As churches across the world observed the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, they were reminded of God’s infinite love yet confessed to feeling overwhelmed by dark forces, too.
From morning prayer services—shared in-person and online—to quiet reflections, to special webinars, people of good will expressed their solidarity and prayerful concern for their sisters and brothers in Palestine and Israel.
Church leaders in the Caribbean, after sharing a special World Council of Churches (WCC) morning prayer service via YouTube, reported that people in their region experienced new awareness for people in the Holy Land.
Bishop Dr Roy Notice, administrative bishop of the largest Pentecostal denomination in Jamaica, the New Testament Church of God, said the prayer service was both “inspiring and troubling to the soul.”
He reminded his congregants that they are pilgrims, with fellow pilgrims, all over the globe. “All of God’s people belong around the table to be nourished by His infinite love,” he said. “I was forcefully reminded that my silence and lack of action in response to injustice and human suffering have made me complicit.”
Rev. Luke Shaw, pastor of the Linstead and Buxton Circuit of Baptist Churches of the Jamaica Baptist Union, said he found the service both impacting and appropriate. “I have shared the link with believers to stimulate the need for global awareness in intercession,” he said. “For many the morning prayer was a moment of awareness which is critical if we are to be in prayer while also advocating for peace and justice.”
In Palestine, the Arab Education Institute presented a video each day featuring a prayer for the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel. Throughout Jerusalem and Bethlehem, individuals and churches gathered short videos, read prayers and shared reflections.
On 22 September, members of the Methodist Church and the Union of Interested Churches in Stockbart, Manchester, Britain, observed an evening of “Creative Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
In the US, churches also offered a combination of prayer services and educational events to increase awareness. Global Ministries, a common missional witness of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, hosted a webinar on 16 September entitled “Palestine Today and the Kairos 'Cry for Hope.’ ” The webinar featured Palestinian Christian leaders discussing the current reality, the situation of Palestinian Christians, and “Cry for Hope,” a letter to the world calling for attention and action to challenge injustice and to seek change.
In Norway, the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel is organized by an ecumenical committee with several churches and church-related organizations. “We develop background material, liturgical resources and prayers that can be used by local churches,” said Berit Hagen Agøy, international director for the Church of Norway. “We are inspired by the WCC material, and translate some of it, but the last years we found it more useful to our develop our own material that works better in the Norwegian context.”
This year the Church of Norway ran a Facebook campaign with interviews of different church leaders and others, telling about the situation in Israel and Palestine. “We have also written an article for the newspapers,” said Agøy. “The Church of Norway encourages all our congregations to take part in the week, at least by praying for peace in Palestine and Israel during a service.”
The World Council of Churches hosted an online ecumenical gathering on 14 September reflecting on the theme “Creative Solidarity in Common Fragility.” The special service included prayers, songs, and Biblical readings that reflected on the vital importance of realizing peace in the region.
In an opening greeting, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC interim general secretary, said: “As we pray together today, may the God of peace hear our petitions, not only today but throughout this week, as we stand together praying for just peace in Palestine and Israel.”