For further study and reflection
Links and reference
General Assembly leaders offer a call to prayer | Bolbach, Parsons, and Valentine lift up peoples and nations of the Middle East
Horizons magazineSeptember/October 2010: Christians in the Middle East
World Week of Prayer for Palestine Israel “Jerusalem Prayer for Sunday 29 May 2011"
(Also available in French, German, and Spanish.)
Cradle of our Faith
This is the story of the enduring witness of Christianity in the Middle East. The Christians who live there are the "living stones" of the early Church and today. A 20-page full color keepsake that tells the story of Christians in Egypt, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq from biblical times to the present in a part of the world where geopolitical developments affect us all. Included inside the booklet are maps, statistics and fascinating facts.
A Jerusalem Prayer
From the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem For the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2011
Isaiah 2:1-5; 11:9
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it….”
“They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea….”
Almighty and Merciful God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, you gathered the first Christians in Jerusalem. Grant that, like the first church of Jerusalem, we may come together, and with courage, we may preach and live the Word, and the good news of truth, reconciliation, and peace.
God Creator, Giver of Life, Bearer of Pain, Initiator of Love, you made the world and everything in it. You created the human race in your image and likeness, and gave us the earth for all to share. Break down the walls that separate us.
God of Justice, your generosity is without bounds. Guard us from selfishness; inspire us to be instruments of love, and witnesses of your mercy and justice. Help us to face challenges and to struggle against all that is born of injustice. Lead us to act together in places and situations of want and need: where families are driven from their homes, where the vulnerable suffer in the hands of the powerful, where poverty and unemployment destroy lives.
God of Hope, you continue to call us to work for Peace in our world, broken and wounded by injustice, violence, and indifference. Alone, we are overwhelmed by challenges but together, and inspired by your Spirit, we can prevail beyond dreams and imagination. In fear we lose hope, and feel the futility of our efforts. Instill in our hearts and minds the image of your suffering and compassionate love as a source of courage and strength.
God, Protector of the widow, the orphan and the stranger, in a world where many know despair, you raised your Son Jesus Christ to give hope for humanity and renewal to the earth. Strengthen and unify your Church against the forces of evil in this part of the world, where aggression of all forms, killings and the blood of martyrs shed even in places of worship, obscure the hope of a new life.
God of Peace and Mercy, inspire nations to transform oppression and violence into freedom and peace for the sake of the poor, the vulnerable and the broken-hearted. Help us to respect and promote the equality and dignity of all, particularly in your Holy Land. Grant discernment to leaders and legislators, that righteousness and truth may flourish among all peoples throughout the world.
God our Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to yearn through prayer for the coming of your Kingdom. You are able to accept in us what we cannot acknowledge; to name in us what we cannot bear to speak of; to hold in your memory what we tried to forget. Teach us to pray together to resist the evil and oppression by our non-violent actions and love for one another. May your Son’s earthly life be the model for our own, as we recognize your presence and guidance through all our joys and tribulations.
We pray these in the name of the Risen Lord, and in the power of His Spirit. Amen.
Send: People and parishes around the world are invited to send prayers for peace by e-mail to Bethlehem as part of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.
Visit the website of the Arab Educational Institute. This church-related NGO collects and shares prayers offered by Christians around the world, as well as prayers offered by Palestinian Christians for use in local churches, community gatherings, at protests near the separation wall, and near Israeli settlements.
Theological concerns from the 1997 Resolution on the Middle East
A. Theological Concerns
As Christians, we hunger for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). We believe hungering for righteousness includes striving for ethical behavior, equal treatment for all, and compassion for the less powerful.
As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). We believe that the peace we seek includes an end to war, fair and equitable resolution of human conflict, and living with others in the spirit of generous love of neighbor.
As Christians, we are called to participate in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
We believe our work for righteousness, peace, and reconciliation is a response to and reflection of what God already has accomplished for all creation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This means that the ministry of reconciliation we are given does not begin with us, but involves our commitment to a process of discovering how reconciliation already is being accomplished by God through others and finding ways to participate in this work.
We seek to do this work of reconciliation in a spirit of humility and responsibility.
As children of Abraham, we acknowledge with appreciation and respect the rich spiritual resources and core ethical teachings in Judaism and Islam that call Jews and Muslims to work for righteousness, peace, and reconciliation. We believe it is imperative, especially in working for peace in the Middle East, that we seek to learn from one another and find common ground to work together. (See "Guidelines, #d" set forth by representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Middle East Council of Churches meeting in Cyprus, November 9-11, 1988, Minutes, 1989, Part I, p. 390.)
B. Historical and Practical Concerns
We acknowledge that whenever we speak we do so out of our particular history and context. When addressing the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must take responsibility for historical and contemporary realities that bear heavily on our relationship with the peoples of the Middle East.
We acknowledge and confess the history of Christian prejudice and the persecution of Jews, including Western Christian responsibility in relation to the Holocaust. Even as we work for peace in the Middle East, which at times will involve being critical of particular Israeli policies, we need to be sensitive to how this history may affect our perceptions of the situation or the perceptions Jews may have of us. We need to learn more about the different viewpoints among Jews about Israel and the peace process, seek common ground in working for peace, and be determined to challenge anti-Jewish prejudice in the strongest terms. (See General Assembly resolutions on "Christian-Jewish Relations," Minutes, 1987, Part I, pp. 416-22 and Minutes, 1989, Part I, pp. 388-91; and on "Anti-Semitism," Minutes, 1990, Part I, p. 839.)
We acknowledge and confess the history of Christian ignorance, prejudice, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that inspired the Crusades and, in modern times, fueled Western Christian complicity in colonialism. In the Middle East, both Arab Muslims and [other] Arabs have suffered terribly from this history and, still today, struggle with how to relate to Western influences, including the role of the United States and its strong support for Israel. In light of the powerful influence of the religious renewal taking place among Muslin communities in the Middle East and across the world, as well as the growing American Muslim community, we need to learn much more about Islam and Muslims. In our work for peace in the Middle East, we need to be sensitive to Arab-American Christian and American Muslim perceptions, to challenge widespread negative stereotypes, and to seek ways to work together, as we also seek ways to work together with American Jews. (See General Assembly Resolution on "Christian-Muslim Relations," Minutes, 1987, Part I, p. 494.)
We acknowledge that we speak and act as Americans who live a safe distance from the bitter, painful realities of the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and from the fears and frustrations about the peace process. We are committed to listening to the voices of people directly involved on the ground, and to providing encouragement and support to people on all sides of the conflict who are striving toward peace. 566 1997
9) "Urge all Presbyterians who visit the region, whether for pilgrimage, business, or pleasure, to seek out the Christian communities, join with them in worship, and become acquainted with their human-rights struggles, and to seek ways to express Christian love, peace, and justice."
Page 33 - Resolution on the Middle East, adopted by the 209th General Assembly
Easter Message 2011 from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
14 Apr 2011
Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!
We, the Heads of Churches of the Holy City of Jerusalem bring you our greetings and our joy in the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christians find their joy is secure in the hope of the promise of eternal life which our Lord has won for all who believe. However, when we in Jerusalem, the city of redemption, see the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in our region our joy becomes more solemn. We find sadness competes with the joy of Easter as we witness the violence which has erupted in the face of peaceful demonstrations by people throughout the Arab world these past months.
We Christians are watching in prayer the developments in the Middle East. We also pray that the reforms would lead to modern civil society where freedom of expression, freedom of religion, human rights — including the rights of those who are considered being a minority in numbers — are respected. We call upon all people of faith and good will to pursue peace while at the same time we recognize that peace cannot be bought at the price of silence and submission to corruption and injustice.
The violence, when it erupts, reminds us that the cross of Christ is ever present for the faithful followers of the Prince of Peace. The crucifixion is an ongoing reality for many of our clergy and people who continue to seek to live with mutual understanding and co-operation with their neighbors.
We urge all Christians to pray for reconciliation among people in the Holy Land, where the deteriorating situation makes peace and justice seem further away than ever before. We ask the Churches around the world to stand with us in giving voice to those who are silenced, in breaking down walls that separate us from one another and in building bridges of goodwill between people.
We pray for the leaders of the nations, and for those who demonstrate for change, to use wisdom and their best judgment to serve the needs of their people and to promote peaceful solutions to change for a better future for all of God’s children. Our Lord died for the sins of the whole world that all people will see in his example how violence only leads to death and destruction. In his resurrection we experience his victory over violence and death and we embrace a vision of the future in which all people live together in harmony.
This vision gives us hope to renew our faith in the face of despair. Christians all over the world celebrate the victory over death which is ours as a gift from God who has compassion and mercy for all of his creation. We share our joy in the resurrection with you. The cross is ever before us day by day and the cross is empty. New life has come. Christ is risen. We are risen. Alleluia. Thanks be to God.
+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch
+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch
+Patriarch Torkom II Manoogian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarch
+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarch
+Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch
+Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Exarch
+Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch
+Fr. Rafael Minassian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch