Terrifying news has been coming from Israel and the Gaza Strip for a few days. In the land that Jews, Christians and Muslims call Holy Land, dozens of people are dying again. Probably every one who observes what is happening there cannot help but feel helpless. What can we do? At the moment, actually nothing, except for somehow letting know the people who live there and experience the consequences of the conflict that we remember about them, think about them and pray about them. The text below is also a modest token of remembrance. We made it ad hoc from two statements. One is a fragment of the address given by the Rt. Rev. Suheil S. Dawani, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, at the second Christian-Muslim summit held in June of this year in Lebanon. We attached to it prayers for peace by his predecessor, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal.
Recent historical developments in the region, especially since the beginning of the last century, have led to much socio political and religious unrest. Today we face huge challenges that might lead the whole area to a different and undesirable place. The Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly the Palestinian case, influences much of the current geopolitical changes in the region. The cry for justice, peace and reconciliation is a constant concern for the silent majority in the area. For Christians, the Holy Land–and every land- belongs to God! God’s people, people of all faiths, are called to be stewards of this sacred trust. I believe we all have a choice to make which will affect the future of the whole region. We have to choose a path to follow, the path that leads to strife and warfare, or the path that leads to peace, cooperation and welfare. The Land is God’s, but the choice is ours when it comes to the doing of God’s will. Whether a majority or a minority, all monotheistic religious communities belong to God and they are descendants of the one ancestor, Abraham, God’s Friend. Religion brings all people together rather than separates and alienates them from one another. Abraham is our mentor when it comes to friendship, diversity and pluralism; all these qualities were part of his own family. Friendship and community is an essential quality of a dignified life in the Middle East. Despite the different terminology used by various religions, we all agree that all human beings are created in God’s image; we are all equal in the sight of God, regardless of race, religion, gender, social status, ability or wealth. … When people live in oppression and inequality, with limited freedom, they lose their dignity as human beings.
Heavenly Father, In the life and ministry of your Son, Jesus Christ, you showed us how to live together; give this sense of unity to the peoples of the Holy Land today. In the death of your Son on the Cross, you showed how great was your love for us as well as your readiness to forgive; you brought new hope to your people and a desire to work for peace and justice; renew that hope in your people today and give them a burning desire to find your peace in this time.
In the resurrection of Jesus and in the outpouring of your Holy Spirit you showed the disciples they had power and authority to conquer in your name; convince your people today of the gifts you have entrusted to them and so help them to transform their Land to your greater glory. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Spirit of the Living God, Come afresh on your Holy Land. Help your people to restore broken relationships. Give them patience to break down barriers of suspicion and mistrust; ability to discern personal prejudice and the courage to overcome fear. Encourage them to respect each other’s integrity and rights so that your kingdom may be established on earth for Jesus’ sake. Amen.