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Diverse Middle East Christians need community and prayers from others, bishop says

By Carol E. Barnwell
6/15/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  One focus of ministry for the President Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is to engender hospitality for many different Christians in the Middle East.
 
"We seek to be a hospitable presence for Christians from any nation and any group who cares to have a home with us for however long they need it," said Bishop Clive Handford, who is also the bishop of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.
 
Echoing the broad hospitality offered to seventh-century pilgrims in the same area by Nastorian monasteries built along the Persian Gulf, congregations in that area host people from many Christian denominations and as many as 30 nationalities at any time.
 
"In Dubai, more than 30,000 Christians come to our compound weekly," he said, adding that traditions range from Coptic orthodox to Filipino evangelicals. 
 
Handford also mentioned plans for a new Anglican Center in Qatar which will serve as an "oasis of hospitality."

"It will be a community facility offering interfaith dialogue, a refuge for battered women, Sunday School and social activities," he said.
 
Costs for the project have doubled to more than $6 million waiting on authorization from local Muslim officials.
 
His diocese received a part of the Good Friday offering from the Episcopal Church and he said that the $50,000 portion from his diocese helps support several churches and clinics in Aden in southern Yeman. The church in Iraq holds joint services with other denominations and, Handford said, he is happy to offer them a place to worship as long as they need it. Nearly 200 Iraqi Christians worship in the Episcopal Church in Baghdad every week
.
"Our largest challenge is to preserve a sense of unity in such a large geographic area," Handford said of the diocese, first organized in 1976. "As the ‘wandering bishop' I'm a bit of the glue that holds us together," he said. 
 
"Pray for us. Prayer works, you know?"