The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is a council of church bodies throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. In some ways, it’s like an extended family gathering. In fact, the MECC is organized around four families of churches – Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical/Protestant. Together, these churches are working to support each other and build bridges between people and groups in the Middle East.
MECC was founded in 1974 as a collaboration between the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant churches of the region. The Catholic church joined in 1990 as a fourth tradition on the council. Each of these four “ecclesial families” is represented by a president and members on MECC’s executive committee. Working as an ecumenical group is not always easy, and building a consensus among the different churches can be a long process. But the result is that MECC can offer powerful statements that carry the weight of their shared deliberation. Fr. Michel Jalakh is Secretary General of the Council, with the headquarters located in Beirut, Lebanon.
In the season of Advent, the Christian community around the world anticipates with great expectation the birth of Christ. Yes, Christ came 2,000 years ago, but we observe his birth today to remember there are still areas of the world where it feels as though he has not yet come. There is still so much pain, suffering, and loss. It is easy to see the challenges and brokenness in the Holy Land, particularly the situation of Christians in the broader Middle East, as those types of places.
This Advent – as we observe a time of waiting and wondering in a world filled with very real pain, suffering, and loss – we invite you to Choose Hope. While optimism falters in the face of these realities, we know Christmas will arrive and Emmanuel, God with us, will be born. We Choose Hope not because we ignore the realities of pain and conflict, but because we know that Emmanuel walks with us as we do the work of peace and justice God has called all of us to do. Read more
by Churches for Middle East Peace
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
As we enter into the third week of the Advent season, we light the candle of peace.
Peace for men, women, and children around the world who are living in desperate circumstances. Peace in the hearts and minds of those who are hurting and suffering pain and deep loss. Peace in the midst of an ongoing occupation and in a region wrought with great conflict. Peace in a region where fear often seems to prevail.
This week, may we intentionally entering into the spirit of Advent by committing to pray for peace.
This past week, I had the privilege of hearing a devotional led by Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr. He spoke to our group of Christian leaders about the spiritual practice of “Enduring the Darkness.” His message challenged his listeners to develop a theology of darkness; a study of the nature of how the divine interacts with His creation in the midst of darkness, violence, emptiness, and challenging times. The main point I took away from Father Rohr’s message was that faith not only teaches us, but requires us to learn how to live in the midst of the darkness. As Christians, we must better learn how to ENDURE THE DARKNESS. Read more
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The Christmas season is full of light – sparkling lights on the Christmas tree; houses in the neighborhood decorated with lights for the coming holiday; candles flickering on the mantle; a fire in the fireplace representing warmth, comfort, and hope. These are the images of light we will hold onto this Advent season.
And we hold these images as hope not only for our own lives; but for the lives of those suffering in Palestine, Israel, the Middle East, and around the world. We remember in our prayers this week:
- The men, women, and children who are living in Gaza; often with only a few hours of electricity per day.
- The 60,000 internally displaced persons in Gaza still waiting for a durable housing solution since the destruction of their homes during the 2014 Gaza War.
- The families affected by the 155 demolitions or confiscations of Palestinian owned structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during September and October 2016.
- Those affected by the terrible fires throughout Israel and the West Bank that destroyed hundreds of homes, displacing tens of thousands.
In him was life, and that life was the light of the people.
The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)
Advent is a season of waiting. The anticipation of things to come. The desperate hope that the darkness of the world is not the end of the story; but one day light will prevail.
For those invested and paying attention to the political realities of the Middle East, often darkness seems to rule the day. There is much darkness to lament ~
The darkness of the Syrian conflict that has raged for more than half a decade and has resulted in the displacement and death of millions…
The darkness of the genocide of Christians and minority groups such as the Yazidis in Iraq and surrounding nations at the hands of Islamic extremists and other militant groups …
by Mae Elise Cannon, World Vision
Advent is the season of hope. Hope in eager anticipation; waiting to celebrate the incarnation of God manifested in human form through the birth of Jesus. Hope in present circumstances; the small moments of heavenly triumph where the kingdom of God breaks forth into the dark realities of this world. Hope in the future; as we wait for the redemption of the world and the second coming of Christ Jesus. We hope for what is yet to come.
As we enter into this season of hope, we are reminded to celebrate, worship, and rejoice. The Psalmist speaks forth these words: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad.” All of creation will cry out, singing for joy, recognizing the saving power of Jesus, for he does not leave us abandoned in our earthly circumstances, but He comes. He dwells with us. He judges in righteousness. He redeems. He is the manifestation of hope. Read more