From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Thu, 30 Jan 2003 11:35:53 -0500

January 29, 2003


Episcopalians: News Briefs

Interfaith delegation to Middle East arrives in Jordan 

(EPF/FOR) Seventeen U.S. citizens departed January 25 for two 
weeks in Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine as part of 
Fellowship of Reconciliation's Interfaith Peace-Builders 
fact-finding delegation, sponsored by the Episcopal Peace 
Fellowship (EPF), The Witness, and Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Terry Rogers, EPF member and public health nurse in New York 
City, is one of two co-leaders of the group. The other is Rabbi 
Lynn Gottlieb of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both co-leaders have 
extensive experience in the Middle East. 

During their stay in the region, delegates are scheduled to meet 
with peace and human rights activists and organizations, 
humanitarian assistance workers, community and religious 
leaders, refugees, settlers, educators, and government 
representatives from across the political spectrum. The purpose 
of their visit is to gain deeper insight into the issues 
surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to examine the 
effects of United States foreign policy in the region, and 
express support for Israelis, Palestinians, and others who are 
working for a nonviolent, just, and sustainable peace. 

Rogers, a lifelong Episcopalian and longtime member of EPF, 
first went to the area in 1989. After the Gulf War in 1991 she 
became a volunteer nurse in an Anglican hospital in Nablus. In 
1996 she served as a World Council of Churches election observer 
for the Palestinian elections. In the spring of 2002 Rogers 
returned to the region with a Christian Peacemaker Team 

Other Episcopalians in the delegation include Chris Pottle of 
Maine, another longtime EPF member and current EPF treasurer; 
Elisha Harig-Blaine of Boston, Massachusetts, recipient of the 
EPF "Young Adult Scholarship" for the delegation; and Pete 
Churchill of Massachusetts, EPF member and longtime peace 

Representatives for The Witness magazine include Ethan Flad, 
website editor, who will serve as reporter for the magazine 
during and after the visit; the Rev. Winnie Varghese, Episcopal 
chaplain at Columbia University in New York and co-chair of the 
Peace and Justice Commission; and the Rev. Michael Battle, 
assistant professor of spiritual and moral theology at the 
School of Theology, Duke University. 

Upon their return to the United States on February 8, delegates 
are committed to sharing their experiences with the public and 
their political representatives. The delegation will be sending 
back regular reports during their trip, which can be found on 
the FOR website at, or email Joe Groves at

Iraqi Christians make preparations for war

(ENI) Like their compatriots, Chaldean Christians in Iraq are 
stockpiling food and fuel and preparing for the war threatening 
their country, an Iraqi archbishop told reporters on Tuesday.

For the past month, they have also been gathering daily for 
prayer, "hoping God will help us avoid a war," Gabriel Kassab, 
the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Basra, said at a news 
conference on Tuesday at the Geneva offices of the World Council 
of Churches. The archbishop was in Europe to urge the end of 
United Nations sanctions on Iraq and the prevention of a new 

Asked whether Christians in Iraq were afraid of being targeted 
by Muslims should a war break out, Kassab stressed that the 
communities lived in harmony. "All of us are afraid. Christians 
are Iraqis just like Shi'ite Muslims, like Sunni Muslims," the 
archbishop said, referring to the two Islamic groups in his 
country. "We are afraid because we are Iraqi, and Iraq is 
targeted by this war. Christians are part of the Iraqi 

No tension existed between Christians and Muslims in southern 
Iraq, said Kassab, noting the presence of local Muslim religious 
leaders at the inauguration of the Catholic cathedral a month 
ago. "Of course, there are some small problems. These come from 
small Islamic groups that are highly radical." Asked about the 
possible consequences of a war on average Iraqis, Kassab said: 
"We will have to flee. People go where they find safety and 

Christians account for roughly 3 per cent of Iraq's mainly 
Muslim population, or about 700,000 people. Approximately 70 per 
cent of them belong to the Chaldean church, which follows the 
ancient Chaldean rite but is in union with the Roman Catholic 
Church. The Christian population, which once stood at 5 per 
cent, has decreased in recent years due to emigration and to 
deaths in two military conflicts: the eight-year war between 
Iraq and Iran (1980-88) and the six-week Gulf War in 1991, 
Kassab told ENI after the news conference.

"It [the Gulf War] didn't last 42 days, but went on from 1991 to 
this day," he told reporters. "Every day American and British 
aircraft fly over our heads and they often bomb us and kill our 
people. This is true more particularly during the past two 

More than a decade of sanctions, imposed by the United Nations 
because of Iraq's refusal to comply with 19 UN resolutions after 
the Gulf War, have taken a heavy toll on average Iraqis. "The 
sanctions, the embargo on Iraq is a form of war on Iraq," Kassab 
asserted. "With sanctions, people are killed slowly, in a bad 

Asked whether the churches in Iraq were doing anything to 
encourage the Iraqi government's compliance with UN resolutions 
on arms inspections in order to avoid war, Kassab said: 
"Anything that is conducive to peace and serves the common good 
of society, we as a church are in favor of. But the government 
of Iraq itself has made it clear that it is willing to cooperate 
with UN resolutions."

Due to the wars and their aftermath, he said, people in the 
south of Iraq are facing new diseases that doctors are not able 
to identify and an increased number of miscarriages and birth 
defects. There are power cuts of up to 12 hours a day and a lack 
of clean drinking water. "A bottle of clean drinking water is 30 
times more expensive in Basra than the equivalent amount of 
petrol," he said.

Many young people are dropping out of school in order to do odd 
jobs to help their families survive. Hospitals have shortages of 
basic equipment, such as syringes, and "most surgery is 
performed without anesthesia," the archbishop reported. 

Basra now has many homeless people, "something we didn't know 
before in Iraq," he said. The church is responding, establishing 
a kindergarten in a poor neighborhood where it gives hundreds of 
children free breakfast and shoes so that they can walk to 
school. It has opened a computer training center for young 
people, a pharmacy to provide basic medicine and shelter in the 
archbishopric for about 20 families.

The World Council of Churches, along with such regional 
ecumenical groups as the National Council of Churches in the 
United States and the Middle East Council of Churches, has in 
recent months issued warnings against pre-emptive military 
action against Iraq. The WCC has called for the lifting of 
sanctions, which they maintain are ineffective against the 
ruling regime and mainly harm poor civilians.

Global Fund gives LWF first NGO grant in AIDS fight 

(ENI) The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria 
has for the first time allocated a grant to a non-governmental 
organization by presenting $485,000 to the Lutheran World 
Federation (LWF) for its HIV/AIDS action plan.

"Resources have been pledged to overcome this life-threatening 
illness, but they need to be renewed and increased," said the 
LWF general secretary, the Rev. Ishmael Noko, at a signing 
ceremony in Geneva on January 27. "The signing of this grant 
agreement sends an important message to the international 
community, declaring mutuality between us, saying that we are 
working together as national and international organizations 
towards the eradication of this pandemic," Noko said.

Previous grants of the Global Fund, an independent, 
public-private partnership established in 2002, have gone 
directly to countries.

"It's vitally important that we build bridges between 
faith-based organizations and partners in-country in the fight 
against HIV/AIDS," said Richard Feachem, executive director of 
the Global Fund. "The Global Fund process enables this linkage 
and affirms it."

The grant will support LWF initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS for the 
next two years, with an additional $215,000 allocated for a 
third year.

The purpose of the LWF campaign is to strengthen support among 
the federation's 136 member churches in 76 countries serving 62 
million people. The plan includes conferences with church 
leaders, and the employment of an AIDS consultant to organize 
them and to co-ordinate follow-up activities. The LWF already 
supports HIV/AIDS-related projects in Africa and Latin America 
funded by several other donor organizations. 

Head of Swedish church's support for boycott of Israeli products 
stirs debate 

(ENI) A statement signed among others by the (Lutheran) 
Archbishop of Sweden, K. G. Hammar, and by the Swedish 
ambassador to Germany, Carl Tham, urging a boycott of Israeli 
products from territories occupied by Israel has provoked strong 
protests from opposition political parties.

Hammar's name was at the top of a list of 73 Swedish public 
figures who signed a statement urging a boycott of goods 
produced by Jewish settlements in territories occupied by Israel 
since 1967.

"We call on citizens, non-governmental organizations, unions, 
consumer co-operatives, political parties and companies to 
boycott all goods from the illegal Israeli settlements," said 
the statement quoted in the leading Swedish daily newspaper, 
Dagens Nyheter. The signatories hope a boycott will pressure 
Israel into dismantling the settlements.

The ire of opposition politicians was aimed mainly at Ambassador 
Tham, whom they said was going against official Swedish policy. 
But Hammar has also faced criticism from some of his church 
members. Some of the bishop's critics complained the church was 
taking standpoints on matters other than those dealing with 
religion and belief.

Staff at the headquarters of the Church of Sweden say that since 
the statement was published the bishop has received a torrent of 
e-mails, phone calls and letters. Many were encouraging, but 
several accused Hammar of failing the Jewish people and made 
comparisons to the 1940s, an era in which Swedes have been 
criticized for failing to have done more against the persecution 
of Jews.

Hammar said in response that he wanted to focus on the 
occupation and illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian 
territory. A boycott was an instrument to raise awareness about 
this, argued the bishop. All Jewish settlements in the occupied 
territories are considered illegal by the international 
community, according to many UN resolutions.

"To buy and sell goods from the occupied territories is to 
actively support the illegal Israeli occupation," the group said 
in their statement, noting that "it is also against 
international law."

The group, which included writers, publishers, doctors and 
professors, urged the international community to act since the 
Israelis and Palestinians have proven "unable to resolve the 
conflict on their own." According to the appeal, a lasting peace 
in the Middle East requires an independent Palestinian state 
together with the acceptance of the right for Israel to exist 
within undisputed and secure borders. 

Palestinian bishop urges Swedish prime minister to play 
mediating role 

(ENI) Giving hope in a hopeless situation is a must for the 
church, believes Palestinian Bishop Munib Younan, who told 
Swedish journalists: "The church is not only a building where 
you sing hallelujah. We have a political responsibility."

Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, 
which works in Palestine, Jordan and Israel, met a large group 
of journalists January 22 after talks with Swedish Prime 
Minister Goran Persson.

"The world is deaf," rued Younan. "The Israeli occupation of the 
West Bank and Gaza is incompatible with international and 
humanitarian law, [yet] schools and universities are closed down 
as a consequence of Israeli curfews."

Israelis argue they only take military action to stop acts of 
terrorism being committed against them, but Younan said the 
occupations and its consequences snuff out the hope of 
Palestinians who see constant curfews that shut down their 
educational institutions as an unjustified collective 
punishment. "The schools and the universities are the only 
places where hope can grow. The Israelis now have closed our 
schools and imposed curfews on us. Thus the hope and the belief 
in the future that we try to give our children break into 
pieces," Younan said.

He urged Sweden to take the lead as a peace mediator in the 
Middle East conflict, saying he believed the European Union was 
too passive. Younan was invited to Sweden by Church of Sweden 
Archbishop K.G. Hammar, a member of the council of the Lutheran 
World Federation.

Hammar noted that a war in Iraq could transform the Middle East 
into a backwater, removing it from the spotlight of world media 
attention, giving the Israeli army the opportunity to act as it 

Younan reminded journalists of a Swedish tradition of defending 
human rights established by assassinated former prime minister 
Olof Palme, who, he said, was an international giant in fighting 

Absalom Jones celebration at EDS honors first African-American 
Episcopal priest

(EDS) The Episcopal Divinity School's annual Absalom Jones 
Celebration will feature the Rev. Kortwright Davis and the Rev. 
Zenetta M. Armstrong. Davis will deliver a lecture, "The 
Episcopal Face of Ebony Grace," at 7:00 p.m. on February 12. 
Armstrong will serve as celebrant at the Eucharist the next day 
at 8:30 a.m. These events commemorate the life and ministry of 
Absalom Jones, the first African-American priest in the 
Episcopal Church. 

The Absalom Jones celebration is also the beginning of the 2003 
Organization of Black Episcopalian Seminaries Conference, 
sponsored by the Office of Black and Urban Ministries of the 
Episcopal Church and hosted by the Episcopal Divinity School.

An Absalom Jones celebration is held every year at EDS to help 
support the Absalom Jones Scholarship Fund. Established in 1986, 
the fund provides scholarships for African-American students 
from EDS preparing for ordination in the Episcopal Church. 

Absalom Jones was born a house slave in Delaware in 1746. At 16 
he was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia, but eventually 
bought his wife's freedom and his own. In 1787, black Christians 
organized the Free African Society, with Jones elected as one of 
two overseers. He was ordained deacon in the St. Thomas African 
Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1795, and 
priest in 1802.

Davis is professor of theology at Howard University School of 
Divinity and rector of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in 
Washington, DC. Born in the West Indies on the island of 
Antigua, Davis was one of the archbishop of Canterbury's 
representatives on the Anglican/Roman Catholic International 
Commission. He has also served on the Faith & Order Commission 
of the World Council of Churches. Armstrong is co-rector of 
Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts. She serves 
on the board of the Mattapan Community Commission as well as the 
board at Boston Senior Home Care.  


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