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.
While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem, for it was there they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Shortly after his ascension the day of Pentecost came, and the Holy Spirit descended, first like a violent wind, then as divided tongues of fire. As each tongue rested on them, they began to speak in other languages that were not their own. While this is miraculous in and of itself, it is also a profound statement of the power of the Holy Spirit to allow us to understand those who are other, those who are not like us. To speak another language is to catch a glimpse into another person’s mind. Read more
Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Throughout this Lenten season we have walked with Jesus as he performed miracles, taught in parables, and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We have also taken a closer look at the city of Jerusalem today—why it is considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, and its contemporary political situation. It is only fitting that we reflect on Jesus’ command after his resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples. Read more
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Today, on Holy Saturday, the sacred light or “Holy Fire”—the fire that lights the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—comes out into the world. The fire from the tomb is spread from candle to candle all over the church and throughout the streets of the Old City—a powerful symbol of the way that Christ’s light is spread into the world. However, many of us still feel as though we are in darkness, and that Christ’s light has not yet come to us. Read more
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
A common African American spiritual sung on Good Friday goes, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Of course, none of us were there, yet we remember this event, today. Some of us will hear readings of Jesus’ seven last words found in the Gospels. Others will sit in candlelit churches and feel the darkness creep in as each candle is extinguished. Many will sing hymns, as music has a way of capturing the deep emotions we often struggle to articulate. 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
What happens when local role models lead unarmed movements and demonstrate to the world what is possible when grassroots leaders choose to act? This is the story that Just Vision seeks to share with audiences across the globe.
Through award-winning films, digital media, and public education campaigns, the team at Just Vision – led by internationally recognized filmmakers Julia Bacha and Suhad Babaa – brings attention to the under-documented stories of Israeli and Palestinian unarmed activists who are inspiring their communities to work together to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, and equality for all.
Over the last decade Just Vision has built a powerful platform and reached hundreds of thousands of people with their message. Their 5 films challenge the way many perceive protests and activism in the Holy Land, from the story of the unarmed movement in the village of Budrus to the Israeli and Palestinian activists in My Neighborhood and the nonviolent resistance during the First Intifada (The Wanted 18). The Boston Globe said of Budrus, “[This film] will single-handedly change how many people view the conflict.” Read more