Tag: Israel

Prayers4Peace: Calling for Ceasefire

Calling for Ceasefire

By: Jordan Denari Duffner, Member of CMEP’s Catholic Advisory Council; Originally published November 3, 2023.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, I joined dozens of Catholic leaders and peacemakers for a demonstration outside the White House in Washington, DC, to call on President Biden to support a ceasefire in Israel-Palestine, as well as other measures to foster a just peace. I spoke in my capacity as a member of the Catholic Advisory Council of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), which is tasked with helping inform U.S. Catholics about the history and present realities of the Holy Land, and to mobilize our Church to advocate for just policies consonant with our faith. Below are the remarks I delivered, and the video can be found here.

In the coming days and weeks, I will be writing and sharing more about Israel-Palestine here on ‘Digging Our Well.’ If you aren’t already a subscriber, you can sign up for free. I hope you too will share your thoughts, reflections, and prayers in the comment section below.

A girl looks on as she stands outside a building that was hit by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP.

Some members of the CMEP Catholic Advisory Council outside the White House. Left to right: Michele Dunn of Franciscan Action Network; Julie Schumacher Cohen of Scranton University; Susanna Nchubiri of the Maryknoll Sisters; Kyle Cristofalo of CMEP; Susan Gunn of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; and me.

Good afternoon. My name is Jordan Denari Duffner, and I’m a member of the Catholic Advisory Council of Churches for Middle East Peace.

Most of us here today are Catholics and other Christians, but we join our voices with Jews and Muslims, and those of other faiths and of no faith, who are calling for an immediate end to violence in Israel-Palestine and for a just peace for all in the land that we call Holy.

For too long, many of us Christians—myself included—have been too quiet, or even silent, on the situation of injustice in Israel-Palestine. Some of us might misperceive events in the Holy Land as a Jewish-Muslim conflict, one that we Christians can simply observe and grieve from a distance.

But this is a mistake. When we take this attitude, we forget that our fellow Christians, most of whom are Palestinian, suffer too. When we take this attitude, we ignore the important interfaith and cross-religious coalitions that are pushing for justice. And, most tragically, when we take this attitude, we abandon the core tenets of our faith, which compel us to advocate on behalf of the dignity and rights of all in Israel-Palestine, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or nationality.

We cannot be silent. This is why we are calling for a ceasefire, for the Israeli military to stop bombing Gaza and to lift the siege, to stop attacking Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere; for Hamas to release all hostages and stop its rocket fire; for humanitarian aid and basic services to be distributed urgently and widely in Gaza; and for the international community to push, in the long run, for a solution that recognizes the full and equal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the Holy Land.

As Christians, we also recommit ourselves to opposing Antisemitism and Islamophobia in all its forms. We know that we have often failed in this regard, both historically and today. Some in our Christian communities, as well as others, have wrongly labeled all Palestinians and Muslims as terrorists, and have wrongly associated all Jews and Israelis with the actions of the Israeli government. Ideas like these are wrong. They are the basis for more violence and they go against the best and the most central tenets of our three Abrahamic faiths.

Tragically, amid the violence abroad, we are seeing more violence here at home. To give but one example, in Chicago, a Catholic man, a landlord, violently murdered his tenant, a six-year-old child, Wadea al-Fayoume, because he was Palestinian and Muslim. We mourn for this sweet boy and his family, along with the thousands of children, woman, and men, who have been killed, brutalized, and traumatized, Not just in recent weeks, but also in the past many decades in the Holy Land.

The situation in Israel-Palestine often leaves me feeling heartbroken and hopeless—a feeling I know is shared by many others. But I am heartened by the solidarity and prophetic witness from so many Muslims, Jews, Christians and others who are standing for what’s right, often at great cost.

I hope President Biden, our fellow Catholics and other Christians, and many more of our elected officials, will hear our call and push for a ceasefire immediately.

Now, we turn to You, our God: 

God of Agape, of Love: Convert our hearts. 

Al-Rahman, God of Compassion: Embrace those who have been killed. 

El-Roi: God Who Sees Us: Help us see clearly, and to see Your face in each person. 

Bless our fractured human family, and have mercy on us. Amen. 

Our makeshift altar adorned with flowers, a textile from the south Hebron hills, crosses, and holy artwork, including Kelly Latimore’s icon of the child Jesus. (That icon, the painting of the Holy Family, and the image of the dove of peace were things I contributed from my home art collection.)

For more on the Pray-In:

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Prayers4Peace: Wednesday Meditation for Advent 2023

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Gospel Contemplation, Wednesday Meditation for Advent 2023
Written by Dr. Benjamin Norquist, CMEP Ambassador Warren Clark Fellow (AWCF)

Readings: 

Hebrews 10:32-38 | Mark 9:33-41

At that time, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way, they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” 

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.”

Mark 9:33-41

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to live in Jesus’ day and to be among his disciples?  Today, I invite you to imagine just that.

The spiritual practice of gospel contemplation is a form of prayer in which you imagine that you are present with Jesus in a story from the Gospels. By envisioning yourself physically in the room with Jesus, the words will be transformed into the language of your heart, and your spirit will be opened more widely to Jesus’ ministry to you today.

Begin by reading the passage from Mark reflectively. Now, read the passage again, then set the text aside, and contemplate the scene: 

  • Jesus has arrived in Capernaum with his disciples, and he asks them a simple question. Knowing that the answer is awkward, the disciples are silent and perhaps embarrassed. Of course, Jesus knows the answer already, but his next comments are not a rebuke so much as kind guidance.
  • As you reflect on the unfolding story, imagine you are there, literally and physically present. You walked with Jesus and his disciples earlier that day, and you have now arrived in the house. Look around the room. What do you see? Hear? Smell? When Jesus asks what the disciples are talking about, he is asking you too. How do you respond?
  • As the experience proceeds, Jesus brings a child into the middle of the room. Where does the child come from? Do you know the child? What is going through your mind as Jesus proceeds to teach you about what it means to be great in His kingdom?
  • Then the topic turns when John asks a new question. As you hear Jesus’ response, does it seem to be a new topic, or is it part of Jesus’ earlier teaching about greatness and humility?
  • These moments in the house with Jesus seem informal and conversational. Do you have a question you want to ask Jesus? What might it be? As the story unfolds, notice details you’ve never seen before.

As with all spiritual practices, the purpose of gospel contemplation is to place yourself into God’s forming hands. With this particular practice, it is not about using your imagination to control or conjure up a scene – but allowing God to use your imagination to speak more deeply to your heart, mind, and spirit about who God is and to see the world by God’s light.


About the Author: Ben is a researcher and public organizer. Inspired by his study of higher education in Palestine, Ben currently works on the ways educational and epistemological structures develop responsively to physical landscapes, especially those that are highly configured and imposed. In his local community, Ben helps churches engage more thoughtfully with Native communities and come to terms with histories of injustice.

Ben holds his Ph.D. in Higher Education from Azusa Pacific University (Los Angeles) and his M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College (Annapolis). Ben’s dissertation is a qualitative project exploring adaptive Palestinian approaches to pedagogy.

In his career in higher education leadership, Ben has experience building international educational partnerships, teaching, and establishing an academic center for applied public research.

Prayers4Peace: Tuesday Meditation for Advent 2023

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Lectio Divina, Tuesday Meditation for Advent 2023
Written by Fayelle Ewuakye, Communications Coordinator

Readings: 

Mark 10:2-12 | Hebrews 4:1-13 

I was introduced to the meditative practice of Lectio Divina a few years ago, and it’s been a great help and inspiration to my spirit ever since. Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading.” The goal is to read through a passage of Scripture three times and commune with the Spirit of the living Christ. Read in the mind and out loud, with careful concentration on the words, pausing at the commas, and breathing after the end of sentences. While this is a beautiful practice any day of the year, please join us in thinking of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East as we go through these steps:

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Prayers4Peace: Monday Meditation for Advent 2023

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Breath Prayer, Monday Meditation for Advent 2023
Written by Rev. Aune Carlson, Senior Director of Operations

Readings:  

Hebrews 3:5-11, 17-19 | Mark 9:42-50; 10:1

Today’s practice is simply known as a breath prayer. The exact words of the prayer are less important than the heart of the one praying the words. The essential elements are to breathe and pray. 

  • Find a quiet place.
  • Determine a simple phrase to pray. Perhaps from today’s Scriptures. Below are examples from Mark 10:1. 

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.”

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Prayers4Peace: Third Sunday of Advent 2023

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In Hope and Grief, Third Sunday of Advent 2023
Written by Destiny Magnett, Programs and Outreach Manager, and Taylor Issa, CMEP Outreach Intern

Readings:  

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 | Psalm 126| 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | John 1:6-8, 19-28

In Palestine/Israel, few things feel certain. In spending time there, one grows accustomed to a life that moves at the speed of the news cycle and days that often feel shadowed by grief. Even so, no matter what trials the day holds, it ends with the sky painted in the most beautiful sunset– a sign of the land’s enduring beauty and an expression of faith for a better tomorrow to come. There is much tension in a place that is both so sacred and so enmeshed in conflict. This makes it even more vital to share the truth of this place– in all of its joys, sorrows, and yearnings. 

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Prayers4Peace: Learning Through Experience

Learning Through Experience

By: Debbie Dean

Do dreams really come true?  Well, mine did!  On January 3, 2023, I boarded a plane bound for Tel Aviv.  Bucket list item #1…check. I booked this tour a year and a half prior and told anyone who would listen that I was going to The Holy Land: I was going to Israel.

I have a very dear friend, Hassan, who is an American of Palestinian descent. In the Summer of 2022, my husband and I were on our way to Arkansas with Hassan and his wife Jennifer to see their son play baseball. During that long drive, I told them the news that I would be going to Israel on a pilgrimage to The Holy Land.

Hassan snapped his head around and glared at me as though I had just cursed his mother. Jennifer quickly interceded with, “She is going to The Holy Land… It’s a tour of The Holy Land.” I couldn’t understand Hassan’s reaction, so I asked him to explain, and he proceeded to tell me of how his grandparents were forced to leave their homes and businesses.  He relayed to me the stories his mother would tell of how they were able to bring very few possessions, which were put in the back of a truck and taken to Jordan. Hassan’s mother knew she was born in January, but her birth certificate was left behind with the rest of her family’s belongings, so she never knew the day.  I could not imagine these things happening; I did not know the history of Palestine and some things he was telling me just weren’t sinking in. Hassan told me to simply go on the trip and see for myself. He said that when I returned, we would talk.

What I saw and learned on that trip was beyond my imagination.  On the first day of our trip, we were in Bethlehem. Tensions were very high throughout the entire city. We would find out later that this was because a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier. The unarmed child was killed because he did not respond to the soldier’s command fast enough. We were told about the different license plate colors, one for Palestinian cars and one for Israeli cars, and the problems these plates can create for border crossings. We were told that many Palestinian families keep the keys to their old homes, which they were forced to leave decades ago, in the hopes that they will someday be allowed to return. This simple idea of keeping keys filled me with such sadness, hopelessness, and despair. I learned about the Nakbah, where military forces entered Palestinian homes and forced the inhabitants to leave, while new families moved into these same houses under the watchful protection of the same forces.

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Prayers4Peace: The Work of the World Council of Churches in Jerusalem

The Work of the World Council of Churches in Jerusalem

By: Yusef Daher – Coordinator of the WCC Jerusalem Liaison Office*

The World Council of Churches’ Jerusalem-based programs include the very successful Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel (WCC-EAPPI) which was created in 2002, based on a letter and an appeal from local church leaders to create an international presence in the country. EAPPI is a continuous presence of 25-30 Ecumenical Accompaniers on the ground who serve for three months in accompanying, offering protective presence, and witness. There are now almost 2000 former Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), of whom many keep involved and interested in working towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel. These former EAs have served, lived and accompanied communities in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, North West Bank and the Jordan Valley throughout these years. This has meant monitoring checkpoints, accompanying children to school in front of a settlement, or accompanying field owners and shepherds to their lands within closed military zones or behind the separation barrier. 

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Prayers4Peace: “God has heard my voice; God will accept my prayer”

“God has heard my voice; God will accept my prayer”
by Patriarch Emeritus, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah
First shared at the inaugural Fr. Drew Christiansen Holy Land Lecture Series in Washington, D.C. on November 16th, 2022

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).

Prayers4Peace: Baptists Heed the Call for Justice, Freedom, and Equality

by CMEP Board Member communion, the Alliance of Baptists

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).

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 our 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. We choose solidarity with 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 living out this commitment: 

  • We host regular educational events highlighting both the daily and multi-generational injustices Palestinians endure, such as an upcoming film discussion night covering the Netflix-hosted films The Present and Salt of This Sea.
  • We equip our membership to advocate for just U.S. policies and international accountability for Israel’s war crimes, for example, through advocacy with Members of Congress.
  • We engage with Palestinian mission partners in the work of solidarity 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 international churches, and follow-up letters such as Cry of Hope and a Call for Decisive Action
  • We participate in Global Kairos for Justice, a network of international organizations responding to the Palestinian calls listed above. 

We center our work on the call of Kairos Palestine and continue to educate ourselves about the increasingly dire conditions Palestinians endure. We grieve that U.S. tax dollars contribute to these conditions. In response, we have made three major commitments to using our economic and cultural power to disrupt that injustice and challenge systems of oppression:

  • We committed in 2016 to boycott and divest from companies that profit from human rights violations of Palestinians.
  • In 2018, the Alliance joined with individuals, congregations, and denominations throughout the United States in boycotting Hewlett Packard (HP) for its contributions to institutionalized apartheid in the Occupied Territories. In addition to economic boycott and divestment, we acknowledged the political and cultural power of Christian Zionism in intensifying the oppression of Palestinians. In following Jesus’ example, we want to be clear that we believe in a God of justice, freedom, and inclusion. We must decry ways in which the church seeks to coopt religion for purposes of power and greed. 
  • In 2021, the Alliance officially committed to confronting Christian Zionism in our congregations and in the halls of Congress. We are grateful for our Jewish friends who have led the way in confronting the misuse of their faith in ways that oppress others. They and we insist that true religion demands we disrupt all manifestations of evil, both within and beyond our religious networks.
  • During the Annual Gathering from April 21–23, we will put forward a resolution that names the Israeli occupation as an apartheid system that must be dismantled. In preparation for that, we will offer a three-part education and discussion series beginning January 19 entitled “Apartheid? An Epistle from Palestinian Christians”. For information on how to join, please email allison@labcoakland.org.

Our partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace, and through it the Faith Forum, has been helpful in engaging in advocacy in the halls of Congress and education in the churches. As we continue to partner together, we humbly request your prayers for the work we are doing. We ask prayers for clarity in understanding the calls of our Palestinian siblings, courage to act according to our deepest commitments, and confidence to face down attempts to silence the liberative work of God. Below is a prayer that we’ve been praying for the past two years – we invite you to pray with us:

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 Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel, refugee camps,
and the diaspora, all of whom are longing for freedom,
justice, and equality.
We pray for Israelis who are outraged by what their government
is doing and for Israelis who are not yet conscious of this
and yet are suffering from being a part of a violent, racist system.
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.


About the Alliance of Baptists: These three core values guide the Alliance of Baptists. The Alliance of Baptists began in 1987 as a prophetic voice in Baptist life. Today, we have grown to be a justice movement and community of faith. We are male and female laity and clergy, people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, theological beliefs, and ministry practices. We are about 4,500 individual members and roughly 140 congregations knit together by love for one another and God, combining progressive inquiry, contemplative prayer and prophetic action to bring about justice and healing in a changing world. Find out more at: https://allianceofbaptists.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).

Advent 2022: Christmas Day

Relinquishing the Status Quo
Kelley Nikondeha

We meet Joseph, a pious man, in the grip of a dilemma. According to Matthew, he discovered that the young woman he was betrothed to was already pregnant. Soon enough others would learn about his bride’s condition and it would reflect poorly on him one way or another. Likely, the situation kept him up for nights as he weighed his options. What is a righteous man to do in such a precarious situation?

There was a protocol in place for such a situation, a tradition to tell a good man like Joseph exactly what to do should he learn his betrothed was pregnant by another man before the final wedding ceremony. The man must go to the community elders in the public square and make known the situation. This would allow him to protect his reputation and keep his standing in the community. The man would then involve the woman’s family and compel them to return the bride price or impound the dowry. It was standard for the man to receive economic compensation under such circumstances. But this expected practice apparently did not sit well with Joseph.

He decided to handle his dilemma differently. He would divorce her quietly. He would do the necessary things privately. But he would not haul her or her family into the public spotlight and add to her humiliation. Joseph centered her in his personal deliberations – and those calculations challenged conventional expectations. He would not defend his reputation at the further expense of hers. He would forgo the financial recompense he was owed. Before an angel even spoke, we see Joseph as a deeply pious man in ways that would confound the expectations of his own community.

But his dilemma and decision were interrupted by a dream. An angel appeared amid his nocturnal tossing and turning to offer divine instruction. “Go ahead with the marriage, because it is God’s child she carries,” the messenger said. So when Joseph woke up, he took Mary home as his wife and entered into her shame, socially speaking. And when the child was born, he named him, functionally adopting him as his own son. Such an unexpected turn of events.

The first advent narrative reminds us that sometimes piety defies the expectations of our religious community, like it did for Joseph. Sometimes there is a deeper holiness – like centering the vulnerable ones, sacrificing financial gain, even accepting social stigma. When we remember that alongside the Jewish community in the Holy Land exist the Palestinian people – we often are at odds with our community. Too many of our religious and even political affiliations do not recognize the Palestinian people, their legitimate connection to the land, or their decades of loss. To consider them as anything other than terrorists can sometimes put us in line to be called antisemitic. But when we see both the Jewish and Palestinian communities and their deep heritage in the land, we are invited to enter into a solidarity that might cost us our reputation or more. And yet standing for God’s justice for all families in the land, be they Jewish or Palestinian, aligns with God’s invitation to a wider, more generous, and nonpartisan peace.

This Advent season is a good time to again
commit ourselves to God’s justice in the world,
even if it is unpopular and pushes us to
the margins of our social groups.
It is a good time to recommit to God’s jubilee,
which centers the vulnerable people
even if it costs us our reputation or some income.
It is a good time to remember that God’s peace comes
in unexpected ways, often reversing the status quo,
as Joseph embodied.

____

Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

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