Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Elias Chacour

Elias Chacour

For the spring Cairo Lectures, Elias Chacour, described as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Palestinian Archbishop of Galilee, and renowned "Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation", visited and offered his words and wisdom. His vision has been to create a school for all children of Isreal--Christians, Muslims, Druze, Palestinians, Israelis. Today the Mar Elias Educational Institution exists for nearly 4,000 students from kindergarten through univeristy to learn together with a goal of building peace in the Middle East. Earlier this year I read one of Chacour's books, "Blood Brothers", which gives detail to Chacour's childhood and how he became a refugee in his own land. I absolutely loved his book, and I was ecstatic to hear that he was coming to Cairo.

One big struggle I have witnessed and experienced this year is the large (at times extreme) misunderstandings between people of various faiths. Muslims hating Christians, Christians hating Muslims, Christians hating Christians. I was not unaware of this before coming to Cairo, but living in it makes it so much more real, and makes me feel that much more sad, frustrated, scared, confused, and helpless. Every day I wake up trying to think of ways to bring people together, to increase the listening and decrease the talking.

Chacour was a breath of fresh air for me because he brought these issues to light. As I listened to him speak of the Palestinian and Israeli issues, I was awestruck and fully moved. This man, and this man's family and friends and people, have been through hell. Yet, he never showed signs of hatred. Rather, he said, "I was not born a Christian. I was born a baby. We are all born babies." Later he repeated this and then said, "But I was also born as the image of God. Do not try to convince your neighbor he is less than the image of God. When you persecute your neighbor, you are killing the image of God." Below I typed out some of the things he said that night I thought you might enjoy. But, more than anything, I encourage you to read his book. You'll love it.

"Everyone is the same. Everyone is a mixture of good and evil. It all depends on what we give more attention to."
--"...look for the hibernating friend in that person, do not look for the hibernating evil that is in BOTH of our hearts."

"Go to your Galilee--that place where someone needs forgiveness from you."

"In Aramaic the word we translate as "blessed" means "straighten up" and work to your destination. Do something if you are hungry and thirsty for justice."

"What starts on a large scale? Nothing--things start small; as small as a mustard seed."

"No one says, 'the land belongs to me also.' People say 'the land belongs to me.'"

"We need to read scripture to find inspiration, not justification for your preconceived ideas. It should storm your mind, bother your quietness and look at your left and right hand... to see what God has made most beautiful."

"Our God is not a Christian God; it would be miserable. God is God, otherwise he would be a reformed, not reformed, not yet reformed God."

"Peace doesn't need contemplaters. Peace needs actors."

"We are to witness to the fact that God loves everyone."

"I did not immigrate to Israel, Israel immigrated into my Palestine."

"Is Israel a state for Jews who tolerate Arabs? I hate "tolerance". I will 'tolerate' you until I get rid of you. Everyone is expected to be a danger, no one is expected to be a friend."

"I am a law-abiding citizen, unless the law is unjust, then I don't care."

"We people from Galilee, we do not make appointments, we make appearances."

"We hit the bottom of hope, but never hit the pit of despair."

"Peace takes much less weapons, much less dollars, and much more recognition that both sides are right, but in exaggerating that right they are wrong."

"We do not negotiate peace, we live it together."

"Don't raise hell, raise hope. But not from the top, make peace in and around you."

"You will find what you are looking for--enemy or friend."


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