NCC women's delegation finds 'palpable' uncertainty in Mideast
[NCC News] New York City, May 16, 2007--"The uncertainty was palpable," wrote Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos following a visit with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, "in the concerns that many expressed that hopes for lasting peace throughout the region were dim."
Dr. Kireopoulos, the associate general secretary for international affairs and peace for the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), is accompanying a delegation of U.S. women church leaders to Jordan and Israel/Palestine.
"The lament is, quite profoundly, that lack of vision--in the Middle East, and in the international community--leaves a vacuum to be filled with radicalism, violence, and hopelessness," wrote Kireopoulos in a blog posted on the NCC website http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCdelegation.html .
The delegation of more than a dozen women is led by the Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young, an at-large vice president of the NCC and vice president of the North American Baptist Women's Union. They will be in region for nearly two weeks. The delegation's special focus is the plight of women and children suffering through hostilities in the Middle East.
Kireopoulos wrote of the delegation's experience last Sunday at a service at a Syrian Orthodox church in Amman, Jordan. Following the service delegation members talked with some of the thousands of refugees from Iraq now living in Jordan. He described it as emotional exchange.
"Tears were shed--in compassion, and in repentance--as we shared stories with one another," wrote Kireopoulos. "Tears were also shed in solidarity, as one of our delegation members, a Gold Star Mother, shared the story of her son who was killed in Iraq."
The delegation is expected to return next Tuesday (May 22).
The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
---NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org
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May 15, 2007
By Antonios Kireopoulos
As we entered Israel/Palestine from Jordan, our thoughts were on our experience in Amman. Passing over the Jordan River via the King Hussein Bridge, we were filled with the kind of joyful anticipation that comes with knowing we will walk the land where Jesus walked, and with the kind of sorrow that comes with knowing we will also be walking a land that still is in the midst of conflict.
Our experience in Amman heightened both of these expectations, for we had been in a place of both peace (wrought by years of stability) and uncertainty (wrought by tensions in Iraq on one side and in Israel/Palestine on the other). We saw the benefits of peace in, among other things, the economic growth, empowerment of women, and programs for refugees who make up a large percentage of Jordan's population. We celebrated this aspect of Jordanian society.
The uncertainty was palpable, however, in the concerns that many expressed that hopes for lasting peace throughout the region were dim. The lament is, quite profoundly, that lack of vision--in the Middle East, and in the international community--leaves a vacuum to be filled with radicalism, violence, and hopelessness.
On Sunday morning, we were blessed to have the opportunity to worship at the Syrian Orthodox church that, due to its living ties to ancient Christian communities, ministers to refugees from the Iraq War. The blessing was magnified in a meeting after liturgy with many Iraqi people--men, women, and children--who suffered, and continue to suffer, the consequences of the US war in Iraq. Tears were shed--in compassion, and in repentance--as we shared stories with one another.
Tears were also shed in solidarity, as one of our delegation members, a Gold Star Mother, shared the story of her son who was killed in Iraq. These thoughts were with us as we crossed the Jordan River on our way to Jerusalem, the City of Peace. ###