Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PGF Report 3-A Voice From the Middle East

"I am a Christian Palestinian. I am your forgotten brother," said Father Elias Chacour who is the Melkite Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Galilee and a three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee as he began his address to the PGF.

I read his book Blood Brothers which recounts the story of his life and the little known struggles of the Palestinian Christians in the land of Israel where they are literally caught in the crossfire between the Palestinian Muslims and the Jews. Even more compelling is the story of the Mar Elias school he founded, which now includes a university, where 4,500 students of all faiths (60% are Muslim) study side-by-side in the land of Israel. " Life is very different from what the press represents it to be," he observed in his presentation to the Presbyterian Global Fellowship's Friday session.

Father Chacour believes that education is the key to peace and justice for the Palestinians and that the Palestinian Christians can be the bridge to peace between the Muslims and the Jews in Israel. But he warns, " Immigration is threatening Christianity to disappear from the Holy Land. There are only 147,000 Palestinian Christians left in Israel. "

What can American Christians do? "Go and visit the Palestinian Christians who are feeling isolated and marginalized," urged Father Chacour. "Be the friends of the Jews, but do not be the enemies of the Palestinians. You must be the common friend."

He closed with an appeal to the Presbyterian Church, saying that we have something the world needs--we are not part of the "weird separatist fundamentalist subculture." "You are in the lifesaving business," he concluded.

Some in the audience were not comfortable with his appeal because they thought it critical of Israel. I think he is remarkably unbiased, considering the fact that his family was forcibly removed from their land by Israeli authorities when he was nine years old at the time of the establishment of that state. A few years ago I heard an extensive presentation about the good work of the Mars Elias Educational Institutions, and that wasn't discussed in any detail at the PGF. I wish it had been, because I'm sure Israel, the Middle East, and all of us need to learn that it is possible for young Muslims, Jews and Christians to study, work and play in peace in the midst of the most intractable conflict in the Middle East.


Gannet Girl said...

While my former students were mostly intensely Zionistic, I had opportunities to witness their one-on-one interaction with young people with whom they shared less than nothing in the way of politics and faith. Not surprisingly, those interactions reflected thoughtfulness and kindness.

Purechristianithink said...

We have a Palestinian Christian couple attending our church fairly often right now. Their story sounds similar to the one you heard at the PGF conference--especially the call for American Christians to play an informed and responsible role.

Recovering Baptist said...

I pray that we all heed this call to love and be concerned about our Palestinian brethren. Sadness has engulfed me for years watching as American Christians compromised the gospel of Grace revealed in Jesus Christ by blindly supporting one side in their rights and wrongs yet never extending anything to the other. Revelation 7.9 makes clear that God is surrounded by a multitude from every race and language.

Presbyterian Gal said...

"You must be the common friend."

What? Like Jesus was? Why, the very idea. ;)

Serena said...

Common friend like Jesus, indeed!