Last Sunday was an extraordinary celebration of faith and common mission at Holy Comforter. It doesn’t get much better on Pentecost than having a former Bishop of Jerusalem as your celebrant and preacher. Bishop Samir Kafity graced us with inspiring and confident words as we renewed our baptismal promises to engage God’s mission in the world today. It was also an added pleasure to welcome Canon John Peterson, former Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and dear friend of Bishop Kafity. I can say that Mthr. Libby, Fr. Jody, and I felt honored to be in the company of such distinguished and globally aware servants of God. Their joy and sense of humor was infectious!
In Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, the long Arab-Israeli conflict continues to take a dramatic toll on Palestinians. Political turmoil and socio-economic pressures have led to an increasingly sharp decline of the indigenous Palestinian Christian population. By way of comparison, Palestinian Christians represented approximately 23% of the total (non-Jewish) population of pre-1948 Palestine. Now they make up less than 2% of the population and face possible extinction as a result of these sharply declining rates in the course of the next few decades, most notably in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Bishop Kafity reminded us of the importance of preserving a living indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land and the Middle East. We know all too sadly, that the Christian presence is threatened by those who are consumed with extremism. It is clear that the Christian community in the Holy Land has a crucial role to play as a moderating element in the social and cultural fabric of the Middle East and they deserve our continuing prayers and support.
In gratitude for Bishop Kafity’s ministry, our Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, asked that the loose offering from Sunday’s liturgy be designated to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. AFEDJ raises funds for and promotes the humanitarian work of the Diocese of Jerusalem and its institutions so that it may better serve in building bridges of dialogue, peace and understanding between East and West, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
It was a Pentecost I shall not long forget.