WCC calls for Pentecost global day of prayer for ‘just peace’ in Holy Land

By David Paulsen
Posted May 25, 2017

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians are invited to participate this Pentecost in a global prayer campaign to call for peace in the Holy Land.

The World Council of Churches, through a campaign called “Come, Spirit of Peace: A Global Day of Prayer for Just Peace in the Holy Land,” is calling on Christians everywhere to unite in prayer on June 4 and 5 – by attending its worship service in Jerusalem, holding services in their home parishes or sharing individual prayers on social media.

“We are calling on Christians everywhere to share in our witness to unity and to use this moment as a focus for prayers for peace in the Holy Land,” the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the ecumenical organization’s general secretary, said in a news release. “Our vision is to make this moment of prayer truly participatory.”

The main worship service in the prayer campaign will be held at 11 a.m. June 5, the day after Pentecost, in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. Afterward, at a session in Dormiton Abbey, participants will share details of their work in support of peace in the Holy Land.

For those unable to travel to Jerusalem, the World Council of Churches has made it easy to participate back home by offering an order of services in several languages, which can be incorporated into the liturgy for Pentecost or at separate services, said the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Middle East partnership officer for the Episcopal Church.

“It’s great to say, let’s go pray for peace in the Holy Land, but providing the resources and tools to bring that message home to various parishes around the country, around the Church, is a great asset,” Edmunds told Episcopal News Service.

Pentecost is described in the Acts of the Apostles as the day when a great wind brought “tongues of fire” that enabled Jesus’ disciples to communicate the gospel message to people in their native languages.

The prayer campaign comes as Israel prepares to mark 50 years since the 1967 war that resulted in the capture of east Jerusalem. Israel typically marks the anniversary as a celebration of the unification of the holy city, while Palestinians see it as the beginning of an Israeli occupation.

The stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process also has been in the news recently because President Donald Trump, who visited Jerusalem this week on his first foreign trip as president, vowed to succeed where his predecessors have failed.

“Making peace, however, will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise, and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal,” Trump said May 23 in a speech in Jerusalem after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, separately, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Edmunds said he also sees the importance of the World Council of Churches’ prayer campaign in the context of violence across the region, from Syria to Iraq to Yemen, including violence specifically targeting Christians.

“All these places are seeing terrible devastation,” Edmunds said. “Anything we can do to prompt peace-thinking rather than war-thinking is a positive thing. It’s about turning hearts away from violence.”

The campaign also is compiling prayers that people share by email and post to social media with the hashtag #SpiritofPeace. The online prayer wall is live, adding the latest prayers for peace.

“We’ll raise our voices to sing, our feet will dance wherever there are signs of life around us,” reads one tweet from the World Council of Churches that has been retweeted several times.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has expressed its support of peace in the region for decades. As one example, a 2012 resolution sought to “reaffirm this Church’s commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both.”

And in a 2015 resolution, the Church pledged to be “an agent of reconciliation and restorative justice in the Holy Land by promoting conversation and by funding infrastructure and peace-building ministries in Palestine and Israel through the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.”

With Pentecost to be celebrated on June 4, it’s an ideal time to get Christians of all denominations and languages involved in that effort, Edmunds said.

“How appropriate is that for Pentecost – a day in which people understood what was being said even though the languages at the time … were many,” he said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.