Here’s a powerful reflection on Al Quds Day by Rev. Stephen Sizer (with highlights courtesy of Father Roy Hayes).
From my perspective, the media has done everything possible to destroy Al Quds Day this year. They have labelled it a day of hate and they slander those who take part in it, though all the persons I know who are involved have had no other concern but to remember the suffering of their oppressed sisters and brothers in Palestine. It’s a time-tested tactic – make a lot of noise and slander the protestors, and so divert attention away from the real issues that Al Quds Day is supposed to highlight.
Thank you, brother Steve, for restoring some balance to the debate by bringing us to the heart of the issue.
What are your hopes for Al Quds? What is your vision for Jerusalem? What do you pray for Yerushaláyim? Is it for a return to 1967 and Jordanian rule? Or the British Mandate of 1917? The Ottoman rule of 1517? The Mamluks of 1250 or the Ayyubid dynasty of Saladin from 1187? Or do you long for the return of the Islamic Caliphate of 638? Or even earlier, the rule of the Herod, Alexander, Artaxerxes or Cyrus? Or is it to see a return to the kingdom of David or Solomon?
During its long 4,000 year history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Jesus was not the first and will not the last to weep over Jerusalem. The Bible tells us,
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side… They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Jesus prediction came true in 70AD when the Romans demolished the city and built their pagan Aelia Capitolina, to occupy, suppress and control its citizens. Today we weep too that Al Quds, the Old City and East Jerusalem remain, after 45 long years, under Israeli military occupation. An occupation in breach of international law, Geneva Conventions and UN Resolutions. That is why no country recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the city.
But what kind of Al Quds do you envision? What kind of Jerusalem are you marching for today? Is it for an open, inclusive city of faith? Or for one as exclusive as the Zionists are trying to create? Let me be frank. Is there a place in your Jerusalem for Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of no faith? Is there a place for Sunnis as well as Shias, for Salafists as well as Sufis? Is there a place for all those born there? All those who have found refuge there? All those driven out by fear or persecution?
What kind of Al Quds do you want? Perhaps we should instead ask ‘What kind of Al Quds does God want? Long before Jesus or Mohammed were born, God inspired David to envision a city whose residents would be identified by their faith not race.
“Glorious things are said of you, city of God: “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me – Philistia too, and Tyre along with Cush – and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” (Ps. 87)
The Prophet Isaiah also envisions Jerusalem as a city where God teaches the nations, where swords are turned into plough shares and spears into pruning hooks.
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
3Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will
they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
That is why, quoting the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jesus insisted Jerusalem must be a place of prayer for all nations.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:15-17)
Therefore if we wish to do God’s will, we will work and pray for Al Quds to become an inclusive city that reflects God’s vision, a city of justice, peace & reconciliation. Insha’Allāh.
Christ Church Vicarage
Father Roy writes:
Peers, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has a tangible focal point:Jerusalem. The word “Jerusalem” means “City of Peace”. An international debate over the future status of Jerusalem is now in progress, on-line as well as off-line. To hear from the Palestinian side, read MIFTAH’s latest mailing pasted below. To learn the extent to which Israeli officials are incensed that the debate has grown international, watch this short video: BBC Refuses To Name Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital (04:47).
The Rev. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Christian, states the obvious in the language of diplomacy: ”Jerusalem remains the key to peace. Ultimately it is what happens to Jerusalem that will determine whether a viable peace is achieved or not. Unless the International Community can build peace based on a just foundation, it is difficult to imagine a permanent resolution of the conflict.” Karen Armstrong explains why this is true in an article published in Time Magazine: Why Jerusalem Was Central To Muhammad. For additional reading: www.sabeel.org… and www.cmep.org….
President Obama literally caused global warming when he told an AIPAC conference that Jerusalem must remain “undivided” and ”Israel’s eternal capital. America’s President missed a peacemaking opportunity that day which would have been consistent with even his own foreign policy. All the President needed to say was that Jerusalem must remain “undivided and SHARED”. Peers, let’s think about the matter. Let’s think more and more deeply. It’s not too late for President Obama to correct his mistake. All he has to do is finish his sentence. Let’s Contact The White House and insist that he do. Please read on.
The Christian Right, in their unquestioning support of the Israeli government, often forget that almost all of the Christians in the ‘Holy Land’ are Palestinians.
The church in Israel/Palestine indeed has the unenviable task of preaching love and reconciliation between all the peoples of the land (Christian, Muslim and Jew) while enduring outright hostility from so many of their brethren in the West.
Bishop Younan Calls Church to Remain Steadfast, Hopeful, and Prophetic
JERUSALEM, 25 January 2012 – Worshippers from nearly every Christian tradition crowded into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem last evening to mark day four of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Together, those gathered celebrated a Service of the Word in Arabic, German, and English with Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), preaching.
In his sermon, Younan reflected on the centrality of the cross of Christ not as doctrine or decoration, but as the very way of life, unity, history, experience, and call in the church—not only in the past, but in the present life and witness of the church in society.
“The church today is again called to be bridge-builders and ambassadors of reconciliation.” Younan said. “We are called to play a role in building a modern civil society, but also to inject into society the common values of all religions that promote coexistence, peace, and justice, and accepting the other. We are called to a prophetic role, speaking the truth to power. Only when the church is involved in society, and especially among the suffering, then it will have a future.”
Younan spoke to recent articles published questioning the survival of Arab Christianity in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and developments in the Middle East that point toward a growth in extremism and threaten to curtail human rights, in particular women’s rights.
Yet, Younan said, “even in these circumstances, we will continue to be steadfast and not emigrate. For we are a people who carry a message—a message of love, a message of moderation, a message of undying hope—a message entrusted to us that is so essential in these days as the situation in the entire Middle East continues to develop. We are called to remain because the Lord called us to be brokers of justice and instruments of peace in the Holy Land.”
Younan called on the local Christian community to “Remain steadfast. Do not give up hope. Remember your calling. Be a source for moderation in the midst of a sea of extremism.”
Younan also called upon expatriate and global Christian communities to “take up your crosses in an accompaniment relationship with the local churches. Walk with us as the Emmaus disciples and Jesus walked together on that first Easter afternoon, listening to one another, learning about the current situation in Jerusalem… Come abide with us. Come share our bread. Come and see.”