World Day of Prayer in Corner Brook

Dr. Doreen Helen Klassen

On Friday, March 1st, about 100 people gathered at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Corner Brook for the ecumenical 2024 World Day of Prayer, with a liturgy prepared by the Christian Women of Palestine.

Participants heard about the faith journeys of three Palestinian Christians from three generations: Eleanor, whose grandfather established St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land in the early 19th century; Lina, whose aunt, a Palestinian Christian Al Jazeera journalist, had been killed May 11, 2022; and, Sara, who was raised in Jerusalem and became the first woman ordained as a Lutheran pastor.

As they related their faith journeys, each woman shared what it means to be a Palestinian Christian. Eleanor related how her Arabic teacher encouraged her as an 11-year-old to run errands for humanitarian work. This became the foundation for a lifetime of humanitarian and development work for all people, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, status or need. Lina spoke of her Aunt Shireen’s commitment to telling the stories of both Muslims and Christians and also to campaigning for all to have access to their holy sites. Sara talked of her grandparents growing up in Jaffa alongside Christians, Muslims and Jews before the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. All three were affected by the loss of their homeland in 1948, yet persisted in showing love and offering hope to all.

As he began his reflection, Bishop John Organ stated that the Jerusalem cross he was wearing has a dove on it, as Palestinian Christians, and Anglican Palestinians/Israeli Arab Anglicans in particular, value and ensure they gather in Jerusalem on Pentecost, as Arabs are listed as being present at the First Pentecost (Acts 2:11)

Having spent three years as the Bishop’s Chaplain in Jerusalem (2012-2015), Bishop John reminded listeners how complex the situation in the Holy Land is when he said, “If you spend one week in the Holy Land, you can write a book. If you spend a month in the Holy Land, you can write an article. If you stay longer, you learn to be silent.”

To shed light on this situation, Bishop John used the analogy of two sons, loved equally by their parents, at odds with each other, yet trying to live together in the same house. Gradually, one side takes more of the house and outsiders support one side or the other. And when some give up on peace, and resort to violence, everyone on their side is labelled a terrorist. Yet others, like the three Palestinian Christian women whose stories were told, continue to work for peace for all.

The prayer that opened this gathering asks God to walk with us as we journey through the land where you lived and taught, to open our eyes to see the present suffering of the inhabitants of this land, and, to grant us the strength and courage to act and pray with all who suffer around the world. May we live that prayer.

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