Messages of Hope

Month: October 2016

Living Stones: A call for justice for the Palestinian people

Published / by Sandy

This week, the President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, invited congregations to support an awareness-raising campaign on the plight of the Palestinian people. This is a follow-up to the resolution at the 14th Assembly in Perth in 2015, which was a response to official requests from Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and the World Council of Churches. Importantly it was also a response informed by many Uniting Church members who have visited the Holy Land in recent years. Whether participating in ecumenical outreach programs, pilgrimages or their own personal travel, many Uniting Church members have come back to Australia shocked at the inhumane treatment of Palestinians in their homeland.

After his National Ministers’ Conference in Jerusalem in 2014, ex-President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney shared moving stories of the ‘Living Stones’ (1 Peter 2:5) – the members of the Palestinian Christian community who endure daily humiliation, intimidation and worse under Israeli military occupation. It may be of interest to you to explore this issue further on the UCA Assembly website, which contains a number of resources to inform and encourage you in your engagement with this important issue.

Your prayers, support and solidarity for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ are greatly needed. These prayers together with your continuing prayers for a just peace for Palestine and Israel are highly valued.

“My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest…
But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonise the West Bank and advance racist laws.” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu

A prayer for peace in the Middle East

God of justice, bless those who work for peace through justice. Strengthen their resolve in the face of seemingly endless violence. Guide the leaders of the people of the Middle East to know your will and to support a just peace for all of your children.

God of love, lifting up the holy land for all humankind, breathe love and compassion into our prayers with a desire for nothing other than peace: peace in our hearts, peace for all creation, and especially peace in the land that is called holy.

*God of hope, we lift up the city of Jerusalem, distracted and divided, yet still filled with promise as all the cities of the world. Come again into our cities, places of worship, Upper Rooms and Gethsemanes, that we may be given sight to recognize you.

God of mercy, even as we long to understand that which is often beyond our comprehension, we lay before you the hearts, minds and bodies of all those suffering from conflict in Palestine and Israel and from the ongoing occupation. Shower upon all the people of the Holy Land the spirit of justice and reconciliation.

God of the nations, give to all our people the blessings of well-being, freedom, and harmony, and, above all things, give us faith in you that we may be strengthened to care for all those in need until the coming of your son, our Saviour and Lord.

Amen.

Seek the welfare of the city

Published / by Sandy

‘Seek the welfare of the city; for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:7).
“Welfare” is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘shalom’.  Shalom means peace and prosperity, or human flourishing. Jeremiah was speaking to the Hebrew people taken into exile by the Babylonians. While they thought they could protect their ways in this strange foreign land, Jeremiah instead says to the people, Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what you grow; settle down, get married, have families. In short, don’t stop living but bloom where you are planted. Make the best of things. Seek to thrive, despite your circumstances. And pray for the community in which you will make a home for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
One of the most tragic aspects of the forced and indefinite detention of people on Manus Island and Nauru is that the people cannot give back to the community and country in which they find themselves. Their existence seems to be so very basic, such that they can barely lift their eyes to the far horizon to imagine life where they could settle down, marry, have families, plant gardens and eat what they grow, as the prophet Jeremiah urged the Hebrew people in exile.
Of course, people being taken into exile, and refugees fleeing danger are different actions – but both actions mean leaving behind all that is familiar and facing the prospect of making a new home in a foreign place.
Dr Munjed Al Muderis is now a pioneering surgeon in Australia giving amputees the ability to walk. He had grown up in Iraq, and trained as a doctor. It was his decision to refuse a decree by Saddam Hussein to amputate the ears of Iraqi draft evaders, that saw him wind up on a rickety boat to Australia.
Now, there are many, many such stories of people who have left the country they have called home through desperate circumstances, and who have decided to ‘seek the welfare of the city; for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:7).
Mahyar Rezaei is another wonderful example. He arrived in Adelaide as a refugee. He says, “When I first got out of detention I was shocked at how little the government would let me do. I couldn’t work or study and felt alone and useless as a result. Thankfully one day while I was volunteering with Welcome to Australia I met a guy from Surf Life Saving who invited me to a BBQ at West Beach. Less than a year later I had my bronze medallion and was patrolling the beach to help keep people safe and out of danger. But the funny thing is that this whole experience has also been a life-saver for me, because instead of sitting at home staring at a computer wondering what I can do, I’m out here training, competing and keeping our beaches safe, which is an honour and a thrill that keeps me fresh, happy and engaged in this beautiful community. But that’s the best thing, that feeling of giving back to the people and country that helped my family in our time of greatest need.”
Such a wonderful example of seeking the welfare (shalom) of the community, and finding one’s own welfare (shalom) along the way. Thank you, Mahyar!