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.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Kairos Easter Alert: A Reflection

By Hind Khoury



Even now in 2014, Jesus is still crying over Jerusalem as anguish and injustice continue to prevail.

In this City, three times holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, there are occupiers and occupied, aggressors and aggressed, oppressors and oppressed. Sadly, injustice continues to be committed in the name of God where covenant and laws that bind us to our faith are conveniently overlooked.

As Easter approaches, we try to understand God’s intentions for humanity delivered through the death and resurrection of our Lord. We need to examine again and again our obligations as human beings and as people of faith and conscience. Aren’t the lessons of Easter particularly challenging? Aren’t we guided to pursue the ideals of fellowship, courage, truth, non-violence, sacrifice, repentance, forgiveness and faith?

Is it not our obligation to examine the relevance of these universal ideals to our lives and contexts and try to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ as prophet Micah instructed us to do? Isn’t Jerusalem worthy of our labor and attention so that this city becomes the symbol of peace that is true and just?

Yet in our city we are denied access to our land for life and sustenance. Each one of us is targeted in our very survival and the integrity of our community, as in the integrity of  our identity and our culture. Even our memory and our future are being hijacked. All these violations of the most basic God- given and human rights are justified through a culture of exclusion and a discriminatory, racist legal framework conveniently drawn by the authorities of the occupying power. One of the latest such laws, for example, decreed that Palestinian Christians are not Arabs in order to further divide and rule and confuse Palestinian cohesive identity.

Sixty five years since the NAKBA and 46 years since the Israeli occupation in 1967, we continue to suffer the exile of our refugees on one hand and the impasse of the so called ‘peace process’ on the other hand. Our city has become a most intolerable abode: it is a place where a foreign language is forced on us, where our land is expropriated in order to make do for overwhelming Jewish-only settlements, where our historic neighborhoods are strangulated, fragmented and where homes  demolished with the excuse that construction breaks the occupiers’ laws.

In our city, we are residents only, with our residency rights revoked for leaving to study or work abroad. We suffer policies that weaken the local economy, that deny us decent housing and increase poverty and unemployment especially among the young and the educated. We endure the disastrous effect of the apartheid wall, built in our midst, separating Palestinians from Palestinians, isolating us from our workplace, schools, hospitals and sites of worship. Our future and the future of our children is in total jeopardy. We are all guilty until proven innocent by the security forces and criminalized for resisting so much hardship, discrimination, exile and siege.

In our city, identity and culture are distorted to further weaken the very fabric of our society. School curriculums impose the occupiers’ narrative, unchecked leakage from our schools amounts to 15%, while drug abuse pervades the city destroying families and killing the future of many of our children. A foreign language is forced on us and our city suffers isolation from its organic extension in the rest of the occupied territories by artificial and concrete walls and barriers.

All these violations including many more are justified in the name of exclusive rights to the land, an arrogant understanding of election, and an unchecked sense of righteousness. As a result, the religious significance of this city, three times holy, is threatened. This culture of exclusion promotes a Jewish God that is different from the Christian or Muslim God, and in the process threatens the essence of monotheism and thousands of years of revelation in this land. This development furthers the abuse of religion for political purposes and contributes to enflaming conflict, polarization

In further escalation and obstruction of all efforts to conclude a fair political peace agreement, the Israeli government is now adamant that no peace can be reached unless we Palestinians recognize Israel as a purely Jewish state. While this demand is a perversion of history and a distortion of the universal values of our monotheistic faiths, it is also a spin of historical facts and of the land’s natural diversity where attaining peace can only be concluded in a culture of inclusion and coexistence.

This new Israeli demand comes to highjack the legitimacy of Palestinians on their land. Other measures include the denial of Palestinian rights to worship especially in Jerusalem. Most Palestinians are forbidden to reach the city for prayers, a reality that is particularly painful to us, as the guardians of religious traditions in the land for millennia. In the last few years Israeli authorities imposed an additional measure by closing off the Old City of Jerusalem especially during Holy Week of Easter under the banner of security, an excuse that Israel regularly uses to justify and deepen its occupation measures. Slowly but surely, as Palestinian Christians are strongly discouraged from the practice of the centuries-old traditions, our holy sites may soon become museums to enrich incoming tourism and the Israeli economy.

As we celebrate this coming Easter we wonder: Isn’t God’s Covenant availed to all his children? Shouldn’t our labor be focused on building the real peace in Jerusalem, the symbol of eternal peace? Shouldn’t this city more than any other proclaim the one and only God,   and the Love that guides believers to light unto nations and the salt of the earth?

The world issued enough denouncements and regrets and passed too many resolutions in condemnations of so much injustice. Yet, impunity prevails and so far nothing was concretely done to contain human greed and power mongering of the occupation. Enough is enough. Now is the time for action and righteousness; the time of right over might; the time to build and to heal; the time for justice, honesty and mercy; the time to redeem human dignity and the time to nurture virtue and hope.

For this coming Easter, let us pray and labor for Peace from Jerusalem. If achieved it can help us salvage the true meaning of peace, so far abused to serve material interests and military and economic power. This should be our pledge to a new moral order
that makes us truly human.

Hind Khoury

Hind Khoury is a Palestinian Christian, a mother of three adults and married to a local architect. She worked for over twenty years in the economic development of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In 2005 she was appointed as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authority and later the Palestinian Ambassador to France.

Source: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/Easter%20Alert%202014.pdf

Thursday, April 17, 2014

'May Jerusalem be the Capital of the World!'

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Tells ZENIT About His Expectations for Pope Francis' Visit to the Holy City
By Giorgia Innocenti

JERUSALEM, April 17, 2014 (Zenit.org) - “We are living Holy Week, but we also feel the weight of Good Friday and the divisions of Christians” His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal tells ZENIT ahead of the Holy Father’s trip to the Holy Land, adding that “the conversion of hearts will help to pull down the walls that divide Jerusalem.” 

ZENIT: How is Holy Week being lived in Jerusalem while awaiting the Holy Father?

--Fouad Twal: This year we are happy to be able to celebrate Holy Easter at the same time as the Eastern confessions. I myself tried last year to make a first attempt and, after some resistance, now there is a specific and established protocol. Therefore, on Sunday we begin Holy Week with the great Procession of Palms to the heart of Jerusalem. It was lovely to see the participation of all parishes and parishioners, young people, scouts …. It was a Christian presence in this world, our world, which is somewhat agitated.

Among other confessions, we Christians must be “the salt of the earth,” which gives flavor and another tone, in regard to the violence and anxiety. This week in Jerusalem is a grace for pilgrims who come once in their life. We, who live in the Holy Places, must measure up to the grace that is given to us by the Lord.

I cannot forget that, beside the Resurrection there is a situation which isn’t good: the violence in the whole of the Middle East, the refugees. Through ZENIT, we would like to make an appeal for international norms to be respected. We are living, in fact, Holy Week, but we also feel the weight of Good Friday, of the Via Crucis, and of the divisions of Christians.

ZENIT: You have written a book entitled “Jerusalem, Capital of Humanity.” This city is a mosaic of cultures and peoples, but this richness can also be transformed into conflicts or be the source of incomprehension. How, then, can Christianity give hope, taking into account such a complex international situation? 

--Fouad Twal: According to the Gospel, there are no limits to acceptance, to forgiveness, to love and simplicity. I would like Jerusalem to have these characteristics, to be a capital for humanity, for all religions. Jerusalem must be a Mother Church that receives all believers of the world.

However, there is a mystery in this city: Jerusalem unites all believers but, at the same time, it divides them. This is the mystery that we are unable to understand! However, we must accept our inability to understand and entrust our destiny to the Lord. Coming down last Sunday from the Mount of Olives, I could not but remember that Jesus himself wept over this city. He first of all wished to gather the children of Jerusalem. Now it is up to us to pray and hope for the destiny of this city.

ZENIT: It is undeniable that real and ideological walls divide Israel …

--Fouad Twal: 'The wall of shame' -- this is how the Italians call it, who have a sense of humor. And these walls can be seen! And we are also somewhat forgotten by the international press, which prefers to concentrate on other current subjects. However, in my opinion, the physical walls are easy to pull down. More difficult it is to pull down the walls that are in man’s heart: hatred, fear, injustice. We are now beginning to use a Christian phrase which is “conversion of hearts.” This is the key to pull down the walls of man’s heart, of fear and of hatred.

ZENIT: Beginning, perhaps, with us Christians, how do you regard the Holy Father’s steps towards rapprochement with the Eastern Churches? 

--Fouad Twal: One of our crosses here in the Holy Land is also the division of Christians. We have three great families, the Catholic, the Orthodox and the Reformers. We are thirteen Churches in total, each one with its own administration. Through our institutions, the Catholic Church has broken down these divisions, because we accept all Christians.

Before God and history, I feel responsible for the whole Christian community in the Holy Land, regardless of the rite. A rite can be richness, but it can never be a source of division. With the arrival of the Holy Father, who wishes to commemorate the meeting of 1964 (between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, ndr), I hope that this ecumenical movement will take on new life and hope.

ZENIT: Have you been able to meet directly with Pope Francis?

--Fouad Twal: We have already prepared the trip and I have already met him about five times in Rome. This is a pastoral visit for unity, however it is difficult not to consider also the political impact. Corresponding to any address necessarily is a real situation of the social and political life of every day. People easily forget addresses. We often pause on the exterior aspect of a meeting with the Holy Father and it is a sin. However, many Christians will take the message from the Pope’s very person, his humbe attitude, his closeness to the people, which characterize him.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Third ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ Conference

Written by Jeremy Reynalds  during the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference held in Bethlehem March 10-14, 2014


Besides Jerusalem, there is no other city in the world more precious to Christians than Bethlehem, "The City of David", and birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Today, Bethlehem's chief economic sector is tourism which peaks during the Christmas season when Christian pilgrims throng to the Church of the Nativity.

Bethlehem has over thirty hotels and three hundred handicraft workshops. Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.

The city is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, although the size of the community has sadly shrunk over recent years due to emigration to Europe and the United States, and now Bethlehem has a Muslim majority population.

Surrounding the area is what is called "The Israeli West Bank barrier" which Israel argues is necessary to protect Israeli civilians from Palestinian terrorism, including the suicide bombing attacks that increased significantly during the Second Intifada. The Palestinians most commonly refer to the barrier as the "Racial Segregation Wall," or the "Apartheid Wall."

The barrier has many effects on Palestinians including reduced freedoms, reduction of the number of Israel Defense Forces checkpoints, road closures, loss of land, increased difficulty in accessing medical and educational services in Israel, restricted access to water sources.

So with that background, I have traveled to Bethlehem to join with hundreds of people from all over the world who are here for the third "Christ at the Checkpoint" Conference, that is now underway, and is causing much controversy amongst different Christian groups.

The conference theme, "Christ at the Checkpoint III: Your Kingdom Come," draws from the Lord's Prayer to ask how Jesus Christ would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.

It is being held from March 10-14, 2014, in Bethlehem's beautiful Jacir Palace Intercontinental Hotel, and outside the hotel on Monday evening, traffic was quite busy, but there was nothing visible occurring out of the ordinary. Traffic flowed well, and people walked in and out of a local grocery store buying necessities. It could have been anywhere-in the world -- almost.

However, just a few hundred yards from the hotel was a quiet reminder of what the conference is all about. A sign read, "Warning. This is illegally occupied land. State of Palestine." I soon realized that this is an area where ongoing tension bubbles just beneath the surface.

Back at the conference, the Rev. Munir Kakish, President of the Evangelical Council in Palestine, opened with a word of greeting.

"As a religious group we are unable to practice our civil rights ... Our council prays for peace and justice to rule our land," he told the conferees.

World Evangelical Alliance CEO Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe also greeted delegates, and began by requesting official recognition of his group's member churches from the Palestinian Authority, adding "I will bring the same message to Israel later this week."

He concluded by saying, "My hope and prayer is that as evangelicals we can be on the leading edge of peace, so that in coming years there may be a new bridge of peace."

"Christ at the Checkpoint" (CATC) was first organized in 2010 by Bethlehem Bible College, held again in 2012 and continues this year with the same mission. CATC said that its aim is "challenging evangelicals to take responsibility in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of God."

Topics covered include the Palestinian Church, religious radicalism, Christian Zionism, Jesus' teachings amid conflict, the Kingdom of God, peacemaking and reconciliation. There are also optional visits to the Bethlehem checkpoint every morning, as well as field trips around Bethlehem, Hebron and East Jerusalem. Each day's schedule includes praise, worship and Bible exposition before the morning session, followed by afternoon field visits, fellowship time and small group discussions.

Evening sessions include worship in both Arabic and English, followed by two speakers and several conference videos. The last day features nine workshops on topics ranging from Islam, women's issues to media, with two action groups reserved for pastors and theologians.

More than 25 speakers from Israel/Palestine and abroad will share at the conference, including Messianic Jewish leaders, Evan Thomas and Daniel Juster, who are present, along with Holy Land Trust director Sami Awad, Palestinian Bible Society director Nashat Filmon, and Bethlehem Bible College President, Jack Sara.

Dr. Bishara Awad, the founder of the Bethlehem Bible College and a CATC co-founder, told me he is excited about the conference. "We'll look at the Bible and we'll see what God is telling us about the land. We hope that people will start loving and not hating the Palestinian people." When asked why he thought a number of people are angry about CATC, Awad said that it was because the conference is challenging some people-especially Messianic Jews-to take another look at their theology.

He added, "They've had a monopoly on the Bible for so long. Jesus loves everyone, including Palestinians." He told conference attendees, "Unlike every other conference, we invite those who do not agree with our theological position." Awad added, "We are humble enough to listen to those who agree with us, but we will never allow our disagreement to degenerate into hatred."

Pastor David Adams from Grand Rapids, Michigan said this is the third CATC he has attended and he appreciates that the conference organizers share both sides of the issue. Adams said maybe those who are angry feel that way "because they don't want people hearing anything remotely sympathetic to Palestinians." CATC draws a lot of people from the United States, Adams said, "Because if there's going to be anything happening in the region, the U.S. will have something to do with it."

Jordan-based Manara Ministries CEO, Isam Ghattas, who has been heading up a ministry to help Syrian refugees who have poured over the border since the conflict began in their country, told me that he is at the conference to "listen to both sides." He said, "I am not for the Palestinians or Israelis. I am for Jesus. As a Christian, I love everyone."

Ghattas reflected, "Think about if you're an Arab Christian who's been crushed by the elephants. That's Arab Christians. Please don't let Christianity die in her birthplace." Daniel Aqleh, webmaster for the Bethlehem Bible College, said CATC is a way to "present the Biblical view and address the politics here." He added that God is a God of justice, love and peace who blesses the peacemakers. He didn't say He would bless the troublemakers, Aqleh said.

Asked why he thought some people were upset about the conference, Aqleh said, "I'd prefer not to go into details. I'd rather be safe. "A scathing March 2014 report (www.ngo-monitor.org/article/christ_at_the_checkpoint) by the NGO Monitor had a different viewpoint on the conference than that shared by many conference participants.

It read in part, "Despite its call for 'reconciliation,' the manifesto does not address core issues of the conflict, including Palestinian rejection of Israel's existence as a democratic and Jewish state, and the use of terrorism against Israeli civilians by various Palestinian terror groups." The document was titled: "Christ at the Checkpoint: How the U.S., U.K. and Dutch Governments Enable Religious Strife and Foment Mideast Conflict."

The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Mark Tooley also weighed in. Commenting in a news release, Tooley said that while evangelicals do need a fresh public policy perspective on the Middle East that stresses human rights for all people, CATC isn't it. He continued, "No doubt sincere, well intentioned people will attend Checkpoint. But they are dangerously naïve to accept, much less to promote, Checkpoint's narrative."
So while it's impossible to know why everyone is here, the not-at-all-naive Ghattas seemed to sum up the viewpoint of many of those people to whom I talked, saying "I'm not here for political reasons, but to connect with people."


Israeli Bill Distinguishes Christians From 1948 Palestinians


Israeli Bill Distinguishes Christians From 1948 Palestinians
by Al Akhbar

Israel’s legislative branch, known as the Knesset, passed a controversial bill into law that defines 1948 Christians Palestinians as “non-Arabs”, Israeli media reported.

The new law – passed on Monday with a vote of 31 in favor and 6 against – for the first time differentiates Christian Palestinians from the rest of the Palestinian community, who had survived the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing by Zionist forces, and remained within the 1948 territories.

“This is a historic law. It’s the first time there is separate representation for Christians,” Likud Beytenu coalition chairman Yariv Levin, who proposed the bill, was quoted by the Israeli press prior to the the vote. “Soon we’ll expand on this and give [Christians] all the separate representation they deserve,” he added.

Previously, Levin justified the bill as “an important, historic step that could introduce balance to the State of Israel, and connect us [Jews] with the Christians, I am careful not to refer to them as Arabs, because they are not Arabs.”

“The community in 1948 will not remain quiet. This is a major move by the forces of occupation and colonization, and there will be mobilizations just like how we saw the creation and continuation of Land Day protests within 1948 lands. We will see protests in the future.” “We and the Christians have a lot in common. They’re our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims that want to destroy the country from within… We will use an iron hand and demonstrate zero tolerance of Arabs who tend to identify with the terror of the Palestinian state,” he added.

According to reports, the law will enforce a separate representation on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity within the Employment Commission, by extending the number of panel members to ten, adding specific seats for the ultra-Orthodox, Druze, Christian, Circassian populations, and others.

CIA statistics put the Arab Christian population living in Occupied Palestine at around 123,000. These people will be directly affected by the new law. Arab members of the Knesset unanimously condemned the bill as a “racist” act and a “divide-and-conquer” tactic. “Colonialists try to separate groups of natives. The prime example of this is South Africa,” MK Hanin Zoabi of the Arab political party, Balad, reportedly said to the media after the vote.

“We are the natives here and we have a clear identity, [we] are Palestinians, part of the Arab nation, and your law will fail. Part of the Zionist project is to oppress our identity, but I have the right to speak in the name of Palestinians.” Khalid Musmar, an official for the Palestinian National Council, told Al-Akhbar,“The Palestinian Christian community will rebuke this before anyone else. The Palestinian Christians are Arab despite the wishes of anyone in the Knesset or otherwise.” “They have always said they were Arabs and have fought side-by-side with their Muslim brethren, from the times of the Crusades to today. The Palestinian community, in all it’s colors and creeds, is a unified Arab community confronting occupation. They are struggling for a Palestinian nation with Jerusalem as it’s capital. This will not change by the acts of Knesset or anyone else,” the official said.

“The community in 1948 will not remain quiet. This is a major move by the forces of occupation and colonization, and there will be mobilizations just like how we saw the creation and continuation of Land Day protests within 1948 lands. We will see protests in the future.” “If [Israel] wants to do right to the Palestinians in general and Christians in particular,” said Jumana, from the Galilee region of northern occupied Palestine, during a separate conversation with Al-Akhbar, “let them approve the return of the refugees and internally displaced Palestinians from the two Christian villages of Ekrith and Birem, who already have a court ruling allowing them to return to their destroyed villages.”

She added that this law comes at a time when “the government is attempting to make the drafting to the Israeli Army obligatory to Palestinian Christians, [and] this is completely not acceptable, since this is their way of dividing the Palestinian minority and fragmenting the community as a whole.”

In a similar vein, a 1948 Palestinian Christian from Nazareth, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Al-Akhbar, “I think [Levin’s comments] are outrageous and untrue. It is part of Israel’s broader attempt to segment and fragmentize the Palestinian community from one another inside Israel. Other examples of this are with the Bedouins and the Druze, and this is part of [Israel’s] attempt to break up what is a cohesive community. It won’t work.”

“I see myself as an Arab and so do other Palestinian Christians. [Levin’s] logic only reaffirms the agenda to separate and break-up minorities within minorities,” she added.

“There should be more representation of Palestinians in Israel in general. Christian Palestinians are just as repressed as Muslims.”


World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2014

PIEF Newsletter

Dear friends and co-workers for justice in Palestine and Israel, 

For 2014, the theme of the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (WWPPI) will be “Let my people go!” (Exodus 9:1). The dates for the observations are from 21-27 September 2014. However, the Working Group which is planning events for the week hopes that the week will launch a year-round advocacy effort in support of an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is perceived by many as a crime against humanity and one of the major human rights violations against Palestinians under the occupation. Over 4,700 Palestinian prisoners languish in Israeli prisons; some have been imprisoned for more than twenty-five years. Since 1967, human rights organizations report that roughly 800,000 have faced prison terms of varying degrees. Many are arrested and held without charge under a draconian measure referred to as “administrative detention” rather than by judicial decree. Their detentions are not for civil crimes but because they chose political resistance to the illegal occupation. They are then subjected to physical and psychological torture in gross violation of international humanitarian law. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, has characterized Israel’s detention regime as one “designed to disrupt Palestinian society, producing an atmosphere of arbitrariness, instability and powerlessness.” Sadly, children and women constitute a growing number of prisoners.

Israel is the only country in the world where the use of torture is legitimized by its judiciary, up to and including the Israeli Supreme Court – the highest judicial authority in Israel. Israeli interrogators and various security services are licensed to continue torturing prisoners and detainees, confident of their impunity.  Israel considers itself exempt from the jurisdiction of international law and the guidance of international conventions.
During the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, each day will focus on one sub-theme relating to a particular category of prisoners including:

1.      1948, 1967 and Jerusalem prisoners
2.      Child prisoners and arrests of minors
3.      Administrative detention
4.      Sick prisoners
5.      Conscientious objectors
6.      Families

On Sunday 21 September, the opening day of the week, churches around the world will be invited to worship and pray using a special liturgy developed by Palestinian Christians. In keeping with the intent of the week to “Pray, Educate, Advocate”, resources are now being prepared to assist congregations, community groups and individuals to sponsor meetings, protests, study groups, videos, exhibitions, campaigns and other innovative ways to observe the week. These resources will be distributed in advance of the week through a variety of social media.

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) will work with various Palestinian-based groups including the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), Kairos Palestine,Addameer, Hurryat, Defense for Children International, PalestineNew Profile and others to build a Palestinian coalition for observance of the week. In 2014, PIEF will also encourage partners in the Global South - Latin America, Africa and Asia – to participate in events.

PIEF invites churches, Christian ecumenical organizations, civil society groups, inter-faith coalitions, student movements, current and former members of EAPPI and individuals around the world to join this effort and demonstrate visible solidarity concerning an issue that has important implications for human rights throughout the world.

For churches this is an especially important opportunity to respond in action to the Amman Call, which articulates the cries for solidarity from our Palestinian sisters and brothers. The Amman Call includes this critical plea: “Enough is enough. No more words without deeds. It is time for action.”

In solidarity,
Ranjan Solomon
Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) is an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine. The PIEF Newsletter is distributed by the World Council of Churches. You are registered to receive it at the address claudiadevaux@yahoo.com.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.

Media contact: +41 79 507 6363; www.oikoumene.org/press
Visiting address: 150 route de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Syrians treated in Israel

syrie-israel (grande)

SAFED (Galilee) – We present the report by Telepace Holy Land TV on the Syrian conflict victims treated in Israeli hospitals in Galilee. Interviews and photos by Federica Foiadelli.


It has been three years now since the first demonstrations began in Syria in March 2011 destined to result in the tragic civil war that continues to plague the country.
While most of the world remains silent or merely attempts to find political solutions to the conflict, some neighboring countries are making efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. Most of the aid is offered by the surrounding Arab countries. Less dramatic but more unexpected is the way in which the State of Israel, formally an enemy of Syria for decades, is instead engaging humanitarianly in the conflict.

Since February of 2013 hundreds of wounded Syrians have been welcomed into Israel to receive medical treatment in various hospitals in Galilee, the northern part of the country. One of the most active from this point of view is the hospital in Safed that, since last year, has admitted a total of 250 Syrians. It is important to underline that these people in need of care have begun to appear in Israel and have permission to access it only temporarily since last year, in particular since February 17, despite the fact that the war has now been going on for three years.

The director of the Safed hospital, Dr. Oscar Embon, explained to us how it is possible that the wounded Syrians reached this clinic: “The Syrians, wounded in the civil war, arrive at the Israeli border. Israeli soldiers on duty, when they see them, transfer them to a medical facility managed directly by them in the border area. After an initial inspection, those with less severe problems are directly treated on site and then returned to Syria. Those in more serious conditions are sent to our hospital by military ambulance. The soldiers call and alert us: ‘between 30-40 minutes you will receive a certain number of patients.’ So we prepare to accommodate the injured in the trauma unit. 15 % are children under 18 years of age. The ratio between men and women is 9 to 1, so only 10% are women. The age of patients varies from 0 to 70 years. A peculiar thing is that we have received four pregnant women who gave birth at this hospital.”

About their physical condition by the time they reach the hospital, the head of the department of plastic surgery, Dr. Shukri Kassis, says that “almost all need plastic surgery procedures in for damage to the skin and muscles. There are also serious cases, many have had to undergo amputation of legs or hands. Now there is a patient who had a whole leg amputated and part of pelvis; it is a very difficult case. We do what we can to save their lives.”

The hospital in Safed, however, not only provides the highest quality medical care, but also a psychological and material assistance to the Syrian patients, many of whom suffer not only for the serious injuries found on their bodies, but also post-trauma symptoms related to war and the atrocities they have witnessed. Therefore, the hospital staff has a number of social workers in charge of establishing a much closer and almost familiar link with these people. Fares Issa, the social worker in charge of relations with patients Syrians, said: “I ​​ meet them immediately at the trauma unit to give them information in Arabic about what they are saying and give the doctors’ health point of view. If they have mothers, fathers, or, in general, relatives outside the hospital, I try to contact them. I talk with them and provide everything they need: shoes, pajamas, toothpaste, and shampoo. I also give them clothes for when they return home and establish a sincere relationship with them to understand if they suffer symptoms of post-trauma, if they are concerned, if they have special needs, if they want more precise information about where they are and the care that will be their care. If they suffer amputations, I collect money from various communities to buy prosthesis and ensure that they can return home able to walk.”

Thanks to Fares it was also possible to use as a small hospital room as a warehouse for all the goods that can aid the patients; goods bought with donations given by various Christian communities, and Muslim and Jewish residents in Israel: clothes for men, women and children, linen, bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crutches … everything they may need while in the hospital and during their return. The hospital also has a number of clown volunteers, like Johnny Khbeis: “I’m here for four months and work especially with wounded Syrian children. War is terrible, this is the first time in my life when I see a war up close.”
But what happens when they are discharged from the hospital? On average, they remain there for about three weeks but it depends on the extent of their injuries, sometimes one can remain for several months. Once a hospital decides to dismiss them, it calls the military forces that patrol the border with Syria, who will assist the person crossing the border, facilitating a return to Syria. Sometimes there may be an intermediate stage of stay at the military hospital in the Golan.

However, it is legitimate to ask what reactions are aroused in the decision to bring them back into Syria, “of the 250 patients, no one has ever asked to stay. Everyone asks me ‘when can we go home?’ They know that the situation is difficult and dangerous. There’s a war, bombs continue exploding 24-7, and they probably will not have even a minute of peace to sleep. But no one has asked us to stay, everyone wants to go back to family and they say that they prefer to die there than stay here. They love their homeland, Syria”, so says Issa Fares.

Among the 17 patients Syrians who at this time are at the hospital in Safed, a man of about fifty was willing to talk in front of the cameras, provided that we did not show his face. In fact, being in Israel is very risky both for their lives and that of family members, given that relations between the two respective governments are anything but good for decades.

So this person told us what happened to him when he was injured and how he is currently in Israel, “we had nothing to live on: neither water nor bread, nor flour, no electricity, no phone, nor diesel. Nothing. I could not even give something to my children to enable them to live. One day I was able to get some the milk; I went to another village to sell it and get some money to buy bread. In other countries, there are government soldiers who control the entire area and therefore the bread ovens work regularly. When you move you do it only at night, not during the day, because if they notice a car or a moving person they are targeted by bombs, tanks and snipers. This time I was moving at nine o’clock in the evening to go home after buying bread. There was no light, everything was dark. I drove a scooter. At the time when a machine came along side me, a roadside bomb exploded. I woke up in an infirmary, not in a real hospital. They did some checks, and put me in contact with the Israeli army and I was transferred to Israel. At first, I was admitted to the hospital in Nahariya, then they transferred me to Safed. I was welcomed well, they gave me everything, both from the medical point of view and that of a human being. They treated me with respect. I thank all the doctors, nurses and various employees.”

Despite being aware of the difficult situation in which he finds his country, this gentleman wants to go back: “I’m not afraid to go back to Syria. I fear, though, for when I’m there because I do not know where my family is (now they are here for 5 months). I heard later that bombs and missiles were launched on our town; if they are all gone, I do not know where. I’m afraid of this but I want to go back to continue my life. I cannot leave my country.”

Federica Foiadelli – TV Telepace Holy Land


Francis Pope and King Abdullah II: two columns to the building of peace

AbdallahII-François-300x194ROME – Just eight months after his last visit to the Vatican, King Abdullah II of Jordan was again received by Pope Francis Monday, April 7, 2014. In the program of discussions was the Pope’s visit to Jordan in May. But also developments in the Middle East and the dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

A friendship is born very quickly between the Pope Francis and King Abdullah of Jordan, fascinated by the humility and simplicity of the successor of Peter. On August 29, 2013, the king was probably one of the first sovereigns to visit the Pope. While many do not have this privilege, a second meeting was held at teatime Monday, April 7, 2014.
It is uncommon that a head of state is received twice, several months apart, by the head of the Catholic Church. Especially a Muslim king who protects in his country a minority of Christians (3% of the population). 

But between these two meetings, the announcement of the Pope’s pilgrimage in Jordan and the Holy Land was made. The Pontiff will be received in Amman on May 24 and will celebrate a Mass on the banks of the Jordan, on the Jordanian side. The leader of the Hashemite Kingdom has shared with Pope Francis the eagerness of the Jordanian people to meet him. According to the director of Caritas Jordan, who spoke with L’Osservatore Romano, Christians and even other Jordanians expect words of comfort, and words of support.The country is burdened with refugees: more than 500,000 from Syria, 500,000 Iraqis, 900,000 Egyptian and about 2.5 million Palestinians. 

This presents great difficulties, economically, socially and psychologically. Despite the presence of many NGOs and humanitarian aid from several countries, the strong presence of refugees threatens the political balance of the Kingdom and the hope of peoples to live in peace. “Among the refugees who have experienced the horror, many no longer believe in God. Jordan is not at war, but everything around it has collapsed and the population is at its limit.”

Silencing the fundamentalists

The unique rapprochement of two official visits has to do, more than likely, with the special position held by the Kingdom of Jordan in the alliance of nations in the Middle East. It is not unrealistic to say that this country is stuck in the heart of a powder-keg and that, given its geographical position, it should support the surrounding countries. In this context, the King does not try to settle all problems with the wave of a magic wand. But he wants to resolve with the Pope some mutual concerns. In this case, to establish a common front against religious fundamentalism whose menacing shadow hangs over the region. 

The Petra Agency reports that the purposes of the King are to affirm that “Jordan works with all parties to establish a dialogue of communication and understanding between people of different forms of belief in God, and to reject all manifestations of extremism, narrow-mindedness and intellectual and religious intolerance.”
For Bishop Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, this second visit to the Vatican is a “good sign.” It reflects “the unique esteem that King Abdullah has for Pope Francis.” The latter did not fail to thank the ruler of the Hashemite kingdom for his presence, and his commitment to peace and religious Christians. He also expressed his impatience to get to Amman. King Abdullah II went to Rome to seek a pastor. Their common struggle must bear fruit. It is the hope aroused by the Pope’s visit, and the hope that is the basis of their strong friendship.

Pierre Loup de Raucourt


Young Gaza Scouts in Jerusalem for 3 days


JERUSALEM – On the morning of April 2, 2014, a group of 11 young scouts of Saint Joseph Latin Parish, Gaza, arrived in Jerusalem, with their pastor, to meet the Patriarch and his assistant.

They had this “opportunity” to enjoy the taste of freedom, but only for three days. A group of 11 young boys and girls, students and sadly are still hard hit by unemployment at the end of their studies. They succeeded with their pastor, Father George, of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, to obtain the necessary permits to exit Gaza for an official meeting at the Latin Patriarchate. Most of them have not come out since 2005. An opportunity to “breathe” a little, to visit the Holy Places in Jerusalem, and their Christian brothers and sisters in the West Bank.

“Patience and time do more than strength…”

The task was not easy. Exit permits should have been granted last Friday, but for these young persons, thirsty for a little freedom, the papers will not arrive until two days later. On Monday with their young Pastor, they waited eight hours at the Erez checkpoint, which separates Gaza from the outside world. Eight hours before the Israeli soldiers say to them: “try another day…”

The next adventure begins! The group once again restarted trek to the Erez checkpoint. Still the same interminable wait. But this time it will last “only” four hours. They will be able to pass!

Until the expiration of their permits, the scouts stayed in Beit Jala, a few kilometers from Jerusalem, where the Institute of the Incarnate Word rented a house. They were happy to become acquainted with the Scouts of Beit Jala, and have a few meetings with them to discuss their experiences and dreams about some projects – a summer camp together, for example – if the young Gazans still have the chance to get an exit permit.

Young people who want to continue to hope.

During their meeting with Bishop Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, the young people naturally talked about their daily life in Gaza, and the many difficulties related to employment. “I am a journalist by training , and I did further training in project management, but I work at the YMCA,” says Waseem Abu Daoud, director of the Scouts of St. Joseph of the Latin parish, who is already married and has two daughters. Waseem but did not complain, because this group of eleven young people, six others who have received ​​a quality university education, are unemployed. One reason for the unemployment is undoubtedly the total blockade that Gaza has endured for years. The other reasons are certainly related to political and social considerations specific to the current situation in Gaza. Real suffering for the Christians of Gaza, but they refuse to resign in frustration, “because we are here to serve God and the Church, and we are committed,” assured one of the young.

They were able to meet His Beatitude, Patriarch Fouad Twal, who discussed the current situation in Jerusalem – the Judaization of the city – implemented by various methods aimed at reducing the number of Palestinian Arab Christians and Muslims and increasing the number of Jews in the Old City. (Recall that East Jerusalem is part of the land occupied by Israel in 1967.)

The Gaza youth presented their gifts to the Patriarch and his assistant: Different souvenirs bearing the Scouts of Saint Joseph logo.

The visit was a moving encounter with the young, but, as the others, their daily life is full of pitfalls and is far from normal. With their hearts full of dreams and projects, they want to continue to hope anyway.

Firas Abedrabbo and Myriam Ambroselli

Source: http://en.lpj.org/2014/04/03/young-gaza-scouts-in-jerusalem-for-3-days/


World Reacts to Murder of Dutch Priest in Syria

Fr. Frans van der Lugt Remembered as a Man of Peace


Rome, (Zenit.org)

The Monday murder of Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt in Homs, Syria, is bringing reactions from around the world. According to witnesses, an unknown gunman stormed the residence of the 75-year-old priest, took him to the garden of the monastery, and shot him in the head.

In a comment released by Vatican Radio, Fr. Federico Lombardi briefly eulogized the priest, calling him “a man of peace” who chose to remain faithful to the Syrian people suffering from the conflict.

“Where the people die, their faithful pastor also died with them,” Fr. Lombardi said.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, expressed his sadness at the murder of “a man who has dedicated his life to the most poor and needy, particularly in the city of Homs.”

“He always spoke of peace and reconciliation and opened his door to all who asked for his help, regardless of race or religion,” Fr. Nicolas stated. “We hope and ask the Lord that his sacrifice bear fruits of peace and that it may be a further incentive to silence the weapons and put aside hatred.

International community denounces execution

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Fr. van der Lugt’s murder as “an inhuman act of violence.”
Fr. van der Lugt, he said, "heroically stood by the people of Syria" amid growing difficulties in the country. Ki-moon called on all sides in the conflict to ensure the safety of “people of every religion and ethnicity.”
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also denounced the killing, saying that the United States was “saddened” by the death of the Dutch priest.

"We condemn this violent attack and all attacks against innocent civilians and minority communities," she added. "As we've said throughout this conflict, we deplore continued threats against Christians in Syria, and we reiterate that we stand on the side of the Syrian people, who are fighting for a Syria that is inclusive and pluralistic and respects all faiths."

Syrian officials blamed the death on “terrorists," a term used to describe those opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. A statement released by the office of Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba also condemned the attack, laying blame on the Assad regime who, he stated, stood “as the only beneficiary of [Fr. van der Lugt’s] death." (J.A.E.)

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/world-reacts-to-murder-of-dutch-priest-in-syria

Jesuit priest killed in Syria, after vowing to stay in Homs to help the needy (Video)

Dutch Jesuit priest, Frans van der Lugt was reportedly beaten and shot to death by masked men in Syria


Rome, (Zenit.org

According to a statement issued on Monday, by the Jesuit Headquarters in Rome, he was shot twice in the head, in front of the Jesuit residence in the city of Homs.

To view the video click here.


Lebanon Overwhelmed by Syria Crisis

Hosts more than 1 million refugees 

by Kevin Clark  

Feryal, 29, gives water to Zacharia, her four-year-old son. He is dying of cancer. In Syria, the trip to hospital became too dangerous. “I was afraid,” said Feryal. By the time they reached Lebanon, the cancer had spread to his brain, she says, adding: “I failed him.” UNHCR/ Lynsey Addario/ March 2014

The number of refugees fleeing from Syria into neighboring Lebanon passed the 1 million mark on April 3, according to U.N. officials, a bleak milestone exacerbated by rapidly depleting social resources and a host community stretched to the breaking point. Just over three years after Syria’s conflict began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide, struggling to keep pace with a crisis that shows no signs of slowing. Refugees from Syria now equal almost a quarter of the resident population. “The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country.

For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope. Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. We cannot let it shoulder this burden alone.” The influx of Syrians escaping the civil war is accelerating. In April 2012, there were 18,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon; by April 2013, there were 356,000, and now, in April this year, 1 million. Every day, U.N.H.C.R. staff in Lebanon register 2,500 new refugees.

The impact on Lebanon has been devastating. The country has experienced serious economic shocks, including a decline in trade, tourism and investment and an increase in public expenditures. Public services are struggling to meet increased demand, with health, education, electricity, and water and sanitation particularly taxed. The World Bank estimates that the Syria crisis cost Lebanon $2.5 billion in lost economic activity last year and threatens to push 170,000 Lebanese into poverty by the end of this year. Wages are plummeting, and families are struggling to make ends meet.

Children make up half the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon. The number of school-aged children is now more than 400,000, eclipsing the number of Lebanese children in public schools. These schools have opened their doors to some 100,000 refugees, yet the ability to accept more is severely limited. The new President of Caritas Lebanon has launched an appeal to the international community to work harder for the “common good,” seek an end to the conflict in Syria and do more to help refugees who have fled to neighboring countries like Lebanon.

Father Paul Karam considers his appointment by the Assembly of the Maronite Patriarch and bishops of Lebanon a vote of confidence in his ability to meet the challenges of his new job and expresses hope that he will be up to the daunting task. “First of all, we are priests; we are the servants of the Gospel and the Word of God, so I don’t have fear,” he said. “I have confidence in God’s will.” Still, he admits the needs surrounding his new job are huge. He notes Lebanon, a small nation of some four million, is struggling to absorb the Syrian refugees who have flooded across the border even as it already hosts 500,000 Palestinian refugees and some 300,000 foreign workers. The influx of Syrian refugees, he says, has posed existential social, political and humanitarian questions for Lebanon. The number of refugees, he notes, equals almost one-third of Lebanon’s own population. “So how can the infrastructures absorb [them] at the economic level?” he wonders. “ These are very big problems for Lebanon. That’s why it is very urgent now, not tomorrow, and not after tomorrow, to see how we can resolve this problem.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights updated its account of the dead on April 1 as the conflict move deeper into its fourth year. The group now reports at least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year-old civil war, a third of them civilians, though the true toll could be much higher. The nation’s Christians have become targets of displacement and death threats and the subjects of extortion, kidnapping and at times brutal homicides. Efforts to end the conflict by bringing together representatives of President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition have so far failed.

The United Nations peace mediator for Syria said in early April that talks were unlikely to resume soon. A recent report from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency estimates that it will take decades for Syria to recover from the destructive conflict. “Even if the conflict ceased now and GDP grew at an average rate of five per cent each year, it is estimated that it would take the Syrian economy 30 years to return to the economic level of 2010,” says the report, calling the situation an “economic catastrophe.”

The survey, conducted by UNRWA’s microfinance department, found that more than two-thirds of UNRWA’s 8,000 microfinance clients had fled their homes by June 2013 and that only 13 percent of their businesses were still functioning. According to the report, Syria’s economy lost a total of $84.4 billion during the first two years of the war alone and 2.33 million jobs. Half the workforce is unemployed and more than half the population is now living in poverty.

Source: http://americamagazine.org/issue/lebanon-overwhelmed-syria-crisis

Friday, April 4, 2014

Persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Communiqué of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land

COMMUNIQUE - 2 April 2014, the Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land and the Justice and Peace Committee issued a statement about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

Are Christians being persecuted in the Middle East?
Persecution! In many parts of the Western world, this word is people’s lips. It is said that Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East today! However, what is really happening? How should we speak in truth and integrity as Christians and as Church about the suffering and violence that are going on in the region?
There is no doubt that the recent upheavals in the Middle East, initially called the Arab Spring, have opened the way for extremist groups and forces that, in the name of a political interpretation of Islam, are wreaking havoc in many countries, particularly in Iraq, Egypt and Syria. There is no doubt that many of these extremists consider Christians as infidels, as enemies, as agents of hostile foreign powers or simply as an easy target for extortion.
However, in the name of truth, we must point out that Christians are not the only victims of this violence and savagery. Secular Muslims, all those defined as “heretic”, “schismatic” or simply “non-conformist” are being attacked and murdered in the prevailing chaos. In areas where Sunni extremists dominate, Shiites are being slaughtered. In areas where Shiite extremists dominate, Sunnis are being killed. Yes, the Christians are at times targeted precisely because they are Christians, having a different set of beliefs and unprotected. However they fall victim alongside many others who are suffering and dying in these times of death and destruction. They are driven from their homes alongside many others and together they become refugees, in total destitution.
These uprisings began because the peoples of the Middle East dreamed of a new age of dignity, democracy, freedom and social justice. Dictatorial regimes, which had guaranteed “law and order”, but at the terrible price of military and police repression, fell. With them, the order they had imposed crumbled. Christians had lived in relative security under these dictatorial regimes. They feared that, if this strong authority disappeared, chaos and extremist groups would take over, seizing power and bringing about violence and persecution. Therefore some Christians tended to defend these regimes. Instead, loyalty to their faith and concern for the good of their country, should perhaps have led them to speak out much earlier, telling the truth and calling for necessary reforms, in view of more justice and respect of human rights, standing alongside both many courageous Christians and Muslims who did speak out.
We fully understand the fears and sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Christ, when by violence they lose members of their families and are driven out of their homes. They have the right to count on our solidarity and prayers. In certain circumstances their only consolation and hope is to be found in Jesus’ words: “Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10). However, the repetition of the word “persecution” in some circles (usually referring only to what Christians suffer at the hands of criminals claiming to be Muslims) plays into the hands of extremists, at home and abroad, whose aim is to sow prejudice and hatred, setting peoples and religions against one another.
Christians and Muslims need to stand together against the new forces of extremism and destruction. All Christians and many Muslims are threatened by these forces that seek to create a society devoid of Christians and where only very few Muslims will be at home. All those who seek dignity, democracy, freedom and prosperity are under attack. We must stand together and speak out in truth and freedom.
All of us, Christians and Muslims, must also be aware that the outside world will not make any real move to protect us. International and local political powers seek their own interests. We, alone, can build a common future together. We have to adapt ourselves to our realities, even realities of death, and must learn together how to emerge from persecution and destruction into a new dignified life in our own countries.
Together, we must seek out all those who dream as we do of a society in which Muslims and Christians and Jews are equal citizens, living side by side, building together a society in which new generations can live and prosper.
Finally, we pray for all, for those who join their efforts to ours, and for those who are harming us now or even killing us. We pray that God may allow them to see the goodness He has put in the heart of each one. May God transform every human being from the depth of his or her heart, enabling them to love every human being as God does, He who is the Creator and Lover of all. Our only protection is in our Lord and like Him we offer our lives for those who persecute us as well as for those who, with us, stand in defense of love, truth and dignity.
Jerusalem, 2 April 2014

Holy Land participates in Conference on Eastern Christians in Lyon

Posted on Apr 4, 2014 http://en.lpj.org/2014/04/04/holy-land-participates-in-conference-on-eastern-christians-in-lyon/

Colloque LyonFRANCE – From March 26-29 at the Catholic University of Lyon an international conference on “The Vocation of the Christian East: current and future challenges in its relationship to Islam.” Organized by the Theology Faculty of the CUL. The Holy Land was represented by Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and Bishop Lahham Maroum, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, for the three days of reflection and sharing.
The conference was organized by the Faculty of Theology of UCL, including the President, Fr. Thierry Magnin, the Dean, Fr. Bertrand Pinçon, and Prof.Michel Younes, Professor of Theology East. The opening the conference, attended by about 400 people, was honored by the presence of three esteemed personages: His Beatitude, Raphael Louis Sako I, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, His Eminence, Card. Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon and Chancellor of the CUL and His Excellency, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Secretary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
Each day had three very distinct phases: a plenary session each morning where four experts presented papers on the theme of the day; 7 or 8 workshops (about a dozen people each) in the afternoon, a roundtable discussion later in the afternoon where four specialists, after a brief presentation, generously answered questions from participants. The themes of the three days were:
1) “The Geopolitical Approach: changes in the last 30 years”;
2) “The Diaspora or Expansion Approach: Eastern Christians outside their historical territory”;
3) “The Church Approach: the diversity of churches, strength or weakness?” About thirty specialists from the East and various Western countries, especially France, Canada, USA and Germany, brilliantly enlivened this conference.
Among the speakers, each in his subject of specialization, were the particularly distinguished Prof. Sami Aoun, Mr. Roland Bertrand, Professor Frederic Encel, Prof. Levon Ysakhanyan, Prof. Pierre Lory, Prof. Joseph Maïla, Fr. Claudio Monge op, Msgr. Paul Rouhana, Professor Ashraf Sadeq, Fr. Fadhel Sidarouss SJ, Prof. Hilda Tshoboyan, Prof. Joseph Yacoub, Mr. Christian Cannuyer, and Fr. Antoine Ahmar.
The Holy Land was represented by Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, who led a plenary session, 4 workshops and a roundtable discussion on the issues concerning Israel-Palestine, and Bishop Lahham Maroum, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, who moderated a plenary session, two workshops and two panel discussions on issues relating to Jordan. Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre also played a popular role in this conference and many of them faithfully attended throughout the course of the conference. The former lieutenant, Gen. Bernard Fleuriot, led an interesting workshop on the activities of the Order in the Holy Land. Some Knights have made a contribution of volunteers in the organization of the conference, and others hosted speakers in their homes. This was the case with Bishop G. B. Marcuzzo, hosted by Richard Guy and Beatrice, and whose home is not far from the University. Sr. Monika Dullman, Director of St. Louis Hospital in Jerusalem, was also invited to speak mostly on charities working in the Holy Land.
Besides the EOHSJ, L’Oeuvre d’Orient was effectively present, including its Director, Fr. Pascal Gollnisch, one of the speakers who prepared, at the beginning of the Symposium, a long and beautiful series of illustrative panels on Oriental Churches called “the Great Adventure of Eastern Christians”. At the bookshop, we observed the book-interview of Patriarch Michel Sabbah: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and that of Father Manuel Mussallam, “The priest of Gaza.”

A non-academic activity, but still relating to the East, enlivened each evening: a concert of songs performed by many Chaldeans, Maronites and Armenians of Lyon at the Paul Couturier Centre, overseen by Chemin Neuf Community. A solemn Mass was celebrated by Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako I, and concelebrated by Cardinal Barbarin, some bishops and many Eastern and local priests in the Cathedral St. John. There followed a fraternal dinner hosted by the Archbishop of Lyon for the bishops, the organizers of the UCL conference, at his house, next to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

Supported by impeccable organization, enriched by the valuable contribution of totally respected specialists, and encouraged by the lively interaction of the participants, the conference was a great success and a beautiful sign of attention given by the Church of Lyon to the Christian East. A sign of hope and good seeds for the future.

For Bishop Lahham and Bishop Marcuzzo, it was a joyous occasion to meet acquaintances of old from the Holy Land: the Emmanuel Community; Fr. Maurice Borrmans and Fr. Philippe Thierry of the White Fathers; the Chemin Neuf Community; the family of the permanent Deacon Marc Hodara; and Fr. François Lestang.

(From our correspondent in France. Photos with permission of CF, and with gratitude)