Tag: Palestine

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: Because of Tabeetha I have learned to be myself everywhere.

Because of Tabeetha I have learned to be myself everywhere.

By: Rev Muriel Pearson, Church of Scotland

‘Because of Tabeetha I have learned to be myself everywhere,’ Daniel, a grade 11 student explains. He is sitting with half a dozen fellow students around a table in the library, talking to visitors from Scotland.

Daniel and his fellow students talk about how they value the diversity they find in Tabeetha, of how they feel they belong to one family, of how their social skills benefit.

Tabeetha School is a unique Christian School in Jaffa, Israel, run by the Church of Scotland. It is the only mainstream school the Church of Scotland runs anywhere in the world. You might say it is an accident of history, as it came under the Church of Scotland’s governance because its founder Miss Jane Walker- Arnott left her school to the Church in her will in 1911.

Today, Christians, Jews, and Muslims study together. They know their own identity as Palestinians or Israelis or Ukrainians or Russians, as Greek Orthodox or Catholic, and they are not afraid of difference. They talk about how to explore difficult topics- recognizing multiple viewpoints and assessing sources for reliability. It is no wonder these young people go on to brilliant careers in business, commerce, diplomacy, medicine, and law.

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Prayers4Peace: War on Gaza, Again.

War on Gaza, Again.

By: Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, Written October 17th, 2023. While written 4 months ago, Patriarch Emeritus Sabbah’s words are still pertinent today as they were in October. We invite you to read this powerful piece.

“Now, you kings, come to your senses, you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!” (Ps 2: 10).

The war in Gaza has been going on for ten days. Today it is no longer a war, but rather a crime, a decision to kill and transfer all the people of Gaza, two million people. The war must stop. The words of the psalm today address Israel and the friends of Israel, Hamas and the friends of Hamas, as well as the entire Palestinian people: “Now, you kings, come to your senses, you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!” (Ps 2: 10).

The war in Gaza might be brought to a stop, but the conflict will not end. As has happened in previous wars on Gaza. This is not what is required. A ceasefire could be reached, but it is not a solution. Vengeance is not the solution, and decimating Gaza is not the solution. There is no peace in these solutions, neither for Israel nor for Palestine, neither for the region nor for the world. Indeed, our question has become a world question.

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Prayers4Peace: Lament is finally not an expression of despair but of faith.

Lament is finally not an expression of despair but of faith.

By: John Paarlberg, Regional Coordinator with Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

We gathered in front of our Congressman’s district office in preparation for a “die-in.” After a few opening remarks we lay down in the street, covered ourselves with white sheets and remained silent, while for more than an hour the names and ages of many of those killed in the recent violence were read aloud: “Ahmed Hussein Ahmed Al-Astal, age 12; Joan Yahya Youssef Al-Astal, age 4; Maha Ramez Amin Hassouna, age 18; Safa Suleiman Salman Al-Najjar, one year old…..”

The mood was solemn. Several times those reading the names had to pause to compose themselves. Many of us shed tears. This was a symbolic action, a kind of bodily prayer, a corporeal lament.

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Prayers4Peace: Fourth Sunday of Advent 2023, Christmas Eve

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In Preparation for the Arrival, Sunday Devotional for Advent 2023
Written by Katheryn Hamm, who traveled with CMEP to the Holy Land in Spring 2023, and Adysen Moylan, Trips Coordinator

Readings:

Isaiah 9:2-7 | Psalm 96 | Titus 2:11-14 | Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)

Simon Sinek said: “Life is beautiful not because of the things we see or do. Life is beautiful because of the people we meet.” In traveling to the Holy Land this past spring, I was in constant amazement at the diverse landscapes, the historical significance of the sites, and the opportunity to experience the places where Jesus walked and taught. However, our tour guide, Nabil, and our bus driver, Faisel made the trip beautiful and memorable. These two men had never met or worked with each other before, yet there was an immediate sense of respect, cooperation, calmness, and devotion between them. Our group contained about fifteen people, and both men formed deep and independent connections with each of us. The smallness of our group allowed them to give us a heads-up when they thought upcoming sights would interest a particular person or to know when someone was overwhelmed with information and in need of a break. Their gentleness and loving demeanor extended to our group and to everyone they met. Despite their previous, deeply troubling experiences with the Israeli government and military, both men continually chose to love, show kindness, and practice unconditional grace, even to those who have done them wrong. 

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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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