Presbyterians in the United States are being urged to celebrate a week of prayer and witness next year in support of Christians in the Middle East - writes Evan Silverstein for PC (USA) news.
The observance will take place between Easter (8 April) and Pentecost (27 May 2007) when every church and presbytery in the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be encouraged to plan events marking the occasion.
The idea is to lift up Christians in parts of the Middle East where their numbers are declining such as in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria and Israel/Palestine, said Kathy Matsushima, moderator of the PC (USA)'s Israel/Palestine Mission Network.
"Our prayers and support are vital to those vulnerable communities who trace the origin of their faith to the apostolic age, as they strive to be faithful witnesses throughout the Middle East," Matsushima said.
Last June, the PC (USA)'s 217th General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an overture calling on its more than 11,000 congregations and 173 presbyteries to take part in the week-long observance.
The PC (USA) has a long-standing relationship with Middle Eastern Christians. Presbyterian missionaries began arriving in the Middle East in the 1820's, establishing schools, hospitals and churches.
The Week of Prayer and Witness will not only lift up relationships between the PC(USA) and its partners in the Middle East, but also the ongoing witness of the Orthodox and Catholic congregations there that date back to the earliest period of Christian history.
"Middle Eastern Christians need our understanding and support in all aspects of their life and ministry," said the Rev. Victor Makari, the PC (USA)'s area coordinator for the Middle East. "We look forward to supporting the General Assembly's initiative to join with them during the Week of Prayer and Witness next spring, in faithful partnership."
The Israel/Palestine Network is one of 27 networks within the PC (USA) formed to lift up the concerns of particular regions or countries. It is offering assistance in the preparation of resources for the Week of Prayer and Witness.
Matsushima said churches and presbyteries will be sent packets that will include a "toolkit" of materials to help churches design a week of programming tailored to the interests and capabilities of their individual congregation.
The toolkit will include liturgical resources for Sunday worship and materials to guide prayer and study through the week.
"Middle Eastern Presbyterian immigrants in America continually pray for and support Christians in the Middle East," said Amgad Beblawi, the PC (USA)'s associate for Middle Eastern Ministries in the USA. "The General Assembly's overture is an occasion for us to join with the rest of PC (USA) to celebrate the continuing witness of the churches in the Middle East."