Tag: Prayers

Prayers4Peace: The Unknown Saint of Armenia – The Devout and Beautiful Hrispime

The Unknown Saint of Armenia – The Devout and Beautiful Hrispime

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon

During my September 2022 travels to Armenia, I had the opportunity to visit ancient churches and learn about the oldest Christian State. Armenia’s king converted to Christianity and made Christianity the state religion in the early 4th century. Proud of their Christian lineage, the Armenian Orthodox Church centers the community around the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, considered by many to be the oldest cathedral in the world. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director and Diocesan Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) led our delegation from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Our purpose was to learn about the late 19th and early 20th century of genocide against the Armenians and to have a better understanding of the current conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I did not expect how spiritually moving I would find our pilgrimage, which included the sharing of some of the early stories of faithfulness and deeply rooted Christian faith in the ancient country of Armenia. 

My favorite piece of Armenian history is that of Saint Hripsime (pronounced Rip-se-may). Hripsime lived during the third century, a beautiful woman who escaped from the clutches of an evil emperor in Rome and committed herself to live a simple life of Christian mission in response to her love of Christ. 

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Prayers4Peace: The Work of Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem

The Work of Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem

By: Father John Paul, Rector of Tantur 

The Tantur Ecumenical Institute can trace its foundation to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s.  Few people realize that this historic Council had a number of Protestant theologians and church leaders serving as “observers” as well as advisors to those writing the documents of this Council, especially on Ecumenism.  The momentum in ecumenical dialog and conversation was further enhanced in 1964 with the historic meeting, in Jerusalem, between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Beatitude Athanagoras.  Flowing out of that meeting was the desire to found (in Jerusalem) a center for theological study, dialogue, and research that would continue to build bridges of understanding and reconciliation between the various churches in Western Europe as well as the Orthodox and Oriental Churches in the East.  Thus, the Vatican was able to obtain from the Knights of Malta a hilltop overlooking Bethlehem and establish this Ecumenical Center.

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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: Lessons Learned Through the Nassar Farm

Lessons Learned Through the Nassar Farm
By: Rev. Charlie Lewis, Co-Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Snohomish, Washington

The day I met Daoud Nassar and the Nassar family, I felt an instant connection. Land is something sacred to Palestinians and, having grown up on a third-generation family farm, I have experienced the sacredness of the land as well.  The Nassar’s grandfather instilled in his family a keen awareness that the land is a part of their identity, that they belong to the land. When I hear Daoud or his family speak about their land, it seems like they are referring to a member of their own family.

The Nassars founded the Tent of Nations, a peace project established in 2001 on a portion of their 100 acres of grape, apple, olive, almond, and fig trees about six miles southwest of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The land, purchased by their family in 1916, has been cultivated for over 100 years, passing down responsibility from generation to new generation.  For over three decades, Daoud (Arabic for David) has been involved in a David-and-Goliath struggle to hold onto the land through active, non-violent means. 

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Prayers4Peace: May Prayers from CMEP Team

May Prayers from CMEP Team
By: The team at CMEP

We at CMEP believe in putting faith into action; in the pursuit of justice and peace, it is important to remember that prayer is action. We want to encourage all to join us in praying over the Middle East, and over the different issues that weigh heavy on our hearts. Below are some of the thoughts and prayers from CMEP staff. Please be encouraged to add your own prayers below this blog in the “comments” section.

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, Executive Director:

When I was in Palestine last, a fog came over Bethlehem where it was hard to see where you were going. This picture (right) is the road to Beit Jala heading up the hill. The fog felt so synonymous to what hope looks like right now. We can barely see it in the distance. Pray that darkness would clear and peace would find a way forward. Pray for hope to manifest and justice to prevail.

Jennifer Maidrand, Outreach Manager

Creator God–God of sun and wind and water and fire, God of land–we thank you for the gift of life that we all have been given today. With the breath of your spirit in our lungs, we cry out to you, oh Lord, for justice. We pray specifically that the Nassar family’s court date will be heard on Monday and that their family will be allowed to re-register for their land. God of the oppressed, we pray that you strengthen the Nassar family and those throughout Palestine, Gaza, and Israel who have committed themselves to loving their enemies and working fervently for justice. Equip and sustain us to continue knocking on the door of justice. For all who have had to battle for their land and their home, for all the children who have died before their time, for the soldiers who allow their uniform to strip them of their humanity, for the healers who are denied the opportunity to use their gifts, Lord, hear our prayer.2 Oh God of radical forgiveness and love, let us continue to practice a resurrection kind of living and build together your vision for the kingdom of heaven on earth.

  1. This prayer was shared by Jennifer Maidrand at the virtual prayer gathering for the Tent of Nations on May 12, 2023.
  2. This line was adapted for an anonymously authored Prayer for Victims and Perpetrators of Injustice, which can be found at https://www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/justice-prayers
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Prayers4Peace: On Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

On Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

By: The Very Revd Canon Richard Sewell, Dean of St George’s College Jerusalem

St George’s College Jerusalem is the Anglican Centre for Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. It was founded in 1920 and was intended to operate as a theological college for the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. In the last thirty years, we have become more of a pilgrimage centre where engagement with the Land, the history and the people are taken more seriously than in many pilgrimage organisations. 

St George’s College runs pilgrimages for Anglicans and Christians of other denominations around the world. Our pilgrimages are predominantly religious in nature but we are committed to ensuring that people engage in the political realities of Israel and Palestine today. We highlight the injustices experienced by Palestinians as a day-by-day reality. We deal with modern history as well as ancient history. We make sure that our pilgrims engage with the Wall of Separation and understand the real impact of it on Palestinian lives. We also make sure that people hear and understand Jewish narratives and not always in a negative light. However, we do not simply set up a cheap equivalence. We are clear that Israel’s occupation is an injustice which, whilst it continues, is a barrier to constructive talks.

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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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