Thursday, June 25, 2009

Church leaders of Jerusalem welcomed President Carter

I came across a June 17 news story from the news service of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem detailing President Jimmy Carter's meeting with Jerusalem church leaders.

President Carter Meets with Jerusalem Church Leaders and is deeply touched by their Commitment to Peace, Reconciliation and Interfaith Harmony -

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 13:36
Communications and Public Relations Office
The Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem

Former President Jimmy Carter on a Peace Mission to the Middle East met in Jerusalem on Saturday June 13th, at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the Old City with a group of Church Leaders from the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, and a core group from the World Council of Churches (WCC Geneva, Switzerland) Palestine and Israel Ecumenical Forum. The core group was locally led by Mr. Yusef Daher, the Inter Church Center Executive, and the Rev'd Canon Naim Ateek, the SABEEL Director, both of Jerusalem.

The meeting with Christian leaders "was the suggestion" said Mr. Daher "of the Right Rev'd Suheil S. Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, and coincided with the WCC Core Group's visit to the region". Bishop Dawani, had recently participated in a Carter Center conference in Atlanta, Georgia, of Christian Leaders in America hosted by President Carter on May 14th - 15th the signature theme of "Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land".

In Jerusalem, President Carter was hosted for the meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the Old City by His Beatitude Theophilos III who welcomed the former U. S. President and Noble Peace Laureate to the "Mother Church" that "embraces all initiatives that call for peace and justice in the world generally, and in our beloved Middle East Specifically" and went on to say in speaking for his colleagues and in recognition of the Carter initiatives," we firmly believe, now exists the possibility for the conflict and hatred to be turned into durable and justice (sic) peace".

Bishop Dawani in his comments stressed the need to stem the outflow of Christians leaving their historic homeland through emigration and the consequent loss of the moderating balance that Christian community has traditionally provided over the centuries. Today, the Bishop stressed, "the Christian community seeks to focus its renewed energies and resources on housing, Healthcare, Education and Social Service Institutions, all of which need governmental, NGO and interagency developmental support as that of U.S. AID" and towards this, the Bishops added "these institutions are a natural grass roots presence, and in their non-sectarian services, promote respect for other people's convictions, uphold interfaith dialogue and seek communal harmony - and we all warmly welcome your (Carter) initiatives for peace in the region."

President Carter responded in reaffirming his commitment to that important task, of Peace, reconciliation and expressed his rising hopes for this in what he saw in President Obama's statement in Cairo. He spoke well of his meetings in Lebanon with several Leaders of different faiths during the recent national legislative elections there, and of his prayerful hope for the coming week's meetings in Gaza. The President also expressed his understanding of and encouragement for the role that the historic Christian Community can and does play in Peace initiatives and interfaith harmony.

Canon Naim Ateek commended the President for his affirmation of democracy by his presence at national country elections in regions of conflict. In this process of democratization in governance, there needs to be a built-in Dr. Ateek stressed, of a shared respect for both the political aspirations as well as the religious convictions of minorities in the electorate, and especially where Christians find themselves in sensitive minority placement among the three Faiths.

As President Carter was leaving, the Patriarch asked the group to join him for "a pleasingly special and memorable sight" on the Veranda with its magnificent vista of the Old City. In the twilight of that day, he pointed to the picturesque historic interfaith presence in three Holy Shrines symbolized by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Minaret of the Mosque of Omar, and the rebuilt Dome of the Old City's Synagogue in the ancient Jewish Quarter - almost touching each other - three Abrahamic communities living faithfully - "what had been, what should be now, and our hope for the bright future".

With the President, himself a devout evangelical Churchman who teaches Sunday School in his small Baptist Church congregation in Plains, Georgia "40 Sundays of the Year", and deeply touched by the physical sight in this admixture of the three collegial Faiths, Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan then pointed to a fourth building on the horizon, the late 19th Century majestic white Bell Tower of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

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Here's another story that came out of World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel, "Change in the Air on Israel/Palestine, say Global Churches -

Change is in the air as churches in many parts of the world hold a "World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel" which began on 4 June 2009, say organisers and participants. New voices are advocating steps toward peace which churches have been promoting for years.

"It's time for us to act on what everyone knows is true," US President Barack Obama said in his address to the Muslim world from Cairo, 4 June 2009, in the section specifically dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict.

"It's time for Israelis and Palestinians to share a just peace," says the message that churches have been using for the World Council of Churches-led action week, 4-10 June 2009.

To begin the week in Bethlehem, local participants projected prayers for peace onto the 'separation wall' at night. As the week goes on, prayers are being read aloud at checkpoints, in schools and in refugee camps.

"There is really no situation that is intractable – none," said Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate and retired Anglican Archbishop of Capetown in a speech at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey near Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday 7 June.

"Each [situation] is capable of being resolved, even this one that seemed so utterly intractable," he added, comparing the Palestine - Israel conflict to the seemingly deadlocked situation in South Africa before the downfall of apartheid.

Meanwhile, in at least seven of the participating countries, church delegations have arranged to meet government officials to urge concrete steps toward peace now.

"It's time for people who have been refugees for 60 years to regain their rights and a permanent home," the churches' action week message says. For 60 years "the Palestinian people, Christian and Muslim…have endured the pain of dislocation", the US president said in Cairo.

In Manila, the Philippines, Christian and Muslim groups came together on 5 June to pray, to demonstrate peacefully at the Israeli embassy and to hold a candle-light vigil for peace.

"It's time to assist settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to make their home in Israel," say WCC member churches and others who join the week. "It is time for these settlements to stop," said President Obama.

People and parishes in the European Union can get help in engaging local retailers about settlement products and lobbying their governments by using an advocacy paper on settlement products that was issued especially for this "World Week for Peace".

"All of us have a responsibility to work for the day…when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims," said the US president in Cairo. "It's time to share Jerusalem as the capital of two nations and a city holy to three religions," say the churches.

A public seminar in Norway tackled the topic of "Promised Land" as part of the action week. The 5 June event featured a pastor and author whose understanding had changed after a visit to the conflict zone.

"It's time to learn from past wrongs," says the World Week message. "It's time for equal rights. It's time to stop discrimination, segregation and restrictions on movement," it adds.

In Scotland, parliamentarians reported to church and civil society leaders on solidarity visits to people in Gaza – one of several events in the week of action which took place there.

Two church groups in the UK visited a local Israeli-owned company which makes engines for drones used against Gaza. Then they prayed at a local church.

"Violence is a dead end," said the US president.

"It's time to be revolted by violence," say the churches, "and for civilians on both sides to be safe."

Sunday, 7 June, is the focal point of "World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel" for many participants. An ecumenical service in East Jerusalem and services in dozens of countries used a prayer from Jerusalem's church leaders. Many parishes worshipped with a special liturgy from Ireland which included testimonies from young Israelis and Palestinians.

Participants with access to the internet are invited to send prayers to Bethlehem for "World Week" and to use the prayers collected there in Spanish, German and Italian – now and in the future.

Now in its fourth year, the action week is organized by and offered to Protestant, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches and related ministries. Pax Christi International is the bridge to people working for peace in the Catholic Church.

The goal is to pray, educate or advocate for a just peace in Israel-Palestine during one week in June. From Kenya to Canada, the UK, the US, Australia and Austria, individuals, congregations and organizations in some 40 countries are taking part in one or more of the suggested activities, judging from information received by WCC.

More on the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel:

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To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go the the blog: A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace,

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