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A letter from Nuhad Tomeh in Lebanon

December 2, 2009

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Beirut, in the name of our Incarnated Lord. It has been some time since I have written you. I’ve had a very busy year. As we enter Advent and approach Christmas, let us read the famous passage from the prophet Isaiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government will be upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
Of the increase of his government and of peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom,
To establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness
From this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah: 9:6-7)

In September and October, I had the privilege of participating in World Mission Challenge 2009. I was one of 45 mission co-workers who visited 152 of our denomination’s 173 presbyteries. I visited four presbyteries in four weeks and talked to over 50 churches and church groups. Besides talking about what we are doing in the world as World Mission of the PC(USA) my main message was about “peacemaking.” We are all invited and challenged to be peacemakers, (and my sermon is available upon request).

The passage from Isaiah addresses Jesus, the son, who is coming, and the child who is given to us as the Prince of Peace. I would also say that he is the source and giver of peace. My message was that we are called to be peacemakers, and not only peace lovers or peace keepers. The difference is that the first does not require an action and the second takes place after peace has been established (which is done by the U.N.). Peacemaking requires an action and a price to be paid. Jesus gave up his life to make peace among God and people, and among people themselves. Isaiah tells of the coming of the Prince of Peace whose government will last forever because it is built on peace and not war, on love and not on force or military action, as some governments are doing these days. Peace will come only by building bridges and not walls, by being in dialogue and not invading and destroying others.

This is also my prayer for you, my friends, this Advent and Christmas — that you will be involved with peacemaking and will work to create peace among yourselves and others.

Photo of people gathered loosely on a sidewalk in front of a tall hurricane fence. One man has a camera around his neck. Another man is talking with Nuhad Tomeh as a woman looks on.

Nuhad Tomeh with the Chicago Presbytery group at Aleppo college in Syria.

I received the Middle East Study Committee of the General Assembly of the PC(USA) here in my region. The committee spent three weeks in the Middle East listening to leaders of churches and others and learning about the impact of the peace negotiations on Christian presence and witness. They will take their suggestions to the coming General Assembly. The goal is to issue a statement supporting peace and justice to all and empowering the Christian presence in the Middle East. This alone could be a just solution to the 60 years of war, and we who live here now know the importance of a permanent, comprehensive and just peace to all.

Photo of people sitting in a well lighted room. The women's heads are covered. Two of the men wear white turbans. A flag has prominence.

Meeting of the Chicago Presbytery’s Middle East Task Force with the Grand Mufti of Syria.

The other delegation I received, and which is also trying to build bridges and understanding between the PC(USA) congregations and the people of the Middle East, was the Middle East Task Force of Chicago Presbytery. This delegation of 19 participants came for a study tour from November 2 through 20, visiting Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Often groups visit Israel and Palestine and never have the opportunity to experience the whole tapestry of the Middle East. Chicago Presbytery has a long-standing commitment to broaden its exposure to and education about the Middle East. By visiting several countries, the depth of the Israel-Palestine issue is understood. There are a number of Palestinian refugee camps within Lebanon and Syria and Jordan, and its an education to see the different ways those countries have incorporated the refugees into the life of the country, or in some cases, merely tolerated or further oppressed the refugees. In recent years, Iraq has been in the forefront, and new refugees come from that situation. Syria is home to approximately 800,000 refugees. The study group was able to see and hear firsthand about the situation from refugees and church leaders. Their response was to commit to walking with our Iraqi brothers and sisters. Amid today’s reality is the history of the birthplace of Christianity. A study tour such as this one can’t help but force the issue of what it means to be a Christian in this world today.

These are an example of two delegations that are trying to honor the Prince of Peace by being peacemakers. Pray with us, and for us, that the Prince of Peace and his rule will come over the Middle East and His government will last forever and ever.

Nuhad Tomeh

The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 346

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