From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: News Briefs
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 www.forusa.org, 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
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
(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
"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
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
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
(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
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
(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
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.
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .