Moving from 'nice Christian words' to transformative action
In the midst of the regular visits and umpteen fact-finding missions to the Holy Land, and weighty statements made by numerous church leaders or heads of ecumenical organisations, all of it professing solidarity with the Christians of the region, the following link takes us to a Ha'aretz article highlighting one of the many small daily indignities suffered by those same Living Stones - a spitting attack.
I have witnessed such indignities heaped upon Christians of the Holy Land (of all denominations) and have in the past been at the qeshleh (police station) adjacent to St James' Armenian Patriarchate inside Jaffa Gate - to submit legal petitions for the release of the detainees or those held in temporary custody.
Perhaps there is a painful moral lesson to this piece in Ha'aretz? Perhaps it shows that our 'spiritual tourism' does not translate into a prophetic and proactive voice, but remains instead deafeningly mute or self-conscious in the face of institutional politics, conflictual agendas, hierarchical self-esteem or ecumenical clientelism? Is it simply that 'nice Christian words' are easier than genuinely compassionate Christian deeds?
Sadly, I also know that the Christians of this biblical parcel of land have become inured to the wringing of hands that accompanies many (albeit not all, as there are some remarkable exceptions) of those visits or statements.
After all, action is costly - as our Lord and Saviour knew full well when he bore the cross and accepted his fate. But then again, the crucifixion led to his resurrection and the salvation of humankind.
What of our purpose and our protest? Are we more comfortable preaching Christianity than living it?
Am I being too harsh? Not really. This reflection is written in love and most of the words I have used are not mine but those of a well-known Jerusalemite Christian, passed on during a conversation I had with her a few days ago. Where is the sense of metanoia (conversion, transformation, a change of heart), she asked me, as she showed me this latest piece in the Ha'aretz?
If we look closer to home and look at the St Paul's debacle with the Occupy the London Stock Exchange protesters, maybe it becomes clear that we do not always know how to turn crises into opportunities. But the important thing is that metanoia remains a constant call and possibility of the Christian message.
© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK) and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net
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