DAY THREE: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
Reflection by Michael Ramos (Executive Director, The Church Council of Greater Seattle)
To walk humbly with God means walking in solidarity with all who struggle for justice and peace. Walking in solidarity has implications not just for individual believers, but for the very nature and mission of the whole Christian community. The Church is called and empowered to share the suffering of all by advocacy and care for the poor, the needy and the marginalized. Such is implicit in our prayer for Christian unity this week.
Abuna Elias Chacour, Archbishop of the Melkite (Greek Catholic) Church of northern Israel, saw his family’s land taken away from them during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1948. Clear about his identity as a Palestinian, Arab, Christian, Israeli, his ministry began with a modest church placement in Galilee. From his early days as a pastor living in his car, Archbishop Chacour has built from the ground up the Mar Elias School, serving 4,000 children from pre-school through high school. While the school is Christian and Muslim, Druze and Jewish; the common denominator is equality and respect. “Peace is the result of the quality of relations,” says Abuna, “between people of different religions and backgrounds.” “And acceptance of the other is the root of reconciliation.” Their approach is inclusive love. “We invite students in, not as guests, to share in the greatness that God has given to us.” The school is one of the highest in academic achievement in all of Israel. Moreover, the school has transformed the landscape of a small village in Galilee into a place of light shining in the darkness of what is for many a second-class citizenship status. Archbishop Chacour’s walking in solidarity with the children through the vision of addressing the simple need of a school has taught more than a generation that God’s shalom prevails in all manner of circumstance.
Abuna goes on to say that solidarity, as expressed by the Beatitudes, is straightening up and walking humbly. Rather than a passive resignation, walking humbly means living the Beatitudes forthrightly in this time and place. Finding those who are incarcerated, or ill, or out of legal status, or homelessness, or jobless and walking alongside them with a “firm perseverance” (Pope John Paul II), is the very definition of solidarity. Staying present and allowing the “other” to teach us leads us to the fruit of such a stance: transformation of hearts and ultimately of the city. The ecumenical church acts to serve God by taking the narrative of God’s kin-dom of justice and peace and giving it laser focus in its priorities. In listening well, we are reminded that it is the children who are at the center of God’s reign (Mark 10:30-37).
After the tragedy of the murders in the Connecticut elementary school several years ago, solidarity with our children takes on new urgency. What if the criteria for gun legislation were based on how children would be affected and not the risks of the consequences of upsetting the gun lobby? What if the children said, “For our sake, give us the best opportunity to learn without arming teachers or administrators or security officers?” What if we stood in solidarity with these children and built a society on the basis of these relationships?
Walking humbly in solidarity means taking risks, confident in God’s abundant grace to be with us. We are co-conspirators, breathing new life into relationships and seeing where the Spirit will lead. The apostle of non-violence, Archbishop Chacour, teaches us that in walking together with those who are sometimes considered “other” while claiming who we are as equals, relationships are reconciled and the seeds of peace may flourish.