Peace, Peace Spirituality

Ancient time, ordinary time, disrupted time

by Toine Van Teeffelen
Arab Educational Institute

During a quiet morning a few weeks ago, I waited for a mass by Armenian priests in the Nativity Grotto to end. Together with guests I sat for an hour on the entrance stairs. We experienced the timelessness of Christmas through the slow, rhythmic singing of the priests.

Yesterday, at the occasion of Mary’s birthday, Mary and I visited a mass in the small chapel of the Bridgettines Sisters near Nativity Square. It is beautifully located in the maze of old small streets that is part of overlooked Bethlehem. The silence and sounds of bells and the inaudible footsteps of the sisters too remind of the ancient rhythm of the town.

Afterwards we rushed back into the ordinary sense of time. We have all kinds of sign posts that punctuate the normal days. Does the kaek man come in time so we can buy his bread with sesam before Mary leaves to Bethlehem University? Yes, there we hear his distant cry in the morning silence. Or we hear the shouts of school children going to school and know how late it is, or sense the quick steps of students going to their exams at university, studying from books they sometimes read while walking.

Yet there is always an unwelcome third rhythm: that of occupation. It interferes with the other rhythms. Full of uncertainty and threat, it puts people on their nerves. Last week, after a number of attacks against settlers and oppressive actions by the Israeli army, I noticed through Facebook that people in Bethlehem and Ramallah opened their doors for stranded travellers. They offer accommodation to those who do not dare to go out in the evening on the highways because their cars may be stoned by settlers. This happened for instance on the Wadi Nar road, the circling road to the east of Jerusalem which connects Bethlehem and Ramallah. According to an Israeli human rights organization there were last week within 24 hours after an attack against settlers “dozens if not hundreds” stone throwing attacks against Palestinian cars.

Travelling requires daily planning which is here always under threat of being disrupted by unplanned events. Such event can be a sudden mobile checkpoint but also (in my case) the shock of what you see while traveling normally. Along the Ramallah-Nablous road there are quite a number of posters put up by settlers in which the eyes of Mahmoud Abbas, the PNA’s president, are in the center of concentric circles. It is a call for assassination.

Sometimes there is positive traveling news, or whatever we for the moment regard as positive. Lately Mary got a permit to go and fly through Tel Aviv airport. Happy to get a permit to travel in your own country. And this time the permit did not come the day before or after traveling, so she is able to plan her trip well.

The rhythm of politics also interferes with the ancient rhythms of religion. This is not just about traveling or entrance problems when visiting mosques and churches, but about something as simple as sending a Christmas card. I tell people abroad that Christmas cards sent to Bethlehem arrive standard in February. Security.

But post can also take longer. In October it happened that 10 ton of post packages arrived in Jericho. They were held up for no less than 6 years at the Allenby Bridge after being classified as suspicious. Because of some kind of new arrangement between the occupational authorities and the Palestinian Communication Ministry the packages were now released. A favor.

I actually do believe that some Israeli army officials think it is not a humiliation but a confidence building measure — so all pervasive is the delusion of arbitrary power that keeps the occupation in place. Within days the packages were brought by the Palestinian post service to their real destination. Imagine, to receive a Christmas present after 6 years. What kind of time rhythm is that?

Advent, Peace Spirituality

Reflection for Christmas

from Pax Christi France

Pax Christi France has put together a series of prayers and reflections for the weeks of Advent and Christmas. You can download the entire resource at this link in French. 

Christmas

Finding a place to live in peace…

Readings: Is 9:1-6 | Titus 2:11-14 | Lk 2:1-14

Extract from the letter of Pope Francis

May peace be upon all the people and all the nations of the earth! This peace, which the angels announce to the shepherds on Christmas Eve, is a deep yearning for everyone and for all peoples, especially those who suffer the most from their absence. Among them, which I carry in my thoughts and in my prayer, I want once again to remind the more than 250 million migrants in the world, of whom 22 and a half million are refugees. The latter, as affirmed by my beloved predecessor Benedict XVI, “are men and women, children, young people and old people who are looking for a place to live in peace”.

For reflection

“When Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem, no one opens the door for them; there is no place for them. Yet this indifference does not cool God’s love for humanity. The charity of Christ extends to all men without distinction. No one is excluded from it.”

  • According to Fr. Antoine de Lavaur, will we be those who close their doors in the name of our comfort and tranquility?
  • Or, will we recognise him, more than just a person to help, but above all a brother to welcome with his wealth and his differences?

Prayer

Lord, you call us
To take the path of the encounter,
Open to the other,
From another country, from another culture.
Help us get started, together.
Imbue us with your word
So that we can
Give body to your Gospel.

AMEN

For deeper consideration

Many initiatives are taken by our parishes or our communities to host refugee families or to support the integration of migrants. What if I took the time to hear of what exists next to my home and how I can take part in it?

Advent, Peace, Peace Spirituality

A Christmas gift from the heavens

by Tony Magliano

Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, 1968) the crew of Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit and began circling the moon – the first time in history for humans to visit another world (see: https://bit.ly/2EkLJda).

That evening the crew’s astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman transmitted a live television broadcast including spectacular pictures of the moon just 60 miles below them, and of the Earth – a quarter of a million miles away.

In a most fitting conclusion to the broadcast, the astronauts shared a biblical reading of the first 10 verses of the creation account in the book of Genesis.

Anders started by inspiringly saying “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send you: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Immediately after reading from Genesis, Borman said, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

But in 1968, the good Earth, and countless good people on it, were suffering from various evils. The bloody Vietnam War, the brutal Soviet crushing of the Prague uprising, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and race riots throughout the U.S. were among the critical ills sickening our good Earth.

But humanity’s first manned step toward the heavenly bodies gave 1968, and all of us living on the good Earth that year, an astronomical boost. And the famous “Earthrise,” photographically captured by Anders, offered humanity a fresh heavenly perspective of how we might better view our earthly home.

Give yourself a wonderful Christmas gift. Click onto the following NASA link and meditate on the awesome “Earthrise” photo. And then with an open mind and heart prayerfully listen to Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve 1968 message (see: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/features/apollo_8.html).

Anders said that despite all the training and preparation for an exploration of the moon, the astronauts ended up discovering the Earth.

Creator God, open our eyes, ears, minds, hearts and souls to discover afresh this planet we all share in common. Help us to discover its magnificent beauty and gentle fragility. And move us to cherish it as faithful stewards. Help us to discover with justice, compassion and love each human being on it – especially the poor and vulnerable. And help us to discover your way – the only way – to bring heavenly peace upon our Earth home.

On Christmas Day, with a view of the distant Earth from above the moon, Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman offered this deeply inspiring prayer. Let’s pray it together: “Give us, O God, the vision which can see thy love in the world in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust the goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each one of us can do to set forth the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Advent, Peace

Christmas 2016: Longing for Christmas peace in the Holy Land

by Tony Magliano

During this wonderful time of the year, when Christians throughout the world focus minds and hearts on the coming of God himself upon the earth as one of us, our attention naturally turns to the place where the incarnation occurred.

While all the earth is a holy creation of the Almighty, Bethlehem and the surrounding lands that Jesus walked upon, taught upon, miraculously acted upon, suffered and died upon, and gloriously resurrected upon is uniquely holy, and thus deserving of the title Holy Land.

In the Holy Land the Prince of Peace taught humanity the way to true peace.

In word and deed Jesus showed the world that justice, merciful forgiveness, solidarity, compassion, special care for the poor and vulnerable, nonviolence and complete trust in God – not trusting in material wealth and military might – are the necessary steps we must take if we truly desire to walk the path to peace.

But sadly, so many people, corporations and governments arrogantly ignore the wisdom of the Prince of Peace – even in the Holy Land.

Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, Hilary DuBose, explained to me that after nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation, with no foreseeable end to the conflict, and no reasonable expectation for a totally independent and viable nation, Palestinians feel hopeless.

The very high unemployment rate in the West Bank remains over 25 percent. And in Gaza it’s much worse.

Israel has imposed an air, land and sea blockade around Gaza. DuBose said, “On the humanitarian side, it is hampering our ability to coordinate and support our work there. Gazans themselves feel trapped, and describe their lives as if living in an open-air prison.”

According to the World Bank, in 2016 the Palestinian unemployment rate reached a staggering 27 percent in the Israeli occupied West Bank. And in Gaza the rate was far worse at 42 percent, with youth unemployment at 58 percent.

According to The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, even Palestinian citizens of Israel often face discrimination in work opportunities, pay and conditions.

To help correct the discriminatory challenges faced by Palestinians, Irish-born American Father Sean McManus has put forth the Holy Land Principles.

The eight Holy Land Principles in summary call on U.S. companies operating in Israel and Palestine to adhere to equal and fair employment practices in all areas without discrimination, to actively recruit underrepresented employee groups, and to work with governmental and community authorities to eliminate ethnic, racial and religious disparities in government spending on education, training, access to health care and housing.

Please go to www.holylandprinciples.org to learn more about these important moral principles and how you can help advance them.

You can also help our suffering Palestinian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land by giving a Christmas gift to Catholic Near East Welfare Association. To give online please go to http://bit.ly/2hxXcZm.

The International Court of Justice has declared that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal according to international law.

The ecumenical organization Churches for Middle East Peace is asking Americans to contact their two U.S. senators asking them to urge President Obama to support a U.N. Security Council resolution that clearly states that all Israeli settlements are illegal. To send your senators this message, please go to http://bit.ly/2hGQ6Vj.

By acting on behalf of our suffering brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, we are doing our part to keep Christ in Christmas.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan and parish gatherings from Santa Clara, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.