Global Ministries delegation heads to Middle East, setting stage for upcoming Middle East Initiative
Over the course of the next two weeks, a dozen leaders from both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will visit with 20 partner organizations in the Middle East. The Rev. Jim Moos, UCC Wider Church Ministries executive minister, says that one of the core values of Global Ministries—the shared overseas ministry between the UCC and Disciples of Christ—is physical presence. The presence of 13 executives, staff, board members and ministry partners taking this mission trip comes at a key time in the Middle East.
“This visit is a physical expression of solidarity with multiple partners,” said Peter Makari, area executive for the Middle East and Europe. “In this time, the Middle East is passing through an important moment in its history.”
“We treasure our partnerships around the world,” Moos said. “The Middle East is at a historic moment. We want our presence and solidarity felt, and our voices heard, and we want the voices of our partners to be heard. It’s important for our partners to see broad support from church leaders.”
The trip, from April 26 through May 8, will take the Global Ministries delegation through Jordan, Israel-Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon. While there, the delegation will visit with partners in each country and tour the Biblical sites of Christ’s ministry, his birth in Bethlehem, his baptism in the Jordan river, his betrayal at Gethsemane, and his resurrection in Golgotha (Calvary).
“Any visit is transformational in a way that reading about it is not,” Moos said. “To meet partners face to face has a different impact on a person, even a person in leadership, to witness the issues in the region.”
The trip will also set the groundwork for the Middle East Initiative, which will launch for the UCC at General Synod in June. The idea is to offer congregations and members from both denominations an opportunity to learn, advocate and witness with partners the issues the region faces. UCC and Disciples members can also gain a greater understanding and familiarity of the Middle East, and the legacy of Christian presence in the region.
The Middle East Initiative will invite the wider church to focus on the region intensively and intently for an 18-month period before concluding in December 2016. Churches will be invited to learn more about the dozens of denominational partners in the region and the issues they face, find out how the UCC and Disciples of Christ continue to build on the long-lasting history of engagement, and become active in education and advocacy efforts for peace and support various programs.
Through the initiative, Global Ministries will emphasize the partnerships in nine countries: Armenia, Egypt, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Turkey. There will be giving opportunities to support refugees and migrants, education programs, healthcare programs, justice and peacemaking efforts, and the Christian presence and witness there.
“We can lift up the authentic and important witness of our partners, in their communities and societies — which goes beyond the Christian community,” Makari said.
Varsen Aghabekian, a professor and a Christian living in Palestine visiting the UCC national offices last week, said, “We are looking to the international community for help after 20-plus years of negotiations have yielded very little.”
Global Ministries’ presence in the Middle East dates back almost two centuries to 1819, so the relationships with partners in the region aren’t new, Makari said. “Our involvement in the Middle East as Christians dates back 2,000 years,” he added, “and as a denomination it dates back 200 years.”
More information about the trip, and the Middle East Initiative will be available on the Global Ministries website.
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