Friday, August 7, 2015

Fr Elias Chacour to Visit Holland, Michigan!

Dear Friend!
Plan on attending events surrounding Abuna (Fr) Elias Chacour's visit to W. Michigan!

We can say for sure he will be address us (and answer questions) at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Holland on Thursday evening, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. We are hoping for an additional venue at either HOPE College or Western Theological Seminary that afternoon. Further details will follow once plans are finalized. Fr Chacour models a reconciling spirit that draws Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians together, not as adversaries, but as fellow human beings with the dignity to which all humans are entitled. His Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) have educated thousands of Christian, Muslim and Jewish, Arab and Israeli children and youths in modeling a better way forward.

I'm enclosing several pieces from today's newsletter from Pilgrims of Ibillin, (the American affiliate of Fr Chacour's life-long ministry) telling of a two week visit in Chicago-land by 12 students from the Mar Elias High School, and an interview with Emil Haloun, a teacher at the school. Joan Deming, the American Executive Director of "Pilgrims of Ibillin" will also be our guest on Sept. 17 along with Michael Spath, our partner from Fort Wayne, IND.

Fr Chacour is a Palestinian Arab Israeli Christian, one of the 20% "citizens" in Israel who are Arab Palestinian. Thus his witness is a bit different from those living in what is known as the "West Bank" or "Gaza". He will be candid and forthcoming in answering our questions about the possibility of peace in our region. Please join me in seeking greater understanding of how we can move forward toward Shalom/Salaam! JRK for Kairos West Michigan

First Ever Mar Elias Peace Tour
Winning hearts and minds in the USA

This summer, Pilgrims of Ibillin welcomed fifteen Mar Elias High School students and recent graduates to the US for a 2-week visit – in a new cooperative venture with the school Abuna Elias Chacour founded in Ibillin. The students and their teacher, Emil Haloun, stayed with families in Grosse Pointe and Ann Arbor, MI; in Oshkosh and Madison, WI; and finally visited Chicago, staying in dorms at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Everywhere they went, they shared stories of their families and school and villages, their hopes and dreams, and their experience as Arabs living within the State of Israel. They left a trail of new friends and a vision of possibilities for peace in their holy homeland. (They also enjoyed their first-ever celebration of an Independence Day on July 4, rode bikes, sailed and swam, went to museums and a concert and Shakespeare play, and visited with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students, -- to say nothing of shopping and being wide-eyed tourists.)

The students blogged about their trip, and would love to have you read about their journey online. Please visit Their trip is also featured in the July Pilgrims’ Post print newsletter.

We are confident that these amazing young people from Mar Elias served as bridges of peace and international understanding, and raised awareness in the United States about Israeli-Palestinian history. They planted seeds of hope, while also making new friends and sharing in a lot of new experiences. Thank YOU, friends of Pilgrims of Ibillin, for helping make a key difference. Your generosity and prayers helped it happen.

A Teacher's Witness:
Emil Haloun answers an audience question after a student presentation, Peace Tour, July 2015

Q: “Does religion contribute to the problem or help solve it?”

Emil: “People in Israel are becoming more radical, not less. And our message at Mar Elias, therefore, is really unique, and unfortunately rare. Most schools convey indirectly a message of segregation, as opposed to building bridges of connection.

I will tell you something based on my experience. I also teach part time at Haifa University and there my students include a mix of Jewish, Arab, and overseas students. Among the students, I am always privileged to teach those who have graduated from Mar Elias High School. And I tell you truly, there is something different about our students. They come to college aware of what society is comprised of, unlike others who are really blind to what is going on around them. As a small example, many Muslim university students are for the very first time encountering not only Jewish students but even Christians. So just imagine what our school is trying to create in the midst of this conflictual and negative atmosphere in Galilee and elsewhere.

And this is related to your question about whether religious differences can cause harm. We are trying to take this reality and make something beautiful. I mean, can you tell who is Muslim and who is Christian here? No way! And we were hosted by American families, but we came here to meet them as human beings -- not to meet "the Americans" or "the Muslims" or "the Jews." A few days ago, we visited the Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee. There we met with Jewish students from Israel, and for them, that was the very first time they were speaking with an Arab student. So realize how many walls we have in that small, holy piece of land, smaller than the size of New Jersey. So, schools like Mar Elias, where I teach and these students study, are much needed in these uneasy circumstances.”