Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

The United States will soon host a conference of international leaders in Annapolis, Maryland to make progress toward ending the conflict in the Holy Land. Let us join together in prayer in support of our government's efforts and for the success of this important meeting.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) offers this prayer for the churches to use this Sunday and during the conference:

O God, we come to you with open hands and open hearts.

We pray for peace and for all those that suffer violence and
injustice in the midst of war and conflict.
We pray for the innocent, combatants, peacemakers, and religious and
political leaders.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the holy city of God and
spiritual home to all the children of Abraham.

O God of mercy and compassion,
Embrace our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.
They have endured profound loss and sorrow.
They are fatigued by fear and anger.
Mend their broken hearts and failing spirits.
Ignite in them sparks of hope.
Comfort them and guide them onto the road of peace.

O God of peace and reconciliation,
Lift up the international leaders who search for peace.
They have talked before without success.
They face a difficult road and many obstacles.
Inspire them to move from words to actions that fulfill a greater
vision of peace.
Arouse in them a passion for righteousness.
Bless them and their work for peace.

O God of all creation,
Your people cry for peace.
May your promise of justice and enduring love
Breathe renewed Life
Into our commitment to a sustainable peace,
When two states - Israel and Palestine - are a reality,
Living side-by-side in security, harmony and peace.


Read about the conference here and here.

Annapolis peace conference brings hope

An announcement out of the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and of Israel have agreed to begin immediate negotiations for a peace settlement to be reached by December 2008 "brings hope to Israelis and Palestinians alike," Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, said November 27.

According to Episcopal Life Online Shea adds:

"President Bush and Secretary of State Rice are to be commended for their efforts, and particularly for inviting Syria to this historic meeting.>

She noted, however, that "realizing the goal of two states living side by side in peace will require the continued sustained commitment of both the president and the secretary of state."

The New York Times reported that the agreement creates a framework for talks aimed at creating a democratic Palestinian state that would exist peacefully with Israel. The talks could begin within weeks. The Annapolis agreement does address the issues involved in creating and implementing such a two-state solution.

Delegations from 49 countries and international organizations are gathered for the conference at the United States Naval Academy.

As a sign of how difficult the talks will be, the Times reported, violence broke out during demonstrations in the West Bank when security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas clashed with Islamists who brand him a traitor for taking part in the Annapolis talks.

Meanwhile, in Annapolis, St. Anne's Episcopal Church is hosting events, coinciding with the conference, "designed to promote peace in the Middle East through dialogue, discussion and education," according to the congregation's website.

Read it all here

Ekklesia carried commentary and news today here and here

Prayers for peace in the Middle East follow:

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Religion, modernity, and the coming era of religious peace

The Atlantic devotes its March 2008 issue to religion. Alan Wolf argues,

A common worry is that intense competition for souls could produce another era in which religious conflict leads to religious war—only this time with nuclear weapons. If we are really in for anything like the kind of zeal that accompanied earlier periods of religious expansion, we might as well say goodbye to the Enlightenment and its principles of tolerance.

Yet breathless warnings about rising religious fervor and conflicts to come ignore two basic facts. First, many areas of the world are experiencing a decline in religious belief and practice. Second, where religions are flourishing, they are also generally evolving—very often in ways that allow them to fit more easily into secular societies, and that weaken them as politically disruptive forces. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal once famously showed that it would be irrational to bet against the existence of God. It would be equally foolish, in the long run, to bet against the power of the Enlightenment. The answer to the question of which religion will dominate the future, at least politically, may well be: None of the above.

The exception, he thinks, might be Africa:
We are left, finally, with Africa. Religiosity there is widely regarded as high, perhaps higher than in the Middle East, but it differs in character. It is in Africa where the predictions of an old-fashioned, broad-based religious revival, with all its attendant conflicts, may come closest to the mark. Much of the commentary on religion’s muscle in Africa, and the consequent potential for clashing civilizations, centers on Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country and one in which, Pew found, most of those who perceive a struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists put themselves in the latter camp. In recent years, 12 states in northern Nigeria have adopted sharia, or Islamic law, and created special morality police to enforce its tenets. Eliza Griswold explores Africa’s religious revival, and in particular the subtleties of the contest between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria, elsewhere in this issue. Here, suffice it to say that Africa is indeed in the throes of a great awakening.
Read it all here. (Aside: Dubai, Mr. Wolf, is not "one of the richest Muslim countries." It is located in one of the richest Muslim countries: the United Arab Emirates.)

Mr. Wolf recently discussed his ideas with Martin Marty, Daniel Philpott and guest host Jane Clayson on NPR's On Point. Follow this link for two listening options.

Is Christianity a Bibical faith?

Is Christianity a "religion of the book"? In a provocative essay in the Church Times, the Reverend Paul Oestreicher, a Canon Emeritus of Coventry Cathedral, and a Counsellor of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, argues that it is not--or at least ought not be, a religion of any book:

The paradox is that the New Testament texts themselves attest to the fact that they are not the last word. The Spirit is the contemporary judge over all that has been written. Jesus said, and the Spirit goes on telling us: “You have heard it said . . . but I say unto you.” Yesterday’s wisdom is not tomorrow’s. To the disciples, Jesus said: “There are many things you do not understand, but the Spirit will lead you to the truth.” He did not say: “Study the texts: it is all there,” and, significantly, did not write any texts himself.

Quite rightly, we may therefore say that St Paul had a view of the role of women that we now recognise to be less than Christian — to take a simple example. Once that is conceded, there is no longer any need for theologians to sweat blood ironing out the many contradictions in the Bible. Given the world as it is, those contradictions make the Bible more, not less, credible. They leave us with essential existential choices, which give meaning to the “glorious liberty of the children of God”. We are slaves to no text; nor are we a religion of any book.

The Bible is full of violence in God’s name, from the God-sent flood, killing everybody except Noah’s family (what’s wrong with an atom bomb, then, in a good cause?), and the drowning of the Egyptian army to let God’s people get away (why not wipe out Gaza then?), on to the Apocalypse — a horror film to outdo all others. All this, and much more, human beings have projected on to God.

God in Christ really has made all things new. That has proved to be too threatening to the Churches. The ethic of loving enemies is what the Christian revolution is all about. Jesus asked for them to be forgiven as they drove the nails into his hands and feet. When he preached in his home town about Yahweh’s preferential love for despised foreigners rather than for his own people, they tried to lynch him.

. . .

If the Churches embraced this ethic, they would be renouncing significant parts of their history. It is called repentance. It would mean that at least one of the three great religions would cease to be a contributor to the violence that could destroy us all.

Read it all here.

MDG mania

Suddenly the world's media, which has been studiously ignoring the Millennium Development Goals to this point, has caught MDG fever, just in time for today's activities in New York City, in which the Episcopal Church will play a major role.

While Bono's blog for the Financial Times, (which is actually quite informative) and articles about Bono's blog for the Financial Times are generating some of the coverage, mainstream media outlets from around the world are weighing in on the political and economic nuts and bolts of the campaign to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

To wit:

Neil MacFarquhar of The New York Times explains why world leaders feel the U. S. financial meltdown may cripple the whole effort:

Wall Street and the Bush administration's record of financial oversight came under attack at the United Nations, with one world leader after another saying that market turmoil in the United States threatened the global economy.

"We must not allow the burden of the boundless greed of a few to be shouldered by all," President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil said in an opening speech Tuesday that reflected the tone of the gathering.

The Guardian has an excellent special section All Out on Poverty and an astute column by Leo Hickman which begins:

"We must do more – and we must do it now." This urgent call for action is being aired loudly in both New York and Washington DC this week. On Capitol Hill, Congress is being urged to accept Henry Paulson's $700bn bail-out for Wall Street's beleaguered banks, whereas just over 200 miles up Interstate 95 at the UN headquarters in Turtle Bay big wigs from around the world are pondering how the millennium development goals – this week marks the halfway point towards their 2015 target – are ever going to be met given the woeful progress to date.

It's at times like this where you really get to see the naked truth about where our worldly priorities lie. And it's pretty hard not to think about what $700bn would buy you if you were pushing the trolley around the Truly Worthy Causes supermarket.

Causes don't come much more worthy than the eight millennium development goals, which together form a panoply of unquestionably important aims: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. But as today's special Guardian supplement All Out On Poverty illustrates, we have a long, long way to go if we're ever to meet most of these goals, let alone by 2015 which seems as absurdly optimistic a deadline now as it did back in 2000 when it was first announced. In fact, with some goals we have arguably slipped into reverse gear rather than advance towards them.

For a brief overview of what the UN will be discussing this week, this AFP story isn't bad. The Age of Australia has a good overview of the entire MDG effort. Meanwhile, Washington Post has a helpful story about the contributions of Bill Gates and Howard and Warren Buffett in response to the world food crisis.

There are additional stories from Bangladesh, Nigeria, an editorial from Business Daily Africa (Kenya), a pessimistic appraisal of where the campaign stands from World Vision, India, and a personal vantage point provided by Queen Rania of Jordan on Slate.

So, I'm in NY this week wearing a couple of hats, shining a spotlight on the Millennium Development Goals and talking about the need for more sustainable development that will not only safeguard the environment, but also provide opportunity for the disenfranchised in society. It's something we're very interested in, in the Arab world.

I was invited to speak at Condé Nast's World Savers Awards conference amid the awesome and inspiring architecture of Gotham Hall. It was about the power of tourism to nurture our planet's precious resources while providing lasting economic opportunities for local communities.

I was there talking up the Middle East—not a region in conflict and turmoil, as many think, but a mosaic of cultures, stories, traditions, and warm, welcoming people.

Is the fact that Condé Nast has gotten into the act a good thing or a bad one?

Dalai Lama denied visa to South Africa

South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa to attend an international peace conference in Johannesburg this week, a presidential spokesman said. The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Laureate did not receive a visa because it was not in South Africa's interest for him to attend, said Thabo Masebe.

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Reporting on the use of non-violence for peace and justice

Ekklesia reports that journalists and activists have launched a new website, providing news, analysis, and original reporting on the use of nonviolence by ordinary people around the world in their struggle for justice.

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Remembering Jonathan Daniels and other civil rights martyrs

Tomorrow, people in Alabama will walk the path that seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels walked before he was murdered on August 20, 1965. Daniels was a Freedom Rider who went to Alabama to register African-American voters and took part in the march from Selma to Montgomery.

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Presiding Bishop joins call for a Middle East peace plan

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs reports that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has joined a call for Middle East Peace Plan

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Peace witness in Baltimore

MARYLAND: Cathedral is site for Peace Witness

By Sharon Tillman, September 22, 2009 Episcopal News Service

On the day designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace, the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Baltimore, hosted a Peace Witness, a reading of the names of the American service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.

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Tutu and the Dalai Lama to be awarded prize

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will be awarded the Fetzer Institute's Prize for Love and Forgiveness this Sunday at the 2009 Peace Summit in Vancouver. Each will receive a $100,000 monetary prize to support their work and a handcrafted, inscribed journal. The Archbishop Emeritus' daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, will accept the prize on his behalf.

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Tomorrow is Gandhi's birthday

Amitabh Pal says, in advance of the observance of Mahatma Gandhi's 140th birthday on October 2nd, that the spirit of nonviolence lives on around the world, including in Muslim societies.

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Power of Santa

Flying reindeer, magical elves, ability to descend through chimneys and much more are all parts of the story of Santa Claus. It seems the magic and power of Santa goes far beyond Clement Moore's poem and the Jossey - Bass holiday television classics. Gene Stoltzfus glimpses the power of Santa when he begins growing out his white beard:

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Preaching toward Tuscon and observing silence

Updated: President Obama has asked the nation "to observe a moment of silence to honor the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives."

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Hope from hurting

Pat Gee, The Star Advertiser, Honolulu, Hawai'i, writes about how Episcopal priest, the Rev. Michael Lapsley journeyed from victim to victor in the years following apartheid:

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Using this Sunday's Gospel on September 11th, 2011

At first glance, it looks like a great text for this Sunday:

Peter came and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

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Dancing: Three women share Nobel Peace Prize

"The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded on Friday to three campaigning women from Africa and the Arab world in acknowledgment of their nonviolent role in promoting peace, democracy and gender equality. The winners were Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Africa’s first elected female president — her compatriot, peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman of Yemen, a pro-democracy campaigner" according to the New York Times.

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Praying for peace on 11/11/11

Poet and peacemaker John Philip Newell reflects on Gandhi's concept of soul-force as he considers the way ahead after Gaddafi's death.

11/11/11: Our Instinct for Unity
John Philip Newell in The Huffington Post

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The unifying power of Pentecost

Rhonda Mawhood Lee draws from memories of growing up in Montreal, a world of two languages, to reflect on the power of Pentecost:

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Good wins out in the end

Back in the days of armed turmoil in Sierra Leone, Madeline Albright was photographed holding a small girl whose arm had been chopped off by a local militia who regularly maimed the civilian population in a bid for power. The girl, whose full name is now Memuna Mansaray McShane, is the subject of an essay by Nicholas Kristof that reminds us that sometimes good wins out quickly.

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Iranian 'running man' spreads message of world peace

Yasmin Khorram writes on CNN about the saga of Reza Baluchi:

He's been running all his life, running for freedom, running for peace.

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Heaven's Field

The West Bank has become, more and more, a seemingly permanent patchwork of Israeli settlements and nearby Palestinian towns and villages. Neighbors share many of the same roads, but almost never meet face-to-face.

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Peace and Compassion

Vicki Garvey, Canon for Christian Formation for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago speaks on compassion on the program "30 Good Minutes" from Chicago PBS. This was part of a program featuring:

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Hope and peace in a violent world

Rabbi Matthew Gevirtz, Bishop Mark Beckwith and Imam Deen Shareet appear on a "Faith on Fridays" segment on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." They talk about the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, the times when God transcends the limits of our faith, and how working together the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace has reached out in the wake of the violent gun deaths of young people in their city.

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Muslims and Christians hope for a new Egypt

The Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa invited Muslim leaders and politicians, along with Christian leaders from different denominations, for an Iftar or a break of the fast of Ramadan, at All Saints Cathedral Hall according to a report from Episcopal News Service:

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Victim of Taliban violence wows Jon Stewart and the world

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai, 16, inspires the world, and Jon Stewart, with her wisdom about non-violence in the face of oppression. Business Insider notes:

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Pope Francis urges spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood for all

In Pope Francis' letter for the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2014 urges people to see one another as brothers and sisters, not as Cain and Abel who broke that bond, but as Christ sees the world. Add your thoughts in the comments below (lots of new options for signing in) or at our Facebook site.

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A Miracle: Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to be restored

The three Christian groups who claim ancient church will collaborate on restoration according to Religion News Service:

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Protesting Priests in Kiev--the full story

There have been gripping photos spreading around social media this week of priests standing between riot police and protesters in the heart of Kiev.

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On SodaStream, Occupation, and Nuance

In the flurry of Super Bowl ads, you may not have noticed one for SodaStream, starring Scarlett Johanssen, but this one ad stirred up quite a controversy behind the scenes.
Ms. Johanssen was an international ambassador for Oxfam International when she became a spokesperson for SodaStream.

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Muslim scholars offer prizes for peace studies and teams

Reuters reports on Islamic scholars who are establishing prizes for peace and recommending Muslim peace teams:

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Presiding Bishop at Jewish forum for peace

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori spoke at the JCPA Plenum about the prospects for peace in the middle east.

San Diego Jewish World:

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The world is challenged to forgive

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu are launching the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive.


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Far from home, Sudanese diaspora prays for peace

From Episcopal News Service:

Almost three months have passed since Sudanese Angelina Rambang last heard from her husband. He’d been working with a bank in Juba, South Sudan, when fighting erupted last December after President Salva Kiir accused his sacked former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar of plotting a coup d’état.

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Muslims and Jews building bridges during Ramadan

During Ramadan, Muslims break their fast in the evening by eating a date and drinking some water. Many Muslims are inviting Jews to come and share in the ritual, called an "Iftar." In the UK, an orthodox rabbi is keeping the Ramadan fast.


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The religious underpinnings of World War I

From Religion News Service:

As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I — a conflict that left 37 million dead or wounded and reshaped the global map — a number of scholars and authors are examining a facet of the war they say has been overlooked — the religious framework they say led to the conflict, affected its outcome and continues to impact global events today. ...

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Inequality in Israel, as humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza

The ongoing violence in Gaza has been agonizing to watch, even as it fills the front pages, and the A blocks of the news lately.

At the moment, Ha'aretz reports the death toll as encompassing over 500 Palestinians dead, 18 Israelis. Earlier today, the UNRWA has said that the number of Palestinian children in the conflict now surpasses 100, and comprises more than 1/4th of the fatalities. (See here. )

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VTS student, with 'nothing but time,' travels to Ferguson

Broderick Greer, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary student, traveled to Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown. He writes a compelling essay at Huffington Post:

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Former Bethlehem bishop Mark Dyer dies at 84

The Rt. Rev. James Michael Mark Dyer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995, died Nov. 11 after battling multiple myeloma for several years.

From the Episcopal News Service article:

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South Sudan Anglican Church trains reconciliation teams

The Anglican Church in South Sudan has joined other stakeholders in the region to address the country’s continued conflicts by using a team of community members called “Peace Mobilisers.”


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