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Mosaic of Peace deadline approaches


Conference co-director: The place and the people keep drawing me back

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

Susan Orr, co-director of the 2020 Mosaic of Peace Conference, aboard a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Orr is presbytery leader for the Presbytery of Geneva and stated clerk/presbyter of Healthier Congregations for the Presbytery of Genesee Valley in Rochester, N.Y. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is set to lead its fourth journey to Israel and Palestine March 15–28, 2020. Applications are being accepted online for the 2020 Mosaic of Peace Conference through Oct. 15, or after that date as space allows.

Conference co-director Susan Orr said it’s both the place and the people that keep drawing her back again and again.

“Each time I have gone, I have met incredibly faithful people who reveal and continue to teach me the ways of peace,” Orr said.

After her third Mosaic of Peace Conference in 2018, Orr wrote a meditation reflecting on two of the many people she’s met along the journey: Adnan, a Palestinian shopkeeper in Bethlehem, and James, a Jewish guide on the Jesus Trail, a 52-mile walking path from Nazareth to Capernaum, which was an optional trip extension on one of her trips.

Orr describes these two men as “just ordinary people on the journey of life, earning an honest wage, supporting their families. Ordinary people segregated by a 70-year battle over land. Unable to see, to be touched by the other’s humanity.” She added, “To me, this is the crux of the matter, the thing that must break God’s heart. Jews and Palestinians and Americans have been taught from an early age to mistrust, fear, even hate the other. Our governments continue to stoke this conflict with their desire for money, greed and power, turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. People are so invested in their own narrative, they cannot see reality.”

Trip leaders say an authentic experience with the people and the land of Israel and the Palestinian territories can deepen one’s faith and change the way a person reads and understands Scripture long after the trip is over.

On a previous trip, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, author and activist, shared action steps with Mosaic of Peace participants. He called them the 4 P’s:

  • Pray without ceasing: Cry out to God in lament.
  • Pilgrimage: Come and see, go and tell! See the misery of God’s people and hear the cries of the suffering.
  • Political Advocacy: Every voice counts.
  • Project: Pick a Palestinian project, just one, and support it generously.

Orr writes, “We Americans need to become conscious of our instinct to look for quick fixes, to avoid the full weight of the suffering. Our goal is to be peacebuilders, the long-range work of listening and sharing and bringing together in order to shatter the myths and change people’s hearts, including our own.”

Carl E. Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, said the trip heeds State Department travel advisories and relies upon mission personnel and partners on the ground to advise trip leaders. “We have never been to Gaza and will not be taking this conference there,” Horton said. “We will primarily be in Jerusalem (four days), Bethlehem (four days) and Galilee (three days). We will be in the West Bank, which is the Palestinian territories. Bethlehem is there. We also have, in past conferences, visited the city of Hebron, a Palestinian city with an Israeli settlement, as well as Beit Jala and Beit Sahur (Shepherd’s Field) — all of which are in the West Bank.”

“It is equally important that U.S. Presbyterians see firsthand how their financial support has been invested over the years and continues to be invested in efforts to promote justice and peace in this region,” said Doug Dicks, World Mission’s associate for ecumenical partnerships in Israel and Palestine. Dicks serves in justice and peacemaking in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem and with other partners in the region. He has lived and worked in Israel, Palestine and Jordan for more than two decades. “We Presbyterians are encouraged by our partnerships and longstanding relationships created in Israel and Palestine,” Dicks said.

Horton describes the Mosaic of Peace Conference as a hybrid experience — it’s both a pilgrimage and a study trip. “Participants visit sacred places and walk on holy ground, to be sure, but they do so in the midst of a modern-day Israeli occupation and alongside the Palestinian people,” he said.

“We have trustworthy and responsible partners, tour guides and leaders,” Horton said. “We carefully plan the schedule, the people with whom we meet and the sites we visit. Participants will find it a full, eye-opening, faith-deepening and exhilarating experience.” If a reason arises to adjust the itinerary, it will be adjusted, he added. “We never proceed with a plan if we have any concern about the safety of our group.”

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and World Mission have collaborated to lead a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land every other year since 2014. For more information, including a sample conference schedule and information from past conferences, visit or contact the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program at 800-728-7228, ext. 5805, or 502-569-5805.

This year, two optional extensions are available from March 27–31. One is to Petra/Jordan; the other is to the Tent of Nations. Visit the conference webpage for more information.

The Mosaic of Peace Conference is supported by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.

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