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.
Christian Palestinians speak in this amazing resource responding to the question “Is Peace Possible?”
The new book “Is Peace Possible in the Holy Land?” reveals Holy Land Christians’ struggle for survival amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Written by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land’s Justice and Peace Commission, this book contains a compelling collection of articles and declarations from the Catholic Church in Jerusalem.
Including a pastoral letter from the former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, chapters provide an in-depth, first-hand, authoritative understanding of the identity of Holy Land Christians. In addition, Is Peace Possible? includes numerous perspectives on the Israel/Palestine conflict emerging from the Christian community. The book serves as an excellent resource for background information for those making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
For example, Christians in the region, are called the “living stones” of the Holy Land as their communities date back to the time of Christ. Historically, Christians – predominately Arab Palestinians – made up 18-percent of the overall population. Today, they constitute less than two percent.
The first chapters serve as a backdrop to position papers, formulated by the Commission, that deal with various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These position papers were written to help the Church promote justice and peace in the region as an integral part of her mission.
Palestinian Christians confront difficult political situations on a daily basis. At the same time, they strive to promote dialogue and reconciliation and nourish the faith, that peace might blossom for generations of future Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Israelis, and Palestinians.
This book is not for the faint-hearted. It paints an unsettling and frequently disturbing portrait of the life, trials, and systematic persecutions of the Christian Palestinians in the Holy Land. “Finally,” wrote one reviewer, “authoritative answers for those who have wondered where the Church stands on the situation in the Holy Land and its’ Christians!”
To read this powerful resource online, visit CMEP’s website here. The physical book is available at Amazon.com or at your local retailer. The U.S. editor and CMEP Catholic Advisory Council chair, Sir Jeffery Abood, can be reached at email@example.com.
A Franciscan Blessing
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen.
We hope you will join us for a webinar about this important resource on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at 11:00 am EST. Facilitated by Julie Schumacher Cohen, former Deputy Director of Churches for Middle East Peace and member of the CMEP Catholic Advisory Council, and including representatives from The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and Palestinian Christians. Find out more and register here.
There are times when things that may seem opposite are really two sides of the same coin. Dichotomies surround us – light vs. darkness, us vs. them, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, justice vs. injustice. However, the observation can be made that without the concept of light there would be no concept of darkness, without war there would be no understanding of peace, and so on. These sets of understanding are often used in divisive ways rather than bonding.
Dooley Noted, a recently published book, written by Ken Dooley, chronicles “tales of an ordinary man fortunate enough to meet a lot of extraordinary people in his lifetime.” The excerpt below highlights the work of two men who may be painted into a particular “set” but even so, their work is toward a just peace, and where there is division they provide examples of agreement, connection, and unity.
When faced with division, may we seek unity.
In the face of darkness, may we be light.
In times of desperation, may we bring calm.
Where there is scrutiny, misunderstanding, and fear, may we bring contemplation, understanding, and courage.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), Executive Director
The present violence in Israel/Palestine is the predictable result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories, significant military advantage, and its willingness to tolerate relatively little damage for the sake of preserving the status quo of occupation. Until the violence escalates, as it has in recent days, the world pays little attention despite taking place in land considered sacred by the three Abrahamic traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In May, Jewish settlers, who have long used Israeli domestic laws to forcibly transfer Palestinians from their neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, pushed to climax a court order to evict 58 Sheikh Jarrah residents, including 17 children, from their homes on the basis that the land under their apartments had been owned by a Jewish benevolent trust in the 19th century.
These Jewish settlers have no family connection to that trust, but Israeli law allows them to become trustees and then “re-claim” land that had been owned by Jews in East Jerusalem at any time before 1948. This and many other Israeli laws allow Jewish Israelis to displace Palestinians—or demolish their dwellings as prelude to expulsion—within Jerusalem and across Green Line Israel. The systemic dispossession of Palestinians in East Jerusalem today is carried out under major one-way Israeli domestic laws enacted as early as Absentee Property law of 1950 (long before the 1967 war) and as recently as 2017 (the “Kamenitz laws”). However, there are no Israeli laws that allow Palestinians to return to lands they were displaced from either in 1948 or since 1967. Similar “legal” transfers of Palestinians’ land are happening elsewhere in Jerusalem, notably in two areas of Silwan. Israeli settlement policies are another example of ways Israeli laws are biased against Palestinians.
As the May 1 court decision to finally implement the eviction transfer approached, there were demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah by Palestinian residents and their Israeli and international allies. Peaceful demonstrations were increasingly attacked with violence by both Israeli police and Israeli ultranationalists. Omer Cassif, Israeli Knesset member, was beaten twice by police, becoming front-page news in Israel. Israeli police and ultranationalist violence increased in Sheikh Jarrah after violence around the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif. Ramadam is the holiest time of year for Muslims, making dear worship at Islam’s third holiest site. Jerusalem Day celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, allegedly reunifying it. Ramadan and Jerusalem Day’s alignment this year were two ingredients in this recipe for disaster. Palestinians responded with increased demonstrations in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and across Green Line Israel. The combination of all of these factors exploded.
The recent flare up included stun grenades thrown by Israeli police into al-Aqsa mosque during prayers, Hamas threatening and then firing rockets in response to events in Sheikh Jarrah and on the Temple Mount, and Israeli ultranationalist provocations, were all proximate causes of the present explosion of fighting gripping the news. But this is only the latest round of violence that has regularly escalated every couple of years for more than a decade. The only differences this time are the increased destructiveness of Hamas missiles and Israeli airstrikes; and the advent of fighting within Green Line Israel between Jewish and Palestinian Israeli proteseters.
A shared Jerusalem has long been the stated goal of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, whether in a Jerusalem exclusively under Israeli control, or in a Jerusalem as capital to an Israeli state and a Palestinian state. However, Israeli policy, from the various discriminatory laws aimed at displacement of Palestinians, to the military occupation of the West Bank and police occupation of East Jerusalem and Hamas’ rockets, are just some of the ways the ongoing conflict continues to threaten a shared Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is shared by three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but Israeli policies make it less and less shared each day by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israel’s “legal” discrimination and displacement efforts at Jewish supremacy in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and inside Green Line Israel instead produce religious fanaticism among Israelis and Palestinians alike, a systemic threat to the security, even the very lives, of Palestinians and Israelis alike.
To break this cycle of violence, Israel must end the occupation and its enduring legal oppression. Israel’s government has presented the occupation as temporary, but it has lasted more than 50 years. The Interim Transition in the various Oslo Accords is still interim more than 20 years later, and there has been no positive improvement over the past decade or more.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should condemn the underlying causes of these threats to peace: occupation, land dispossession, and more. As as an evangelical pastor and the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), I call on the UNSC, including the United States government, to take strong and decisive action to maintain peace in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and to protect all of God’s children, Israeli and Palestinian alike. The “legal” forcible transfer of Palestinians in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and inside Green Line Israel must end.
Such UNSC action requires diving into long-term Israeli practices, not just the violence of the day. The dispossession of the families in Sheikh Jarrah at issue now, for example, is the end result sought by Israeli settlers in a lawsuit they filed in 1974 to dispossess Palestinian owners and residents from the buildings. Similar displacements, leading to Israeli settlers moving in after the forced transfers, have taken place in East Jerusalem often over the past two decades, 385 Palestinians displaced in 2020 alone.
If actions against sharing Jerusalem continue, the Holy City will continue sliding from light on the hill to a lit series of firecrackers, with the only questions being the length of time between explosions and their intensity. The Holy Land will continue experiencing an unholy maintenance of occupation by force, only limited by violent interventions. The Security Council must go beyond managing violence, to opposing root causes of violence in order to build lasting peace.
[Facilitators/Convenors: G.J. Tarazi, Leslie Withers, and Allison Tanner]
Allison Tanner is a CMEP board member on behalf of the Alliance of Baptists.
The Alliance of Baptists has a proud history of pursuing justice, affirming God’s inclusive kin-dom and equipping the church to follow in the way of Jesus. In response to Palestinian Christian siblings both within our communities and in the Holy Land, we have spent the past decade learning how we can live out these commitments in response to those longing for justice and beseeching us to work with God for their liberation. In 2013, in response to Kairos Palestine and internal organizing, the Alliance made this public commitment, “The Board of the Alliance recognizes the critical need to work for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel. The Board blesses and endorses the work of the Justice in Palestine and Israel Community.”
Our Justice in Palestine and Israel Community (JPI) has led the Alliance in the living out of this commitment through hosting educational events highlighting both the daily and multi-generational injustices Palestinians endure; equipping our membership to advocate for justice in U.S. policies and international accountability to Israel’s human right’s abuses including, but not limited to, displacement of Palestinian communities, increased settlement expansion, and ongoing military occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza; and engaging with mission partners in the work of hope and healing. Because we believe deeply in the importance of following the leadership of those directly impacted by injustice, we have focused our work on responding to the pleas of Palestinian Christians voiced in Kairos Palestine, their epistle to the international Church, follow up letters such as Cry of Hope, a Call for Decisive Action and participating in Global Kairos for Justice.
In addition to economic boycott and divestment, we acknowledge the political and cultural power of Christian Zionism in intensifying the oppression of Palestinians. As Christians, we have an obligation to challenge evils being done in the name of Jesus and disrupt theologies of death and destruction. In following Jesus’ example, we want to be clear that we believe in a God of justice, freedom, and inclusion and we must decry ways in which religious leaders co-opt religion for purposes of power and greed. A few months ago, the Alliance committed to Confront Christian Zionism in our congregations and in the halls of congress. We are grateful for our Jewish siblings who have led the way in confronting the misuse of their faith in ways that oppress others and insisting that true religion demands we disrupt all manifestations of evil, both within and beyond our religious networks.
Our partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has been helpful in engaging in advocacy in the halls of congress and education in the church pews. As we continue to partner together, we covet your prayers in the work we are doing. We ask prayers for clarity in heeding the calls of or Palestinian siblings, courage to act according to our deepest commitments, and confidence in the face of misinformation and malicious attempts to silence the liberative work of God. Below is a prayer that we’ve been praying for the past year – we invite you to pray with us:
A Prayer for Palestine
God of Life and Love and Liberation
We pray for all who are living with death and devastation and destruction
We pray for Gaza and all the lives lost, communities destroyed, and families living in fear
We pray for East Jerusalem, for those who endure settler attacks,
home evictions and constant humiliation
We pray for people of the West Bank, ‘48, Refugee Camps and the Diaspora,
all who are longing for freedom, justice, and equality.
We pray for Israelis who are outraged by what is happening at the hands of their government.
We pray for all who are working for a just peace in the land we call holy.
May your life-giving spirit blow through war-torn lands and places of death to birth new life. Amen.
The Justice in Palestine and Israel Community seeks to follow the model of the First Century Jesus by “speaking truth to power” in 21st Century Palestine and Israel. The pursuit of justice is based on building meaningful relationships between and among all people, using the definition given to us by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” This community works for justice in Palestine and Israel by raising awareness about the current situation there, sponsoring trips/pilgrimages to the Holy Land, networking with other like-minded faith-based groups, and advocating the pursuit of justice with elected policymakers. We believe that if justice exists, peace will be found.
Dr. Peter Makari, Executive, Middle East and Europe
Dr. Makari is a CMEP board member on behalf of Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ.
In her recent book, The Vanished: Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets, journalist Janine di Giovanni writes of her encounters with Middle Eastern Christians in Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and Egypt. Her conversations led her to lament the disappearance of the Christian communities in those places, characterizing her writing by saying, “it grew into a book about how people pray to survive their own most turbulent times.” In her introduction, di Giovanni remarks, “I traveled to these places to try to record for history people whose villages, cultures, and ethos would perhaps not be standing in one hundred years’ time.” The emigration of Christians (and others) from the Middle East is a reality that cannot be denied, but Christian presence in the Middle East, with all its diversity and diverse circumstances, cannot simply be reduced to impending extinction. There is much to admire, and to be inspired by, in the enduring Christian presence across the region.
As we near the precipice of 2021 turning to 2022 perhaps you are examining the past year (or two, they seem to blend together somehow). Perhaps you choose to skip that part to look ahead and focus energies on the possibilities a new year holds. Dates on the calendar are yet to be scheduled and defined. A sense of hope-filled anticipation is practically palpable.
Today, I sit with music playing softly in the background, a cozy blanket around me, and the gentle flicker of a candle beside me. I am transfixed, observing the snow outside my window. Each flake, we’re taught, is unique. How many of these unique flakes are in a small handful of snow? Formed by water vapor, particles, and freezing temperatures. What a wonderous thing.
These flakes eventually melt, water the earth, and the water cycle continues. This water is the same water that has always existed on earth. Water is strong enough to cut through rock and gentle enough to cleanse. Life requires it to be sustained. This water has seen many lives – through storms, bubbling creeks, teardrops, snowflakes, and baptismal waters.
For those who follow Christ, baptism is both an ending and starting point, it is about death to old identities and solidarities, and rebirth into hope, promise, and abundant life for all. As we follow God we are to bless the world, serve the vulnerable, hungry, sick, and frightened. Emerging from the water we are to roll on like a river of blessing, bringing peace to the warring and healing to the nations. Water is not meant to stop at any boundary, but to continue to pour over the dikes and levees that some would build to keep God’s work within bounds.
I pray that as you continue your day you might take a lingering look at the water around you, a cupful, a snowball, a water fountain, a cloud above and remember our place in the world is much like the boundless yet unique and fleeting life of snow. May we release the past year knowing that God is above all and constantly working in the world even as we may not perceive it.
May each of us give thanks for what has been and what may be with a resolve to seek faithfulness over perfection, love over fear, kairos over chronos, peacemaking over conflict or apathy. Now, take a big gulp of water as you prepare to greet the new year.
Written by Rev. Aune M. Carlson, Director of Operations for CMEP
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all people (Luke 2:14).
Christmas has arrived! The hope of the living Messiah has come. Today, of all days, may we not be discouraged by the realities of this earthly world. Problems, conflict, and war continue to exist throughout the Middle East, but the good news remains – war does not have the final word. Rather today, we hold onto the hope of all the things the birth of Christ represents.
As we read the Gospel stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood, we find King Herod learning from the Magi that the promised one, born king of the Jews, had been born (Matthew 2:1-6). The announcement of the long-awaited’s birth was not joyous news to this earthly king. On the contrary, the advent of this young child posed a significant threat to Herod’s power and position and led him to terrible pronouncements that altered a generation. Herod’s fear manifested in his order that all boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity, two years old and under, be killed (Matthew 2:16).
When faced with the fear of losing their power and comfort, leaders and the privileged often lose sight of the broader picture. This was true in ancient times, as it remains true today in current politics, business, kingdoms, nations, neighborhoods, and even our faith communities. The “us and them” mentality presents a false dichotomy. There is only “us” – all of God’s children – a grand reality that those with wealth and influence still belong to those who are vulnerable, underserved, without voice or platform.
Isn’t technology marvelous? Computers used to take up the space of entire rooms; now, many carry what are essentially tiny transistors that are faster, with more memory, and include high definition cameras in our pockets and purses! Our smartphones connect us to others by phone, through social media, and we’re only a search away from being able to find answers to countless questions. This connectedness provides us with much information, misinformation, knowledge, and opinions. The news seems to find us these days rather than needing to walk to the postbox for a paper copy.
The pervasiveness of information and interaction can lead us to believe that we’re more connected to one another now than ever before; however, we are also more susceptible to find ourselves in silos of like-thinkers, separating “us” from “them.” These dividing lines previously crossed by coffee shop conversations, attending family gatherings, or around the water cooler at work have taken hold. Society loves dichotomies, consider these categories: right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, scarcity vs. abundance, dark vs. light, evil vs. goodness, sinful vs. righteous. More often than not, we put ourselves in the “good” or “right” category, simultaneously placing those who aren’t sure they agree or who certainly do disagree in the “other” camp. The gap fills with distance, darkness, vilification, distrust, and fear as the separation wall’s cornerstone.
A song, a song high above the trees with a voice as big as the sea…
This year included the voices of many people exclaiming loudly the injustices they experienced and witnessed firsthand. Consider the story of Mohammed El Kurd, who raised his voice to talk about the realities his family suffered from settlers while living in the East Jerusalem of Sheik Jarrah. I wrote about his story in the article “From Child Displaced to International Activist” on the Do Justice blog of the Christian Reformed Church. The world first learned about El Kurd’s story from a Just Vision documentary called “My Neighborhood” featuring Mohammed when he was only eleven years old. At that time, in 2012, Mohammed’s family lost a portion of their home to settlers who moved into one side of his grandmother’s house. By 2021, Mohammed’s story hit international media, where he and his sister once again faced the threat of displacement as a part of the dozens of Palestinians from the neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah being forced out by opposing claims of Jewish settlers. The activism of Mohammed and his sister Muna had such an impact that Time Magazine named them both on the list of 100 Most Influential People of 2021.