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World Report - August 9


The Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal  

[Episcopal News Service]   
  • GALILEE: Pilgrimages cancelled due to escalating violence
  • GAZA: Ahli Hospital is focus of new appeal
  • HAVANA: Episcopal Cathedral hosts prayer service for Fidel Castro
  • JERUSALEM: Bishop Riah writes of devastation, faith
  • LEBANON: Statistics show 40% of casualties are children

GALILEE: Pilgrimages cancelled due to escalating violence

[ENS] An October pilgrimage to Galilee and Jerusalem, planned to be led by Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno and lay leaders Sue and Sandy Smock, has been cancelled overseas due to escalating violence in the region.

"It was only 40 days ago that Iyad Qumri, our friend and guide, was in Los Angeles visiting with pilgrims, past and future," Sandy Smock wrote to the group. "Everything was so upbeat, and he was booking trips well into 2007. Now, everything has collapsed, and every single one of his pilgrimages, with the exception of the Rev. Canon John Peterson's National Cathedral Group, has been cancelled."

Smock said that as of July 1, 45 people had signed up for the trip, and there was a waiting list of 17. Included among these 62 pilgrims were one bishop, five priests, and parishioners from 15 Southern California congregations.

The Smocks have led several pilgrimages to the region, calling upon Episcopalians to become more familiar with issues at hand. The Episcopal Church's General Convention has repeatedly called for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Smock said that one of the region's "unreported stories is the trauma being experienced by the Palestinian Israeli community in the Galilee. While various officials of the Israeli government comment about how terrible things are for Israeli citizens in the north who must spend their time in shelters, they fail to acknowledge that the citizens they are talking about are Jews.

"The 'other ones' -- including the 30,000 Palestinian and Druse residents of Shefa 'Amr -- are without government built shelters of any kind and in many cases without sirens. The 'only remaining democracy'in the Middle East apparently has different standards for each of its communities," Smock said.

The Shefa 'Amr Episcopal congregation shares a companion relationship with the Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, California, of which the Smocks are parishioners. Our Saviour Parish is sister parish to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Galilee.

"Although Fr. Fuad reports that Shefa 'Amr has not been targeted, a village 10 minutes' drive from them has been," Sandy Smock reports. "In addition, they can hear the explosion of every rocket that lands in Haifa. 'It is very scary, and life has ground to halt,' he said."

Fuad said the television scenes of the devastation and human carnage of the recent bombing in Qana have been especially depressing.

"In this time of tragedy," said Smock, "we would suggest that now is the time for all caring Episcopalians to get involved" in aid initiatives.

More information is online at

GAZA: Ahli Hospital is focus of new appeal

[ENS] The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ) has launched a special appeal to assist Gaza's Ahli Episcopal Hospital.

AFEDJ is disbursing funds to the hospital as frequently as weekly, AFEDJ reports.

The appeal responds in part to the July 27 letter of the Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem. (Text of the letter is reprinted below.)

More information on AFEDJ is available through its web site.

AFEDJ's president is the Rev. Charles Cloughen, Jr., rector of St. Thomas' Church, Towson, Maryland. Board members include Phoebe Griswold, whose husband, Frank, is Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

HAVANA: Episcopal Cathedral hosts ecumenical prayer service for Fidel Castro

[Source: Granma Newspaper] Holy Trinity Cathedral, Episcopal Church of Cuba, hosted an early-August service of prayers for the health of President Fidel Castro.

Granma newspaper reports that the service was attended by more than 300 people, including Caridad Diego, head of the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs of the Central Committee. Attendees also include visitors from Belgium, Brazil and Chile.

According to Granma, Cathedral Dean Juan Ramón de la Paz, hosting the prayer meeting, “affirmed that Cuban religious leaders do not feel distant from Fidel, but see him as a friend and father of the great family of this nation."

Led at this time by Bishop Miguel Tamayo, the Episcopal Church of Cuba is an extra-provincial territory under the oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

JERUSALEM: Bishop Riah writes of devastation, faith

[Source: Anglican Communion News Service] Following is the text of a July 27, 2006, letter from the Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, on the current crisis in the Middle East.

Dear Friends,

For the past forty years we have been largely alone on this desert fighting a predator that not only has robbed us of all but a small piece of our historic homeland, but threatens the traditions and holy sites of Christianity. We are tired, weary, sick, and wounded. We need your help.

We have seen and we have been the recipients of the generosity of our American and British friends. We cherish the support of everyone throughout the world who stands with us in solidarity. Daily, I hear from many of them who express outrage at the arrogant and aggressive positions of President Bush, Secretary Rice, Senator Clinton, and Prime Minister Blair. I am saddened to realise just how much the deserved prestige of the United States and Britain has declined as a result of politicians who seem to devalue human life and suffering.
And, I am disturbed that the Zionist Christian community is damaging America's image as never before.

Little more than a week ago, we were focused on the plight of the Palestinian people. In Gaza, four and five generations have been victims of Israeli racism, hate crimes, terror, violence, and murder. Garbage and sewage have created a likely outbreak of cholera as Israeli strategies create the collapse of infrastructures. There is no milk. Drinking water, food, and medicine are in serious short supply. Innocents are being killed and dying from lack of available emergency care. Children are paying the ultimate price. Even for those whose lives are spared, many of them are traumatised and will not grow to live useful lives. Commerce between the West Bank and Gaza has been halted and humanitarian aid barely trickles into some of the neediest in the world.

Movement of residents of the West Bank is difficult or impossible as "security measures" are heightened to break the backs of the Palestinian people and cut them off from their place of work, schools, hospitals, and families. It is family and community that has sustained these people during these hopeless times. For some, it is all that they had, but that too has been taken away with the continued building of the wall and check points. The strategy of ethnic cleansing on the part of the State of Israel continues.

This week, war broke out on the Lebanon-Israeli border (near Banyas where Jesus gave St. Peter the keys to heaven and earth). The Israeli government's disproportionate reaction to provocation was consistent with their opportunistic responses in which they destroy their perceived enemy.

In her recent article, "The Insane Brutality of the State of Israel," American Kathleen Christison, a former CIA analyst says, "The state lashes out in a crazed effort, lacking any sense of proportion, to reassure itself of its strength." She continues, "A society that can brush off as unimportant an army officer's brutal murder of a thirteen year old girl on the claim that she threatened soldiers at a military post (one of nearly seven hundred Palestinian children murdered by Israelis since the Intifada began) is not a society with a conscience." The "situation" as it has come to be called, has deteriorated into a war without boundaries or limitations. It is a war with deadly potential beyond the imaginations of most civilized people.

As I write to you, I am preparing to leave with other bishops for Nablus with medical and other emergency supplies for five hundred families, and a pledge for one thousand families more.

On Saturday we will attempt to enter Gaza with medical aid for doctors and nurses in our hospital there who struggle to serve the injured, the sick, and the dying (This mission was completed).

My plan is that I will be able to go to Lebanon next week - where we are presently without a resident priest - to bury the dead, and comfort the victims of war. Perhaps as others have you will ask, "What can I do?" Certainly we encourage and appreciate your prayers.

That is important, but it is not enough. If you find that you can no longer look away, take up your cross. It takes courage as we were promised.

Write every elected official you know. Write to your news media. Speak to your congregation, friends, and colleagues about injustice and the threat of global war. If Syria, Iran, the United States, Great Britain, China and others enter into this war - the consequence is incalculable. Participate in rallies and forums. Find ways that you and your churches can participate in humanitarian relief efforts for the region. Contact us and let us know if you stand with us. I urge you not to be like a disciple watching from afar.

2 Corinthians 6.11: " We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians, our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.
In return - I speak as to children - open wide your hearts also."

In, with, and through Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem

LEBANON: Statistics show 40% of casualties are children

[Source: UNICEF] Commenting on the violence in Lebanon, UNICEF on August 5 reported the following statistics, emphasizing that 40% of 750 civilians recently killed in Lebanon are children.

At present:

* A Lebanese child is being killed every three hours;
* 25% of Lebanon's population has been rendered homeless;
* 23 tons of bombs, or three per minute, are being dropped every day;
* 55 bridges have been destroyed;
* All airports and seaports are out of operation;
* Only 15% of power is operational.
* Almost 70,000 people have been evacuated;
* 189 countries are calling for a cease fire.