We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A living Church in the Holy Land

Source: http://www.lpj.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1674%3Aen-terre-sainte-une-eglise-vivante&catid=68%3Anouvelles&Itemid=126&lang=en

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ANDDP Congress continued with the program on Thursday, October 17: "Church Reality and Life in the Holy Land." The day ended with a visit to Bethlehem to discover and experience the local pastoral.

Marie-Armelle Beaulieu, editor of the magazine “the Holy Land” presented the history of the Custody of the Holy Land and its mission today. Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem spoke about the perspectives for the Church of Jerusalem after the Synod called by the Pope for Catholic Churches of the Middle East last year.

Bishop Shomali reminded the delegates of the National Association of Diocesan Directors of Pilgrimage (ANDDP) that he could not describe how the Holy Land can live the Synod without including the whole Middle East. "We cannot talk about the Middle East issues without putting in the center the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." He returned to the Synod Message for the People of God and the 44 proposals focusing on five main points.

First point: renewal of Christian faith based on daily reading of the Word of God. In the Holy Land, the “Five minutes with the Word of God” project meets this objective, “that every family can dedicate five minutes to read and pray together from God's word every day.

Second point: communion within the Church and even among the various Catholic churches in the Middle East. As a good example, a Catholic library will open in Beit Sahour next Sunday, to be opened by the Latin Bishop of Jerusalem, the Greek Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem, the Syrian Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem and the Latin Bishop of Nazareth.

Third point: ecumenical dialogue. There are two directions, one of theological dialogue and one of charity combined with humility. “Unification of Easter date between Catholics and Orthodox would be a great sign of Christian unity for the world. (...) If we are unable to reach a joint decision regarding the calendar, how will it be possible to make decisions in the dogmatic field?” asks Bishop Shomali.

Fourth point: interreligious dialogue with Muslims and Jews. “With Muslims we must seek equality in rights and duties.” Recent events in Iraq and Egypt seems to contradict the moderate position of the Synod. The Bishop sees in the Proposition 29 of the Synod “a prophecy,” the call of all Catholic churches “to institute an annual joint celebration for the martyrs of Eastern Churches and to ask each Eastern Church to establish a list of its own martyrs and faith witnesses.” The Synod strongly encouraged dialogue with Jews, but it is often poisoned by political issue.

Fifth point: emigration of Christians. The scourge of exodus will be limited when the presence of Christians in these areas will not be considered “as a pure coincidence but a vocation from God to be a sign of the Gospel in predominantly Muslim societies, or Jewish society in the case of Israel.

Bishop Shomali concluded that “the Synod of for the Middle East ended a year ago, but we are still at the beginning of our work to put the guidelines into practice.” He cited Synod Proposition 8 on pilgrimages for the information of the diocesan directors of pilgrimages, “The East was the land of biblical revelation. (...) Pilgrimage to the holy places ... is an opportunity for a thorough catechesis, for a return to roots. You can discover the wealth of Eastern Churches, to meet and encourage local Christian communities, living stones of the Church.


Mr. Sevin, congressman and professional pilgrimage organizer is delighted with the balance found in pilgrimages which must be both time to meet and time to get into the Word of God: “We must have at heart to live the Word of God there, and to allow pilgrims to enter the heart of the incarnation mystery. (...) In this time of crisis as we know, French people desire for a return to fundamentals and benchmarks and the pilgrimage may be an appropriate response to this thirst. This is an essential pastoral focus.”

The Custody: a Franciscan vocation


Marie-Armelle Beaulieu, editor of the magazine “the Holy Land” dealt with the long presence of Franciscans in the Holy Land for nearly 800 years. The Custody of the Holy Land is responsible for many Holy Places but the Franciscan vocation also concerns the poor and the sick. This calling is expressed today in the following five axes.

First, “to lift the poor out of poverty, Franciscans teach them new skills. So, they brought to the Holy Land the olive wood and mother of pearl handicraft. (...) The Custody recently reopened two schools of mosaic, one in Jordan, the other in Jericho and a school to learn the art and craft work with mother of pearl in Bethlehem.

The Custody, as with all other churches, “have undertaken to provide housing and building renovations, and make these houses available to hundreds of Christians at very moderate rents.” In Nazareth or Jaffa, entire neighborhoods will soon be built on land owned by the Custody. A rehabilitation program has been planned for Custody-owned buildings and houses in the Old City over a period of two years.

Reception of pilgrims, and schools are part of the work of the Franciscans as well as communications network. From the mid-nineteenth century, the Custody opened a print shop that produced the first catechism in Arabic. “This year, 5,000 Bibles were printed in Arabic.” "The Holy Land" magazine celebrated its 90th anniversary this year. “The magazine will soon have its own website and we began work on its evolution to a digital Ipad tablet and other electronic means od communication.” she explained to the delegates.

She concluded by acknowledging that “for 800 years the Custody has been a steady presence in the Holy Land. Is it too much? No, it is even not enough with regard to rapidly evolving and growing needs in a complex situation that doesn't seem to have a solution to conflicts and problems in the very near future. Is the Custody perfect? No. It lacks means, it lacks vocations.

In the afternoon, conference participants went to Bethlehem to discover the local pastoral (Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour). Mass was held at the Church of St. Catherine. Ms. Khouloud Daibes, Minister of Tourism of the Palestinian Authority was present.

Christophe Lafontaine

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas on Iraq: Standing in Solidarity

Source: http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13136

Reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Iraq

the cover of America, the Catholic magazine

B AGHDAD—In her book “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen reminds us that while the simple loving gesture of “kissing the boo-boo” does not take away the pain and suffering that a child feels, it does take away the loneliness felt in suffering.

Suffering and fear dominate the lives of so many, too many, around our world.

Try as we might, we cannot alleviate the suffering, end the fear, but we can stand in solidarity with those who suffer, who are fearful, to help them realize they are not alone.

I reflected on these matters as the airbus carrying Bishop George Murry, S.J., and I prepared for our mid-morning landing at Baghdad International Airport, the former Saddam International Airport.

We were coming to Iraq in early October at the invitation of the bishops of the Chaldean, Latin, Armenian and Syrian Catholic communities. They had been hoping for some time that bishops from the United States would make a pastoral visit to Baghdad to see first hand what life is like in their country.

Despite the cautions we heard about our safety, we wanted to go. We wanted to express to our brother bishops and to the people of the church in Iraq the love and support of our church in the United States. We wanted to assure them they are not alone.

After being greeted at the airport by Bishop Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, and Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Apostolic Nuncio in Baghdad and Jordan, Bishop Murry and I stood in the line to have our passports checked.

I saw a man who had been a passenger on our plane running to the open arms of a man who had been waiting for him. They embraced, kissed and cried. He had come home, I thought. Even though his country was so torn by war, even though danger, violence and death were daily events, he had come home.

As we drove from the airport, we saw workers planting palm trees along the route. A nice beautification project, I thought, but the trees did not do much to camouflage the armored vehicles lingering on both sides of the street and the Iraqi army and police with automatic weapons clustered near the vehicles or walking in patrols.

My other first impressions: roads marred by ruts and blocked by rolls of barbed wire and huge barrels; cement walls 10-feet tall around buildings; check points everywhere; people wary, vigilant, watchful for random acts of violence.

In the next three days, we met and talked with our brother bishops. We visited the people they shepherd in the churches, convents, schools and hospitals of their communities in Baghdad. We saw the programs and services of Caritas Iraq and met with Caritas staff.

Each of the bishops expressed their great concern about the plight of Christians. Many have been internally displaced in Iraq having left their homes and belongings for what they deem is the relative safety of the north; others have left the country as refugees to Lebanon or Syria, hoping to begin their lives anew.

Many who have fled hope to come to our country, but because our government has put a hold on Iraqi refugees, they remain in limbo in Syria, Lebanon or Egypt, insecure and marginalized.

(I have met Iraqi refugee families who have come to the Diocese of Tucson. Like many Iraqis who have come to our country as refugees, their circumstances are difficult. Unable to find jobs, not knowing the language, receiving little government support, they find themselves traumatized again. We are working as a community to help them.)

The bishops encourage their people to stay in Iraq, this land that has been home to Christians from the very beginning of the church. The people, though, ask their bishops if they can assure their safety. The bishops are frustrated that they cannot give that assurance. Christians continue to leave.

Unsafe Even in Church

The bombing of the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance on October 31, 2010, was a defining moment for Christians in Iraq. They realized that beyond the dangers they face day-to-day in Baghdad, they now are not safe even in their churches.

When Bishop Murry and I went to Our Lady of Deliverance to visit with Bishop Warduni and Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, Archbishop Emeritus of Baghdad, we saw the scars that remain from that tragic day: blood stained walls; a bloody hand print; the embedded outline of an automatic rifle left in the ceiling by the attack of the suicide bomber—searing images of the tragedy and violence that took place in this church during prayer.

A banner hanging at the entrance of the church shows the faces of those who were killed—men and women of varied ages and two priests, Father Thair Sad-alla Abd-al and Father Waseem Sabeeh Al-kas Butros. The heroism of the priests on that awful day is remembered in the homes of Christian families and in Catholic institutions in Iraq by the display of their portraits.

Bishop Murry and I were encouraged and inspired to see the work of Caritas Iraq. Assisted by Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Iraq is alleviating the suffering of Christians and Muslims. In reality, the great majority of those helped are Muslim since they so outnumber Christians in Baghdad.

Regardless of religion, Caritas Iraq programs are reaching out to assist families with children with disabilities, to provide dental and medical assistance at a clinic, to teach women to sew, to cook, to develop a trade that they might better care for their families.

So importantly, Caritas Iraq is bringing people, especially young people, together for dialogue to create an environment in which peace can be nurtured.

Caritas staff told us of the divisions that are tearing the community apart. One worker said, “We have lost the bridges of communication. We need peace building. We need peaceful messengers among Christians and Muslims, people who see peace as a viable alternative.”

So much has been lost. As one bishop told us, “We lived in an Eden garden, and now we have hell.”

Concluding our visit, Bishop Murry and I knew that we had been blessed to have this opportunity to meet people who even in their suffering pray with hope for peace, people who long for the opportunity to begin their lives again.

We cannot take away the tragedy that the people of Iraq have experienced and continue to experience, but we can stand in solidarity with them as they try to rebuild their society.

Through our witness, I hope we can encourage our government and our church to provide the resources to help the people of Iraq recover their Eden garden.

As I write this, President Obama is declaring an end to the Iraq War, announcing that all our troops will be withdrawn by the end of the year. I think of the people and bishops I met in Baghdad. What are we leaving behind for them?

Pictured above: Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, left, and Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, right, pose for a photo with Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad.

Most. Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas is the bishop of Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

John Dear, SJ: Ten Starting Points for a Spirituality of Nonviolence and Resistance to Empire

Excerpts from lecture by John Dear, Spring 2011

Source: http://www.sabeel.org/datadir/en-events/ev210/files/Corner60.pdf

1) A spirituality of resistance is a spirituality of nonviolence. Nonviolence is not a tactic or a strategy, and it is certainly not passive. It is a new way of life.

2) Our spirituality of resistance is based in the nonviolent resistance of Jesus and in discipleship to Jesus, the nonviolent resister of Empire. The Garden of Gethsemane. Here come the Roman soldiers, and what did St. Peter do? … He got out his sword to kill the soldiers, thinking that in all of salvation history, if violence was ever justified this was it. But then the commandment came as Jesus said: “Put down the sword.” We
are not allowed to kill. These are the last words of Jesus to the church, and it is the first time they truly understand him and his nonviolence.

3) It reclaims the nonviolence of God and claims our core identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters. When Jesus calls us out of Empire and into justice and peace, he speaks of a God who … does not create or bless Empire but wants us as God’s children to live in the fullness of life.

4) It means we are contemplatives of peace and nonviolence. We live in relationship with the God of peace, and so we spend time every day with God in silent prayer, contemplation, and meditation… We are invited to let go of our inner imperial tendencies [and]… to welcome God’s gift of peace within us so hat we can radiate personally the peace we seek politically, so that our very presence is disarming.

5) It begins with a practice of personal, mindful nonviolence toward ourselves and others. We must practice non-cooperation with the Empire’s occupation of our lives and souls… looking deeply within at the causes of our violence and not beat ourselves up but try to cultivate interior nonviolence.

6) Our Palestinian sisters and brothers show us that a spirituality of resistance is a way of life. For Palestinians…just living and breathing is an act of nonviolent resistance… We in the West have to relearn making nonviolent resistance our daily practice for the rest of our lives.

7) A spirituality of resistance is prophetic. It breaks the silence, complicity and acceptance of Empire and war. It publicly denounces Empire and the false spirituality of violence and announces justice and peace.

8) It means being visionaries of a new world of nonviolence. We are new Abolitionists: We are announcing a new world without walls, occupation, apartheid, rubber bullets, and tear gas. We are announcing the abolition of war, poverty, racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction!

9) It is a spirituality of the cross, of taking up the cross as nonviolent resistance to Empire, of carrying the cross of nonviolent resistance to Empire. Martin Luther King, Jr. said we have to learn how to use suffering creatively… Instead of inflicting violence on others, we accept suffering without even the desire to retaliate as we pursue justice with love for all people.

10) A spirituality of resistance is a spirituality of hope and resurrection. Beware the push for immediate results, for success. That is the language of Empire, of the Pentagon… There is an inverse proportionality: the more we are in charge and try to do it all, the less happens. The more we let go and risk and walk forward in faith to resist Empire, the more happens. So take risks, trust God, and place your hope in God!

Eighty- five nonviolent revolutions have taken place in the last 25 years. Recently, Mubarak fled from Cairo! The occupation can end, nuclear weapons can be abolished, world hunger can end. The Empire will fall… I urge you to keep your eyes on the risen Jesus, to cultivate what gives hope, to do hopeful things, to lift up the vision of a new world of nonviolence, and to go forward in hope.

Fr. Dear, S.J. is a priest, peace activist, organizer, lecturer, and author/ editor of 25 books on peace and nonviolence.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lutheran Bishop: "The position of the Palestinian Christian community is precarious"

ELCA bishop visits White House to discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Source: http://www.wfn.org/2011/11/msg00041.html

CHICAGO (ELCA) - The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), attended a Nov. 8 meeting
at the White House as part of a group of ecumenical faith leaders. They
asked that the United States take a stronger stance in its opposition to
the rapid expansion of Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem
and the West Bank. The construction threatens the viability of a future
Palestinian state, thus precluding a two-state solution and support for a
shared Jerusalem.

Hanson and the other faith leaders met with Dennis Ross, special
assistant to President Barack Obama, and Catherine Powell, director for
human rights, Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights in the
National Security Council. The meeting took place before Ross announced
his resignation Nov. 10.

The faith leaders discussed U.S. policies towards the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict and problems facing Palestinian Christians in the
Holy Land. They expressed hope for a high-level U.S. administration visit
to the Middle East, especially in Bethlehem, which would include meetings
with Christian leaders.

According to Hanson, continued meetings with the Obama
administration are "a priority because of our commitment to our
companions in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy
Land. It is also carried out in the commitment we have made in the ELCA's
Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.

"As we began our conversation with Mr. Ross, I expressed
disappointment. We hear our Christian partners in the region question the
United States' commitment. They wonder why the U.S. has not been more
vocal about the increased settlement construction. I told Mr. Ross that
we repeatedly hear Palestinian churches say they see this as a moment of
abdication by the U.S. administration."

Reflecting on the meeting, Hanson said, "More progress must be made
toward the goal of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
Since our meeting a year ago, the prospects for peace seem to have
diminished with the expansion of settlements and the absence of face-to-face

According to a Nov. 10 news release from Churches for Middle East
Peace, the church leaders who attended the Nov. 8 meeting said they are
disappointed with developments since their 2010 meeting at the White

"The position of the Palestinian Christian community is precarious,"
stated the release. "There are constant problems of obtaining visas for
clergy who must travel outside Jerusalem and the West Bank. Restriction
on movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is a problem that undermines
Christian life. Church leaders are humiliated at check points."

Ecumenical leaders at this year's White House meeting included
Hanson; Katharine Jefferts Shori, presiding bishop and primate of the
Episcopal Church; Denis James Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and
chairman-elect of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Neil Irons, executive secretary
of the Methodist Council of Bishops; and Sara Lisherness, director of
compassion, peace and justice for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

The meeting was arranged by Churches for Middle East Peace, a
coalition of 24 national church denominations and organizations working
to encourage U.S. government policies that promote a just and lasting
resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pope Calls Religious Leaders to Promote Justice in Holy Land

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-33811?l=english

Israeli Interreligious Group Meets With Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- At a meeting with religious leaders from Israel today, Benedict XVI affirmed that a rightly lived relationship with God is a force for peace.

A delegation of Israel's Council of Religious Communities met with the Pope at the Vatican today, representing Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze communities.

The council was established in 2007 and the Holy Father met with members of the group when he visited the Holy Land in 2009.

"We share a grave responsibility to educate the members of our respective religious communities, with a view to nurturing a deeper understanding of each other and developing an openness towards cooperation with people of religious traditions other than our own," the Pontiff told them. "Unfortunately, the reality of our world is often fragmentary and flawed, even in the Holy Land. All of us are called to commit ourselves anew to the promotion of greater justice and dignity, in order to enrich our world and to give it a fully human dimension.

"Justice, together with truth, love and freedom, is a fundamental requirement for lasting and secure peace in the world. Movement towards reconciliation requires courage and vision, as well as the trust that it is God himself who will show us the way. We cannot achieve our goals if God does not give us the strength to do so."

A statement from the Council at the end of the meeting reiterated the participants' commitment to protecting the Holy Land.

"We inherited the Holy Sites from our forebears, and we are required to preserve their religious sanctity and cultural significance," the statement noted. "(...) The unity and special character of the Holy Sites must be protected from all violence and desecration. It is the responsibility of the religious leaders to strengthen this approach and to call on their communities to ensure that the Holy Sites of other religious communities are not harmed."

Pope's Address to Israeli Interreligious Dialogue Group

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-33805?l=english

"The Rightly Lived Relationship of Man to God Is a Force for Peace"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received at the Vatican members of the Israel Council of Religious Communities.

* * *

Your Beatitude,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you, the members of the Israeli Religious Council, representing as you do the religious communities present in the Holy Land, and I thank you for the kind words addressed to me in the name of all present.

In our troubled times, dialogue between different religions is becoming ever more important in the generation of an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect that can lead to friendship and solid trust in each other. This is pressing for the religious leaders of the Holy Land who, while living in a place full of memories sacred to our traditions, are tested daily by the difficulties of living together in harmony.

As I remarked in my recent meeting with religious leaders at Assisi, today we find ourselves confronted by two kinds of violence: on the one hand, the use of violence in the name of religion and, on the other, the violence that is the consequence of the denial of God which often characterises life in modern society. In this situation, as religious leaders we are called to reaffirm that the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. This is a truth that must become ever more visible in the way in which we live with each other on a daily basis. Hence, I wish to encourage you to foster a climate of trust and dialogue among the leaders and members of all the religious traditions present in the Holy Land.

We share a grave responsibility to educate the members of our respective religious communities, with a view to nurturing a deeper understanding of each other and developing an openness towards cooperation with people of religious traditions other than our own. Unfortunately, the reality of our world is often fragmentary and flawed, even in the Holy Land. All of us are called to commit ourselves anew to the promotion of greater justice and dignity, in order to enrich our world and to give it a fully human dimension. Justice, together with truth, love and freedom, is a fundamental requirement for lasting and secure peace in the world. Movement towards reconciliation requires courage and vision, as well as the trust that it is God himself who will show us the way. We cannot achieve our goals if God does not give us the strength to do so.

When I visited Jerusalem in May 2009, I stood in front of the Western Wall and, in my written prayer placed between the stones of the Wall, I asked God for peace in the Holy Land. I wrote: "God of all ages, on my visit to Jerusalem, the ‘City of Peace’, spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the inspirations, the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world. God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft; send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of all who call upon your name to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion. ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him!’" (Lam 3:25).

May the Lord hear my prayer for Jerusalem today and fill your hearts with joy during your visit to Rome. May he hear the prayer of all men and women who ask him for the peace of Jerusalem. Indeed, let us never cease praying for the peace of the Holy Land, with confidence in God who himself is our peace and consolation. Entrusting you and those whom you represent to the Almighty's merciful care, I willingly invoke upon all of you divine blessings of joy and peace.

Patriarch Twal's Words to Pope at Interreligious Meeting

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-33808?l=english

"We Do Not Have the Right to Despair ... Or to Give Up"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address by Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, at Benedict XVI's meeting today with the Israel Council of Religious Communities.

* * *

Your Holiness,

It is with pleasure and honor that I conclude the interventions of my esteemed colleagues, Muslims and Jews.

"Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, his holy ones" (Psalm 85:9). "... peacemakers will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9).

The impressions made upon my mind and heart during our pilgrimage to Assisi two weeks ago are still very fresh. There we mingled with men and women from many religious communities, who made up a veritable representation of humanity in its entirety, and who responded to your appeal to join your Holiness, for a "day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world." Holy Father, we feel you are the only one with the moral authority, capable of gathering together people from such a range of different confessions and faith.

We, the members of this Religious Council, are honored to be in your presence; we do not want this meeting to be merely a show. We earnestly renew our commitment to continuously promote justice, peace and respect for the dignity of every human being. In our work to address the difficulties and problems that beset our region and our people, we are acutely aware of our limitations as a Council. We do not pretend to be able to deal with and solve the problems on an international or even regional level. Yet as a Religious Council, we are aware of the power of faith and prayer, and our responsibility to do more for reconciliation among our local communities of Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians, making use of our solid, good relations and common sense. Though the problems we face are numerous, many resulting from a seemingly intractable conflict or a culture of violence -- even so, as Members of this Religious Council, we do not have the right to despair, to be tired or to give up.

We come here today, to join our prayers with yours, uniting our efforts with those of all men and women of good will, to undertake concrete initiatives for justice and freedom for all our people.

Building upon the commitments and proposals presented and assumed during your pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009, and those made in Assisi, we desire to see our communities fully united in hope, and to make the dream of our faithful for justice, peace and reconciliation a reality.

We, Members of this Council, have an important role to play, in order that "through a conversion of the heart, in a spirit of prayer, respect, perseverance and love, far removed from any trace of mistrust, fear and prejudice," (Synod for the Middle East, Proposition 28), we overcome these obstacles to peaceful coexistence. This can seem a very long way, but God who is our hope is not remote. "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into the hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been give to us" (Romans 5:5).

As we continue to be "pilgrims of truth and pilgrims of peace," we will be renewed through the grace of the Holy Spirit and sustained by our Lord's promise. "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of time" (Matthew 28:20).

Statement of the Council of Religious Leaders in Israel

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-33806?l=english

"Free Access for Believers to Their Respective Holy Sites Must Be Provided"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the statement given by the Israel Council of Religious Communities after they met with Benedict XVI today in the Vatican.

* * *

On the occasion of meeting H.H. Pope Benedict XVI, this tenth day of November 2011, we the religious leaders in the State of Israel affirm our belief in the Creator of the Universe who directs His world with loving kindness and compassion and who calls upon us human beings to live with one another in peace and dignity.

The Council of Religious Leaders expresses gratitude to His Holiness for this outstanding meeting, and holds in esteem His activity to bring hearts together and to bring peace throughout the world.

First and foremost, we reiterate our commitment to the sanctity of human life and reject all violence, especially when this is done in the name of religion – a desecration of the sacred.

In order to maintain peace and mutual respect among the different religious communities in our State, we must educate our children and congregations accordingly and prevent any offense against the feelings or beliefs of others.

We inherited the Holy Sites from our forebears, and we are required to preserve their religious sanctity and cultural significance. We do this, also in the name of Israeli Law related to the protection of the Holy Sites. The unity and special character of the Holy Sites must be protected from all violence and desecration. It is the responsibility of the religious leaders to strengthen this approach and to call on their communities to ensure that the Holy Sites of other religious communities are not harmed.

In accordance with the above, and in keeping with the commandments and prohibitions of each respective religion, free access for believers to their respective holy sites must be provided, and the empowered civil authorities must guarantee this.

Our religious heritages teach us that peace, doing justice, and righteousness are the commandments of the Holy One Blessed Be He, and as religious leaders, we have a special duty to be attentive to the cry of the weak in our midst and to work together for a more just and fair society.

We reiterate our commitment to do everything in our power to fulfill this important charge, especially in the Holy Land, which is dear to us all.

Offering our prayer heavenwards, we give thanks to the Creator, who has enabled us to come together this day in order to work together to bring a blessing for all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Waite speaks up for Palestinians

Source: http://www.religiousintelligence.org/churchnewspaper/eos/waite-speaks-up-for-palestinians/

Posted by on Friday, October 28th, 2011 and filed under England on Sunday, Faith today. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By Matt Cresswell

THE WEST is unaware of the injustices taking place in Palestine, says former church envoy and one-time hostage Terry Waite. Having returned from the Occupied Territories, he said the differences between the two communities were shocking. Waite, the founder of Y-Care’s international division, who was incarcerated in Lebanon for five years in the late 80s and early 90s, said he was concerned about both sides in the Israel/Palestine dispute, but said this trip exposed considerable ‘unfairness’ towards the Palestinians.

Waite met with young ex-detainees suffering from psychosocial counselling after being imprisoned in Israeli jails as children. He also met with young people receiving vocational training. Waite also met with leading Palestinian negotiators, local leaders and youth workers.

Commenting on the recent release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,000 Palestinian soldiers, he said: “My visit did happen to coincide with the release of the 1,000 prisoners but that was purely coincidental, my visit was not connected with that at all.” He added: “What was very interesting, of course, was the fact that the prominence in the media was given to the one released Israeli prisoner and there was no prominence given at all to the 1,000 others who were either labelled as freedom fighters, on the one hand, or as terrorists on the other. This illustrated the deep divide that exists between the two communities, Waite said.

Waite argued that there was an increasing problem with illegal Israeli settlements between Hebron and Bethlehem which were taking land used by the Palestinians. If the land remained uncultivated for more than three years, the farmers lost it, he said. Waite spoke with a Palestinian farmer who said that Israeli settlers had taken land owned by his Grandfather. The farmer also said that he had dug a well, which the Israelis had filled in because he was unable to obtain a permit. Waite said the farmer was not even allowed to make repairs to his house. “These are the things in this country [UK] that we do not know about – the settlements – and they’re wrong. They are flagrantly against international justice.”

On the recent death of Libya’s former leader, Colonel Gaddafi, Waite said he was shocked by the manner of his execution. Waite, who negotiated with Gaddafi in the 1980s, said: “Gaddafi was a very unusual man, there is no doubt about it and I would certainly say that he was engaged in supporting violent activities around the world which caused the death of many people and that I cannot in anyway possibly condone. Having said all that, I thought the manner in which he died and the portrayal of his death added nothing to our understanding of human dignity. I thought it was barbaric, absolutely barbaric.”

In 1987 Waite travelled to Beirut as a church envoy to negotiate the release of several hostages held there. He was eventually released on November 18 1991 after 1,760 days of solitary confinement. He says the experience has helped him relate to ex-prisoners.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Palestinian Christians call for an open air Mass to pray for the end of the Israeli occupation days

Source: Fr. Ibrahim Shomali

Israeli occupation forces have once again attack our town. They have announced the confiscation of the last green area left for Beit Jala, and the Bethlehem district. And we refuse to accept the dictation of the illegal Israeli occupation.

We denounce this new Israeli action as a step towards the consolidation of injustice and their Apartheid regime; we denounce the annexation of the most beautiful lands of the Bethlehem district as a direct attack against the Palestinian people, and particularly against Palestinian Christians.

We call upon the Quartet members and the rest of the international community to act in order to stop the Israeli colonial enterprise, and particularly in the most affected areas such as in and around occupied East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem district; the fact that confiscation orders were given a day after Palestine’s admission to UNESCO unveils the heavily political nature of the Israeli colonial enterprise.

We trust that all our relevant authorities, including our government led by President Mahmoud Abbas, the Latin Patriarchate and civil society will do everything possible to keep the land in the hands of its rightful owners, the Palestinian people.

According to the Holy Synod conducted last year in support of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, it is a must for the church to support our presence. Accordingly, we call upon the upon the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI to act immediately, using all possible ways, to help protecting our people.

As members of the heroic Palestinian people as well as the oldest Christian community in the world, we remain attached to the hope for peace and justice. Jesus Christ was born in Palestine, lived in Palestine, was crucified in Palestine and resurrected in Palestine. We, the descendents of his earliest followers, are still waiting for our own resurrection as a free nation.

We invite all of you to join us in an open air Holy Mass to take place at the entrance of the Cremisan valley tomorrow Friday 4th of November at 15:50. The service will be conducted by Father Ibrahim Shomali and Father Mario Cornoli.

Elsy Wakil: peaceful coexistence among Muslims, Jews and Christians

Echos members stress meaningful engagement of youth in the churches

Source: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/echos-members-stress-mean.html


Echos members visiting the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia headquarters in Antelias

Reflections on the recent “Arab spring” and young people’s involvement in the challenges of a changing ecumenical landscape were the focus of discussions in a recent meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Echos – Commission on youth in the ecumenical movement.

Gathered to evaluate the contribution of young people in the life of the WCC and to express solidarity with churches in the Middle East, 18 members of Echos met in Beirut, Lebanon last week.

Echos was called by the WCC 9th Assembly in Brazil in 2006 to enable young people to develop their visions of the ecumenical movement and strengthen their role in the decision-making mechanisms of the Council.

The meeting took place in Adma at the Maronite monastery of Notre Dame du Mont in Beirut from 24-31 October and was hosted by the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) Middle East. This was the last meeting in a series, before Echos members move on to prepare for the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea in 2013.

In a presentation, Elsy Wakil, regional secretary of the WSCF-Middle East, stressed the need for youth to work for peaceful relations and dialogue with other faiths.

“It is necessary to work further for a peaceful coexistence among Muslims, Jews and Christians in the region, which is not possible without finding a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict which is used by many as a reason for crimes,” Wakil said.

Members were also able to trace young people’s potential for a more meaningful engagement with the churches. Echos member Nikos Kosmidis said, “We were able to hear how the unprecedented revolutionary movements for democratic changes- in which young people are actively involved - have changed lives in the region. We need to use this potential among churches around the world.”

“This is a unique space of dialogue and cooperation, with members representing the voices of global partner youth organizations, including Roman Catholic and Pentecostal youth,” said WCC programme executive for youth Faautu Talapusi. “This promotes the idea of expanding the ecumenical landscape an answer to the changing current framework.”

On an invitation from Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the commission attended Sunday Liturgy at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia headquarters in Antelias. The participants were introduced to the history of Armenian community by visiting the museum of the Catholicosate where experiences were shared regarding the Armenian Genocide following the World War I.

The Echos members also launched a new book Echos for Peace, featuring essays from youth addressing the issues related to global peace, justice and nonviolence, as well as sharing ways of responding to challenges like segregation, discrimination and violence around the world.