Lectionary Text and Prayers for Israel & Palestine: Matthew 14: 13 - 21
Holy One of All Creation,
As we read the familiar story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, may we hear it with fresh ears, an open heart, and in the spirit of our Palestinian Christian partners who continue their faithful witness in the hills of Galilee, the hills of Ramallah, and on the shores of Gaza.
Forgive us and have mercy upon us. The powerful voices in our world today all too often seem to echo the Disciples who were nearly automatic in wanting to "send the crows away". They were convinced that we need to separate from others because there was not enough to go around. When do we do this in our own lives? In the way we structure our communities, politics, even our social networks? Why do we do this? How much has to revolve around today's growing culture of fear, of want?
And then, Dear God, we read, we hear the Word: that we "need not go away". There is another way. We may embrace and follow Jesus' example: look to heaven, give thanks, and then all will be filled. There will even be leftovers!
One of the many blessings of having lived for many years in the occupied Palestinian territories is to have witnessed to what I call "posture of gratitude" alive and well in their culture. No matter the level of despair or violence, no matter the abundance or want, there is a culturally entrenched spirituality of living out all aspects of your life always thanking God. This "posture of gratitude" multiples both the goodness and the good news!
In the diakonia of mission service miraculous opportunities are opened up to us to the blessings of koinonia -- of relationship and communion. Our Palestinian Christian partners have taught me to ask the more important question: how are our hearts? When living in a posture of gratitude our hearts are glad and we are more likely to recognize Christ among us!
Dearest One, when life seems too difficult, the road too hard let us be reminded of the words of our Palestinian sister, Jean Zaru:
"We have been working for a long time to end oppression and occupation and have, thus far, not secured our rights. It is discouraging. Fear and loss surround us, and many forces are at work to make us feel marginalized and disempowered. At best the work ahead seems overwhelming.
"In the midst of privation, anxiety and suffering, I found that my hope was simply to acknowledge my dependence upon God. I thought often of the affirmation of Paul in his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 4:11b-13)…. I know, wherever I am, whether in affluent circumstances or in poverty, whether I have personal liberty or not, that I am under the guiding hand of God and that God has a service for me to render."
Keep in Your Prayers:
- Palestinian, Israeli and international peacemakers who risk their lives to resist oppression and build a culture of non violence;
- Ourselves, our mission partners, our missionaries and our world leaders who seek to end the occupation;
- Palestinian refugees who have endured 60 years of displacement and discrimination;
- The international community that we might uphold, without exception, international human rights law;
- Religious leaders that they might find the moral courage to speak despite the risk, remembering that we are under the guiding hand of God and have a service to render;
- The spiritual example of our mission partners and all Palestinian Christians who have stood in continuity of witness for over 2000 years; and
- Jean Zaru, that her new publication, Occupied with Nonviolence, may reach fresh ears and open hearts.
(Prayer by Marla Schrader)
Global Ministries International Partners in Israel & Palestine:
The Middle East Council of Churches' Department of Service to Palestine Refugees (DSPR) was established in the early 1950s to help Palestinian refugees with their newly acquired status following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The DSPR set up branches in five different regions: Gaza, Jerusalem and West Bank, Galilee in Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon, with the clear mandate of working with the refugees, the poor, and the dispossessed. The following population groups and programs are supported through the work of DSPR's area committees:
- Gaza: health clinics; education; employment opportunities and vocational training centers in carpentry, metal and aluminum works, secretarial studies, English, dressmaking, hairdressing, literacy, knitting, embroidery, and others; community development, and physical rehabilitation.
- West Bank: including small-scale physical infrastructure; water cisterns; youth and children's activities; and women's development.
- Nazareth: village development; employment opportunities; community development and organization; rural village development; civil society development; women's development; youth leadership; and vocational training.
- All area committees: workshops and training sessions on matters pertaining to women's issues, youth, the disabled, environment, and other relevant topics; loans for educational and business purposes; hundreds of refugee children and their families benefit from a variety of activities geared to people with special needs or to children.
The East Jerusalem YMCA was established in 1949 in a tent at Aqabat Jaber Refugee Camp near Jericho and operates with all sectors of the Palestinian Society without discrimination. The East Jerusalem YMCA operates a variety of programs throughout the West Bank and Gaza, including: best practice trauma treatment and other mental health services; vocational rehabilitative services; medical aids to help the physically disabled reach the maximum possible degree of independence; building accessible facilities for persons with disabilities; sports, cultural, social and recreational activities including youth and work camps, leadership training, youth exchange programs, international conferences and other activities that aim at developing and enriching the spirit, mind and body of Palestinian youth; career counseling and micro-enterprise development; women's training to improve the socio-economic status and involvement of women in the Palestinian society; and advocacy for peace with justice, tolerance, equality and respect for the rights and dignity of human beings based on first-hand experiences and adequate information.
Rawdat el-Zuhur (Arabic for "Garden of Flowers") is a primary school for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. Established in 1952, it aims to raise a new generation with principles of good citizenship, and concern for the environment; creative and critical thinking skills , accepting of constructive criticism, equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to be leaders in a democratic society which they would develop and preserve. It serves mainly the lower income community. Students at Rawdat el-Zuhur can be supported through the Common Global Ministries Board's Child Sponsorship Program.
Sabeel is an ecumenical, Palestinian Christian, Liberation Theology Center which seeks to make the Gospel contextually relevant. In Arabic, Sabeel means "the way" and also a "spring of water." Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians. The Center is located in Jerusalem where the majority of programs take place with participants from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, the Galilee, and surrounding areas.
The YWCA of Palestine aims to empower Palestinian women by expanding their options, supporting their economic independence, liberating them from all kinds of oppression, and enhancing their participation in the building of a free Palestinian civil society. As early as 1893, informal groups of Christian women were meeting in Jaffa and Jerusalem as YWCA groups. In 1918, the YWCA of Palestine was established in Jerusalem. The events of 1948 and 1967 constituted serious challenges but also enabled the YWCA to reach out to more women and children, particularly in the refugee camps. Like a solid rock, the YWCA has withstood all political storms by shaping and molding itself to comply with the needs of the people, always at the service of women and the community. Throughout the years, the YWCA has developed a wide range of programs and projects aimed at women, empowering and providing them with educational, cultural, and training opportunities to develop their skills and personalities, and to support them to actively participate in developing themselves, their families, and their communities. This work has given the YWCA a special identity as a community service organization that is deeply respected, both among Palestinians and in many other places around the world. We envision a free, peaceful, Palestinian democratic society based on social justice, respect for human rights, pluralism, celebration of cultural diversity, gender equality and sustainable development. There are three local associations in Jerusalem, Jericho and Ramallah, and three centers in refugee camps: Aqabat Jabr, Jalazone and Kalandia. The YMCA of East Jerusalem and the YWCA of Palestine have created the Joint Advocacy Initiative.
The non-violent, peacebuilding ministry of Jean Zaru, Presiding Clerk of the Ramallah Friends Meeting, promotes global understanding and the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on human rights and international law. Jean Zaru is the only Palestinian Christian woman who leads a religious community. She exclusively volunteers her time and talents, both locally and internationally, offering a unique and critical voice on issues of human rights as well as the specific rights of women and children. She also works on issues of the environment, justice, and religion. Her lifelong commitment to global, ecumenical, and interfaith work has led her to accept hundreds of speaking engagements, invitations to offering consultancy to non-governmental peace organizations, and to share her wisdom and perspectives in writing. Most recently, Jean Zaru has spearheaded the rejuvenation of the Quaker presence in Palestine through a new ministry of the Meetinghouse to create programming to promote a culture of peace and non-violence in the wider community. The ministry, housed in the Meetinghouse itself, is called the Friends International Center in Ramallah and offers safe space for Palestinians, Israelis, and international visitors in their common pursuit of non-violent peace building and international understanding.
Global Ministries Missionary in Israel & Palestine:
Marla Schrader lived ten years in the occupied Palestinian territories. She continues to support the theological work of Jean Zaru, Clerk of the Ramallah Friends Meeting.