Tuesday, 29 April 2014


In recognition of the fact that it is of value to embark on the journey to see and connect with the holy sites of our Lord Jesus Christ in Israel, Christians must see the pilgrimage journey as an act of worship which mirrors our devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ.
The pilgrimage journey of Christians in Nigeria to the holy land does not largely include a visit to the Palestinians Christians who are experiencing gross human rights violation from the Israeli government. There are indications that the situation in Palestine today can be likened to the then apartheid policy in South Africa. Israel since 1967 occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and as a result shut out Palestinians from gaining access to their land. The fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907 both forbid occupying power from altering the ways of life of occupied citizens, they likewise prohibit members of the occupying state from settling in the occupied territory . This means that Israel’s action in East Jerusalem throughout history as well as today constitutes gross violation of International Law. Palestinian women and children are arrested indiscriminately and kept in detention all across Israel. Palestinians right of residency is withdrawn once they go abroad to study thus separating families and loved ones. The roundtable did justice to the following Agenda:

Wednesday 09 APRIL
14:00 Hour- Arrival
18:00 Hour- Welcome Gathering and watching of the film- KAIROS PALESTINE
20:00- Brief comment on the film
20:30- Dinner

Thursday 10 APRIL
9:00 Introductory remarks/ re-caps  by organizer
The search for a just peace in Palestine is urgent. While the world talks, Israeli settlement building continues unabated with the borders of any future state of Palestine literally collapsing.  Pilgrimage presents a strategic avenue for just peace advocacy and its potential continues to be tapped and developed. This religious roundtable on Pilgrimage to the Holy land of Israel/Palestine and Prospect for Justice pilgrimage is the third in a series of advocacy efforts on promoting and supporting Christianity in Palestine, with a view of achieving justice and defending the rights of Palestinians.

9:45-12:45 SESSION 1:


“The Bible begins the story of salvation by telling how God called Abraham to leave his home and his people, and apparently also his ancestral gods, and to become a pilgrim, and how he promised that through Abraham and his descendants blessing would come to all the nations…The true sons of Abraham … know themselves to be a pilgrim people who have here no permanent quarters.  … The Church … has understood itself more as an institution than as an exhibition. It’s typical shape … has been not a band of pilgrims who have heard the word ‘Go’, but a large and solid building which, at its best, can only say ‘come’.’’

·         The Global effort and status of promoting just peace
·         Prospects for moving the agenda forward in established forums
·         Positions, Initiatives and priorities on promoting peace in Holy land

12:45 -13:00 Coffee Breaks

13:00-15:00 Session 2

·         The concept of Pilgrimage Theology
·         Pilgrimage as a tool for Peace and support
·         How contextual and ethical is pilgrimage from Nigeria, in the face of Ignoring Occupation?

15:05-16:00- Lunch

16:10 -19:10- Film : “The Village under The forest”, Discussion and comments on the film

20:30 Dinner

Friday 11 APRIL

09-00-13:00:   SESSION 3

A pilgrimage can be thought of as a micro-journey by means of which one explores the macro-journey of one’s life. Thus Christian Pilgrimage to Israel would be aimed at helping one to live out the Gospel more comprehensively when one returns to one’s daily life. It is vital that this connection with the whole of life is present in pilgrimage: the journey in, as it were, becomes the foundation for the journey out.  And this should be true not just at a personal level but at a communal and societal one too.

·                     Opening this session with Sabeel film- “The Stones Cry Out”
·                     Nigeria-specific issues and effect of the traditional Pilgrimage system
·                     How to involve Churches in the organization of Pilgrimage from Nigeria
·                     How can Churches take ownership of Pilgrimage to address injustice in the Holy lnd of Israel/Palestine

13:00-13:30           Coffee break

13:45-15:00            SESSION 4:

It is a scandal, and pilgrimage of a much distorted sort, when so many Christians visit Jerusalem without a second thought about the Church in Israel/Palestine and the suffering in the Middle East. In his fascinating From the Holy Mountain, William Dalrymple exemplifies a healthier type of pilgrimage in the Holy Land. In the context of his arrival in Jerusalem he is attentive to the change in the fortunes of Christians in the old city. In 1992, 52 per cent were Christian; now Christians make up fewer than 2.5 per cent of the population. In the context of his pilgrimage in Jerusalem, Dalrmple connects the ancient Christian sites to present-day oppression of Christians in Israel/Palestine by the Israel government. Without the local Christian population, the most important shrines in the Christian world will be left as museum pieces, preserved only for the curiosity of tourist. Christianity will no longer exist in the Holy Land as a living faith; a vast vacuum will exist in the very heart of Christendom.
If Christians are genuinely concerned to follow Jesus who was born and died in Israel, then like him, they need to take the whole of life, including politics, seriously. The Old Testament prophets were deeply concerned for justice in Israel and, while human bombs are immoral and unacceptable, so too is Israel oppression of the Palestinians. Part of all Christian pilgrimage to Israel ought as a matter of principle to connect with these issues.

·         Exploring ways to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanction strategy
·         The role of Nigeria in promoting Just Peace in Israel/Palestine
·         Justice Pilgrimage- where do we go from here?
Communiqué, closing/ concluding remarks

15: 00-16:00   LUNCH

16:30- 17:00- Media interview with Religious leaders on Corruption in the Nigeria Pilgrimage System

At the conclusion of the agenda and discussions, the Roundtable has the following as recommendations and issued as a communiqué:
        I.            Christian pilgrimage from Nigeria to the holy land must not sacrifice the act of worship and piety which our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified.
      II.            Christians in Nigeria should develop a policy paper to mirror a common approach in respect of justice issues arising from visit to the holy land.
   III.            Test tours to the holy land should be organized for Nigeria religious leaders to include visit to Palestine and visit holy sites in order to understand the Palestinians situation.
   IV.            Nigeria Christians should be encouraged to embrace pilgrimage to the holy land facilitated by licensed Christian tour groups in a bid to visit Palestine and encourage the growth of local economy. An example of such tour group is the ATG (The alternative tourism group in Palestine).
      V.            Pilgrims from Nigeria are encouraged to identify with Christians in Palestine in the course of their visit.
   VI.            The come and see document, The Kairos document must be made available to churches for use in their study sessions so that intending pilgrims will have awareness about the Palestine and current situation
 VII.            The films, The village under the forest, The Kairos Palestine and The stones cries out, should be watch by Christian congregations at synods and meetings across Nigeria, so as to create pictorial and visual education to a large number of Christians, in a bid to prepare them for supporting the peace and justice course in the Holy land.
VIII.            The BDS should be encouraged amongst Christians at every available opportunity and further find ways to promote it amongst ECOWAS countries. One practical way is to sensitize pilgrims from Nigeria to be vigilant to buy only made in Palestine goods during pilgrimage, so as to avoid the risk of promoting the growth of companies in the occupied Palestine lands.

At the roundtable, religious leaders adopted a joint statement pledging increased activism by Christian religious community in Nigeria towards enhancing peace and human rights of Palestinians. The statement also frowned at the massive corruption both in selection of Pilgrims and funding by government, of pilgrimage exercise, it therefore align with the position of Bishop Felix Ajakaiye, the catholic Bishop of Ekiti State and the representative of Christian Association of Nigeria at the on -going national conference in Abuja, that the Oransanye commission report on pilgrimage be upheld, noting that total freedom must be given to Christian churches to organize, and government provides only consular services. Diplomatic relation should be established with a view to networking and intervening in the Palestinian situation. Hence the need for a Palestine embassy in Nigeria to provide education services to teaming Nigeria Christians especially during pilgrimage Season
The statement and the communiqué will be presented to the National Executive of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Christian Council of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims commission, synods of Dioceses and independent Pilgrimage /Tour operators.
In order to continue in the tone and tempo of renewed activism, the roundtable have the followings as action point, not in any order of priority but with a view that all are imperative and critical to achieving desirable results as soon as possible. 

1.      Church leaders should be encouraged to re-orientate their members toward the concept of good neighborliness.
2.      CAPAD should organize awareness programmes for lecturers and students in tertiary institutions on happenings in Palestine.
3.      CAPAD should establish partnership with Nigeria theological institutes and other faith based organizations in order to facilitate the re-orientation of people about the history and developing world stories. E.g. helping people to have the right understanding of the situation of the Palestinians.
4.      Diplomatic relation should be established in networking and affecting the Palestinian situation.
5.      CAPAD should partner with The Full Gospel Fellowship at the grassroots level to promote information dissemination at the grass root level.
6.      A newsletter should be developed to share the news of the Palestinian situation.
7.      CAPAD should facilitate meeting of church leaders to formulate policy relating to what should be considered as holy sites.
8.      CAPAD to explore interfaith intervention against the wrong treatment melted out to Arab Christians and Muslims by the Israelis.
9.      Possibility of having a round table discussion and approach with the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria should be explored.
10.  The BDS boycott should be encouraged amongst Christians at every available opportunity and further find ways to promote it amongst ECOWAS countries.
It is hope that continue advocacy will be done as a result of the action plans, monitoring of impart will also be done through feedbacks from participants and reactions from synods, media opinion and editorials as well as conduct of opinion poll on intended pilgrims of 2014.  The option of starting a theological discussion on Pilgrimage, using Immanuel college of Theology as a centre is germane.  Graduating ministerial students will be trained and exposed to the reality in the Holy land, so that their informed position will rub positively on their congregations.

1.      Most Rev. Michael Kehinde Stephen- Archbishop of Methodist Church/CAPAD
2.      Rt. Rev. Bankole Fabusoro (Bishop representative of the Primate Church of the Lord, Aladura)
3.      Rev. Dr. Testimony Onifade – Represent the National President, Nigeria Baptist Convention
4.      Ven. Dr. Ayo Atowoju- Theologian/Lecturer, Ajayi Crowther University Oyo
5.      Very Rev. Dr. Williams Egbetakin- Theologian/Philosopher, Lecturer Immanuel College of Theology and Christian Education
6.      Johnson Olukunle Akanmu- Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International
7.      Mr. Akin Thomas-All Saints Church Ibadan/KAIROS NIGERIA
8.      Prof. Segun Oke- All Saints Church Ibadan/KAIROS NIGERIA
9.      Captain Happiness Uzoho- The Salvation Army
10.  Rev. Dr. Paul O. Kolawole- Conference President  Osun Baptist Conference
11.  The Ven. Dr. Olasode Olagbaju- Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion
12.  Rev. Dr. Kehinde Babarinde- Chairman Christian Council School Advisory Board
13.  Mr. Gbenga Opadotun- Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalist Oyo State Council
14.  Very Rev. Msgn T.O.A Fadeyi- Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan
15.  Rev. Ezo G. Udofia- Represent Archbishop of Uyo Methodist Church
16.  Very Rev. Opeyemi Awe-Presbyter Methodist Cathedral, Agbeni (CAPAD)
17.  Rev. Stephen Owolabi- National Youth Council
18.  Iyabo Oyekola –The Church of the Lord ( Aladura) world wide
19.  Rev. Joseph Adegboye Adediji- Nigeria Baptist Convention.
20.  Rev. Joshua Tunji Ojuwoni- Conference President Lagos Baptist Conference
21.  Pastor Bidemi Olu- Davies- Household of David online Church
22.  Mr. Kunle Oluwasusi- National Mirror Newspapers
23.  Rev. Adefolurin Orekoya- Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Ibadan
24.  Mrs. Taiwo Odejayi- Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Ikorodu
25.  Rev. Kolade Fadahunsi- Kairos Nigeria/CAPAD

Rev. Kolade Fadahunsi


Thursday, 17 April 2014

“Peace be with you.” (St. John, 20:19) The Easter Peace That Passes All Understanding – 2014 Bishop Dr. Munib Younan Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

“Peace be with you.” (St. John, 20:19)
The Easter Peace That Passes All Understanding – 2014
Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem in the name of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Peace be with you,” Jesus tells Thomas after the Resurrection.
I greet you in a time of suspicion and doubt. The story of Thomas has not ended. The story of Thomas continues to be our story, our context. It is a story where people are doubting in the Resurrection of Jesus because the fact that there is so much wrong in the world seems to suggest otherwise. Perhaps we are driven to declare as Thomas did, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25b).
Throughout the years Thomas has been known to Christendom as a man of suspicion or doubt. Some even call him “Doubting Thomas.” He is the man who does not believe until he sees for himself. Perhaps, however, we aren’t being honest with ourselves. Isn’t this narrative of a man who wrestles with his doubts the story of all of us? Isn’t this how we behave in our families and churches? Don’t we struggle daily with doubt and suspicion?
The Christian Church has survived for two thousand years because of the Resurrection story. Mary Magdalene’s message announcing the risen Lord has never ceased to echo through the ages. This message of “Christ is risen” resounds in the lives of people all over the world as it has for two thousand years. This message reminds us in the midst of our sin and transgressions that the power of Resurrection assures our forgiveness. This Resurrection can be heard in the preaching of the Gospel and tasted in the administration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Through the sacrament of baptism, we too experience the power of Resurrection as we daily die and rise with Christ.
The Church of Christ in our current context, despite its frailty, continues to be the instrument that proclaims the Gospel message of Resurrection. The Proclamation of the Living Word is creating peace in the minds and hearts of people who doubt or suspect. The Proclamation of the Gospel provides hope for those who have lost hope, those who have lost any vision of a future. The Proclamation of the Resurrection bears the message of the empty tomb to those who have lost trust in themselves, humanity, and even God. The Risen Lord continuously appears in our churches through the breaking of bread and pouring of wine to give us the peace of God beyond our human understanding (Phillippians 4:7). Like Thomas, when Jesus comes to us in the midst of our doubt and wishes us this peace, then we humbly say, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27).
The peace of God through the Resurrection occurs every days in our hearts, our families, and churches, even if we live in difficult times—times where the noise of the world attempts to drown out the words of peace through its clamorous secularization, extremism, suspicion among nations. The Risen Lord quietly yet firmly assures us that there is peace in the communion of saints—the church. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27). The message of the Risen Lord is the message of peace.
Today in the Middle East, people wrestle with doubt on a daily basis. Will the peace process come to fruition? When I walk in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and listen to the people, I hear so many doubts and suspicions. We have rightfully inherited the spirit of the “Doubting Thomas.” It seems at times as if nothing will succeed except violence, occupation, oppression, hatred, dehumanization, and extremism. We want a tangible sign that this is not true. We want to know that God is living. Sometimes we ask in our doubt—“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46). Why should we continue living in a such a world of injustice? Why is the mass media continually giving a boost to those who stand on the bones of victims?
Logically speaking, the spirit of “Doubting Thomas” has the world in its cynical grip. The arguments of Thomas are valid. “Show me a sign.” In a rational world, people want proof, not empty rhetoric or empty promises. The doubter looks at the powers and principalities of this world and feels hopeless. How can one overcome the power of unjust economies, the power of authority, the power of might? What happens to our faith in the Risen Lord in the face of such negative things? We must always remember what the Risen Lord has taught Thomas that even if things look hopeless, the Resurrection is more powerful than our doubt, earthly rulers, violence, injustice, and extremism. Jesus can change the tide of history in a way which we don’t expect, because the Triune God promises to make all things new (Revelation 21:5).
In the newness of God’s reign, we lay claim to the Easter promise of peace. The promise of the Risen Lord of “Peace be with you” is also valid for Palestinians and Israelis. Even if the road to peace based on justice is hard and rocky with many roadblocks and checkpoints, the promise of Resurrection Peace revives in each one of us a new hope. There is no other way, even if politicians are unwilling, than for there to be justice among the nations. I only pray that the day will come soon where Palestinians and Israelis live alongside one another in peace based on justice according to international law, each in their own state. I dream of the day when Jerusalem is a shared city between three religions and two nations. I dream of that day when there will be secure borders without walls. We look forward to having equal access to resources, religious sites, and a reciprocal democratic process. Even if doubts are there, there is no other way. Even if it looks bleak in my naiveté, I believe that the power of the Resurrection will make miracles that we did not expect.
There is hope in this hopeless situation. We will hear Jesus telling us face to face, “Peace be with you.” And we will one day reply as Thomas once did, “My Lord and my God!”
There are those who speak skeptically about the future of Christianity in the Middle East. They paint with a broad brush and make sweeping generalizations about the complex diversity of people in this land. On the contrary Middle East is comprised of many countries, each with their own narrative. Even in the turmoil of the Middle East experience with its political confusion, the Christian Church continues to have the message of Resurrection. It has a vital message because it is an integral part of the fabric of this land and its peoples. The message of Resurrection is the message of the Risen Lord; it is the message of peace. It is the message of Jerusalem.
We should be mindful that Christianity never grew in times of tranquility and prosperity. The power of the Resurrection was always most visible in the times of difficulties, challenges, affliction and discrimination. The Christian Church in the Middle East can rest safely in the assurance of this Resurrection power despite extremism, war, and the seemingly endless attempts for peace thwarted by the agendas of selfish ambition.
This power of Resurrection is the one that tells the Arab and Middle East Christians in this area—don’t whine or sigh, but instead be like Mary Magdalena—tell the other disciples that Christ is risen! Hope has risen! Freedom has risen! Peace has risen! This is the message that we cannot keep to ourselves, but we share it with all around us. We have a great message. We will not lose it even if we feel like Thomas. This message comes to us from the heart of Jerusalem and the mouth of the Risen Lord: “Peace be with you.” His peace is our good news to our city, our peoples, our Church, and to the ends of the earth. Let our hearts not be troubled nor dismayed. We will not live in doubt, for He is truly risen.
When Pope Theodoros II of the Coptic church heard reports of fifty different church buildings being torched in Egypt (because he participated with the Mufti of Egypt in declaring the second revolution last June), he did not despair or whine. Rather, he declared in a strong voice, “This will only motivate us to continue as living witnesses in our society.” When I think about his marvelous words, I see a prime example of the power of Resurrection at work—we should take this message to heart and let it motivate us as well, for Resurrection is a reality, and His peace passes all understanding.
Our call as Arab and Middle East Christians is to be instruments of peace, ministers of reconciliation, defenders of human rights, and apostles of love. I invite you to join with your brothers and sisters in the Middle East as we proclaim the truth of Christ’s peace in our hearts to the world. I ask you this Easter Sunday to pray for peace based on justice with reconciliation based on forgiveness in Palestine and Israel. I implore you for the sake of the Gospel to pray that politicians will find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria. I beg you to pray for Arab and Middle East Christians in this region that they may be filled with the power of hope in the Resurrection. I ask you to not forget us nor cease accompanying us in our journey, for our mission is yours and yours is ours. Our mission continues to be one of a prophetic Church, implanting the power of Resurrection Peace in the hearts of all peoples. This is the reason that even in the midst of our doubts and suspicions we hear His gentle voice saying, “Peace be with you.” And all of us with one voice will astonishingly reply, “My Lord and my God!” With this hope of the Resurrection, I send to you the Easter greetings of Jerusalem. Al-Masih Qam – Hakkan Qam! Christ has risen! He is risen indeed!

                                Al Masih Qam!  Haqan Qam! 
                        Christ is Risen!    He is Risen Indeed!
                       Christ is Risen!    He is Risen Indeed!
                       Christ is Risen!    He is Risen Indeed!
                                    المسيح قام             حقاً قام
                                كل عام وأنتم وعائلاتكم بألف خير

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