase that stood out to you as you read; Perhaps it caused you to ask a question or wonder about something.
Respond to God who has been speaking to you
Settle yourself and rest in the presence of God as you prepare to go about the remainder of your day.
It can be a very enlightening experience to engage in this practice with others, as no two people will have exactly the same experience or insights from their time reflecting on the same scripture passage.
The Romans text for today acknowledges experiences we will all have at one time or another in our earthly life. While we’ve been justified by faith, and know peace with God, we will still learn much through suffering, trials, and tension. We must choose to be peacemakers and live in hope of the realization of God’s perfect peace.
In the Romans passage, we hear of Abraham’s being saved by faith, not by works. In John, we witness a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. In both passages, the prevenient grace of God is on display as a testament to God’s initiation of a relationship with us – drawing humanity to Godself and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. All were set in motion before we were even aware of our need for salvation and reconciliation with God.
At first glance, the promise of “perfect peace” sounds like a hoax. In this world? Perfect peace? Perfect peace?
The doubling of the word “Shalom” (peace)– often translated as “perfect peace”– reminds me of other repetitions of that word: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
Peace is a dirty word among many invested activists and marginalized people. “Peace” is the palatable, respectable, non-controversial sibling of edgy, angry, upturning justice. “Peace” is often co-opted to support status quo injustice, a human peace that does not and cannot last.
The Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) reaches more than 100,000 people each year in seven countries—Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Artsakh, and Georgia. Leadership and staff are 100 percent local and unite across Apostolic, Catholic, and Evangelical traditions to share God’s love with the most vulnerable. JMP brings relief in crisis and works to upend the roots of poverty and build up families, businesses, health, and faith.
Armenian peoples have lived throughout Asia Minor for thousands of years, with a distinctly Christian faith since 300 C.E. Our history is characterized by periods of conflict and peace, occupation and independence, persecution, and resilient recovery. In the late 19th century and during World War I, millions were massacred in our homeland and displaced throughout the Middle East and worldwide.
Vartan Jinishian was born in 1870 in Marash, Turkey, the oldest son of the Reverend Haroutune Jinishian and Mrs. Catherine Jinishian. They emigrated to the United States, and he amassed a great fortune. But he saw the need of the Armenian people in Beirut and Aleppo and realized he could do something about it. As his final legacy, Vartan Jinishian established an endowment fund in honor of his parents to save the lives of generations to come.
Jinishian’s plan displayed a spirit of unity and reconciliation uncommon for his time. The Jinishian Memorial Program began meeting the needs of the post-genocide Armenian population throughout the Middle East in the 1960s by forging unique ecumenical, local partnerships of completely indigenous teams. Beyond the scope of the previous post-war relief efforts, JMP sought long-term solutions for restoring dignity to Armenian communities.
In Jerusalem and Istanbul today, JMP is a vital thread in the fabric of support to these Christian minorities and remains committed to uplifting Armenians so they may continue to live in their homeland in peace. Programs in Syria, Lebanon, and Armenia help those in greatest need without discrimination. And in every city where we serve, JMP is advised by an ecumenical Armenian board.
The last will and testament of Vartan Jinishian named the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as the recipient of the bulk of his estate to carry out this work. This partnership remains possible because of a shared ecumenical vision and mission, which is evidenced by our diverse donors today. They include descendants of genocide survivors, diverse American Christians, and Presbyterian and ethnic Armenian churches alike. The PCUSA is a member communion and one of the founding organizations of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).
After the genocide, the fledgling republic of Armenia fell under communist rule for most of the 20th century, followed by harsh and hungry years of early independence in the 1990s. Young Armenians today represent the first generation to grow up after Soviet rule. Against many odds, they are reclaiming their Christian heritage.
Since independence in Armenia, JMP has been a leading nonprofit bringing economic, social, and faith-based revitalization. Our core mission includes building up next-generation leaders who are guided by compassion, ingenuity, and hope in order to reverse generational poverty. Projects are designed to promote long-term, sustainable change so people can earn a decent living, grow healthy families, and help their communities thrive. In response to the war in the fall of 2020, Jinishian swiftly expanded its programs to include medication and rehabilitation for wounded soldiers and humanitarian relief for displaced families.
My colleagues in Syria remember their grandparents’ faith and courage when they arrived from death marches as orphans. They also remember days of prosperity, peace, and diversity before the violence that erupted in 2011. International JMP support and solidarity brings them hope that they are not abandoned as they continue to care for a vulnerable Christian minority. We meet basic survival needs and run health programs serving all ages while providing a community of encouragement and long-term empowerment.
As this nation suffers a deep political, economic, and humanitarian crisis, JMP is unwavering in our support. Families are more vulnerable to illness, homelessness, broken relationships, and broken spirits. We give them tools to find jobs, improve their relationships, and stay together. Programs prevent school dropouts and child labor by supporting vocational education. As a Christian outreach, local mission staff also offer hope and give comfort, encouraging trust in God and perseverance when adversity strikes. JMP is unique among nonprofits in the Armenian community, consistently providing medication for chronic illness, medical counseling, preventive education, and spiritual encouragement.
WE PRAY God, we choose to trust you and not succumb to fear. When violence stokes anxiety that ethnic and religious atrocities are happening again, give us courage and a spirit of reconciliation. Protect innocent lives, and grant freedom for Christians to be a light in their homeland. Give the Jinishian Memorial Program wisdom, resources, and holy imagination to rebuild the hope and the future of your people.
LEADERSHIP: Eliza Minasyan, Executive Director
Ms. Eliza Minasyan of Yerevan, Armenia, became Executive Director of the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) in 2011. She serves the Jinishian office New York, NY, after having served the previous five years as the Executive Director of the Jinishian Memorial program in Yerevan, Armenia.
Ms. Eliza Minasyan has extensive experience building ecumenical relationships and networking with international and local organizations. She also worked as a coordinator for Planning, Evaluation and Training for Central and Eastern Europe of Heifer International USA and consultant at the Yerevan- based Business Support Center. Visit our website at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/world-mission/jinishian/.
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).
I know that truth is very difficult to see in our land. Though here, in our land, Jesus said: “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6). Here also, he said to Pilate: I came “to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18: 37). Yet, much of the powerful of the world today, concerning justice and peace in the Holy Land, are still repeating the same ironic answer of Pilate: what is the truth? (Jn 18:38). As Pilate of the past, the Pilates of today, make the truth as they want, according to their own interests. And so doing, those who are oppressed remain oppressed.
Fr Drew spoke for the truth. Many followed his guidance. Others kept going in their indifference, in the way of Pilate, sure that there is no truth in wars, especially when war is in the Holy Land.
The conflict in the Holy Land today, and its solution, is simple and clear for those who want to see the truth: the two peoples of the Land, Palestinians, and Israelis, are equal in rights and duties and must have the same freedom and same political status.
In the Holy Land, Israel today is strong and the decision-maker for peace or war. For that, it needs real friends who have the courage to tell Israel the truth and say when it is wrong and right. Resolutions are already taken by the United Nations to put an end to the conflict. What is needed is a Church or a world power that tells the truth to the friend Israel, who says to Israel and USA: put in execution the UN resolutions already taken, have the courage to make justice, peace, and equality, in the land made holy by God.
Can the Church of the United States be this real and courageous friend who helps both Israelis and Palestinians for reconciliation?
I wish this memory of Fr Drew will move the waters and bring true action for reconciliation in the Holy Land so that the Land made holy by God will be brought back to its holiness and be the land of life and Redemption for its peoples.
Jerusalem is the city of reconciliation, but it is itself still in search of reconciliation. Jerusalem needs your action, you and many others, to help find truth and reconciliation, where Jesus said: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Pray and act.
H.B. Msgr. Michel Sabbah is Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem. He was the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1987 to 2008, the first non-Italian to hold this position in more than five centuries. He was born in Nazareth, studied at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jala, and was ordained in Nazareth in 1955. He received his doctorate in Arab philology from the Sorbonne. During his priesthood, he served in parishes in the diocese, as the diocesan youth director and the director of education, and as the President of Bethlehem University. Among his many publications is Faithful Witness: On Reconciliation and Peace in the Holy Land (Hyde Park, NY, 2009), edited by Drew Christiansen, S. J. and Saliba Sarsar.
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).