Easter Sunday in Nablus at St. Justin’s Latin Church

Today is Easter Sunday, May 5, my first Orthodox Easter.  It is my second Easter this year, the first having been celebrated on March 31 in Ottawa under the Gregorian calendar.

The three teams from Yanoun, Jayyous and Tulkarm meet in Nablus every Sunday to attend services in the Christian churches.

Today we celebrated with the members of St. Justin’s Latin Church, the only Latin Patriarch (Catholic) church in Nablus.  Father Johnny Abu-Khalil warmly greeted us at the door and invited us in to a packed sanctuary.

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Although small in size, the voices of the congregation were firm and voluminous. And as the service started, we were asked to Share the Peace with each other.  This is a tradition at my church Emmanuel United Church and in other congregations of the United Church of Canada.

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During his Homily, Father Johnny noted that there are only 650 Christians remaining in Nablus, down from 3,500 in 1967, and that they are not allowed by the Israelis to travel to Jerusalem to worship in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Also known as the Church of the Resurrection, it is the place where Jesus is said to have been crucified, buried and resurrected. It has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century.

He said: “If we leave the Holy Land, the holy sites will become museums with no life.  Your support encourages us to stay.  We are the living stones keeping Christianity alive in the Holy Land.  There are two governments here, two peoples and three religions.  Tell people in your countries about what you see here.” He then celebrated Mass. I strongly felt the need for communion and hope that we will be able to visit other churches in Nablus that have an open table.

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Arrayed around the walls of St. Justin’s were wooden carvings of various scenes of Jesus.Image

As we left the service, many people wished us well and thanked us for coming to Palestine to work for peace.

It felt so good passing the peace with others who live in a land where peace is lacking.  I am so very proud of the United Church’s pursuit of a just peace in Palestine and Israel.  Now, if the democracies of this world would become intentional about demanding justice, basic human rights and equality for all, the peoples of this Holy Land of Jesus, Jehovah and Allah might one day learn to live among each other in peace.

Yours, from near the Jordan Valley.

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5 Responses to Easter Sunday in Nablus at St. Justin’s Latin Church

  1. Ross and Joyce White says:

    Dear Norman, thank you for your insightful accounts which help us to understand the injustice and hardships of the faithful people there. We pass the peace to you from such a different setting back home and pray for the safety of all you are working with.
    Joyce and Ross White, friends at Emmanuel

    • Good morning Joyce and Ross. Thank you for your words of peace. I wish it were so here. It is mostly quiet in the village of Yanoun this morning. I hear the sounds of birds – sparrows, doves, chickens – and sheep and goats. A hawk is spiraling overhead. The sun has warmed up the landscape since our daily 6 am protective presence walk. Other members of the team had to cancel a protective presence visit to the Urif secondary school just outside of Nablus this morning, the site of constant settler violence against the students. Instead, they hurried to the village of Tawayel near Aqraba where it was reported that the military were setting up camp with tents and vehicles for a training exercise in the community. This is normal procedure for the military, to disrupt community life and force the people away from their homes during the training. To add insult to injury, the location of the exercise is in wheat fields that are ripening for harvest soon. What will be left for the farmers to gather? And F-16s are now thundering overhead as part of the training exercise. So militarized, so militant. Ma’a salama, peace be on you and on all Emmanuelites.

  2. Patti Talbot says:

    Easter blessings to you, Norman, and your colleagues. Thank you for embodying the commitment of The United Church of Canada to peace with justice for all in Palestine and in Israel. May it be so.

  3. Susan Palmai says:

    More than a little disturbing that after so many years nothing seems to be improving in the lives of Palestinians. Thanks for reporting, Norman. We will continue on this end to spread the word and do what we can.

    • Thanks for following and commenting Susan. Six incidents in the past two days and we expect more to come. Things feel uneasy. New settlements and outposts springing up on mountain and hilltops and spreading down into valleys that bring them into contact with villages. And where we are, they are reaching towards the Jordan Valley, which is just over several mountains and down valleys. Amid all of this, people seem more resolute to stay and not be moved out. Children laugh when we are around, women talk about other things in the world and men discuss the future of their children and when peace will come. Always around cups of tea or coffee, and the most gracious and kind presence and thanks to us for witnessing with our own eyes.

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