Easter in Jerusalem: No access for Gaza’s Christians

easter in jerusalemThree days to go before Good Friday, Israel has not issued permits for Gaza Palestinian Christians to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, Church authorities have said.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said church authorities had applied for around 600 permits for Gaza Palestinian worshipers to travel, but had not received any.

Gaza is under an ongoing Israeli blockade and people’s movements out of the Gaza Strip is tightly restricted by the Israeli military.

The Israeli military-run authority that operates in the occupied West Bank defended its policy to deny the applicants access to the city of Jerusalem in the West Bank, and said it would only issue permits to people aged at least 55.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

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This Easter, a Group of Muslims in Australia Will Attend Mass — as They Have for the Past 13 Years

christians-muslims-dialogues-in-pakistanThis Sunday, Catholic churches across Sydney, Australia will bear the usual signs of Easter: incense, fresh flowers, a lit Paschal candle — and a few rows of churchgoers wearing kufi and headscarves. Every year for the past 13 years, groups of Muslims have attended Easter Mass in the Sydney Archdiocese and Broken Bay Diocese.

It all started around 2001 when a group of Gülen Muslims who had immigrated to Sydney from Turkey sought to dismantle animosity in their new home. For the group, who practices love of the creation, sympathy for the fellow human, compassion, and altruism, one way of coping was to actively foster understanding among Christian faith groups. So, they called the Catholic Dialogue and Interfaith Office of Sydney and explained that people were pulling veils off of Muslim women, spitting at them, and attacking them. The Director of the Office, Sister Trish Madigan, O.P., sprung into action. A Dominican Sister of Eastern Australia and Solomon Islands, Sister Trish holds a master’s in Ecumenical Interfaith Studies with a focus on Islam from Trinity College and a doctorate in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Sydney.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNERS MAGAZINE 

Easter Should Be A Time For Christians And Muslims To Bond

The religions share a deep heritage based in love, which can’t be confused with the actions of misguided, fire-breathing followers on both sides.

For the Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi, spring was more than spring: it was a reflection of all that was divine, in our lives and history.

In his poem, “Spring is Christ,” he writes of how a flower is more than a flower, a tree more than a tree and the wind more than just wind. He writes of a love so strong it permeates everything it comes into contact with. And he writes about Jesus and his mother, Mary: Jesus as the spring that brings plants into bloom after a lifeless winter, and Mary as the tree that gives life, refuge and shade.

 Surprisingly for many in the West today, Islamic mystical poetry is full of allusions to Jesus and Mary. The only religion besides Christianity that accepts Jesus as a prophet, Islam confirms his unique birth and the Qur’an refers to him as the “Messiah,” the “Messenger,” the “Prophet” and the “Word and Spirit of God.”
OMAR SANADIKI / REUTERS
A girl stands near candles inside Al-Saleeb church during Palm Sunday in Damascus, Syria on April 9, 2017.

It is a commonality that is often overlooked by fundamentalists on both sides who choose to focus on the points of divergence. And yet, at this moment, when so many seem to be rooting for a collision between the Christian West and Islamic East, there has never been a greater need for both sides to acknowledge their shared heritage.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HUFFINGTON POST 

Jesus Was No Stranger to Persistent Hope

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The following is an Easter meditation from Churches for Middle East Peace, an organization that promotes interfaith initiatives for peace in the Holy Land.  

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.”
Luke 24: 1-10

Early in the morning, a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others, walked to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. I imagine them walking in silence, some of them with tears running down their cheeks, others in a daze. Their eyes are still adjusting to the morning light. One of them is carrying the spices they had prepared the night before, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. As they approach the tomb, they see the stone rolled away. This, in and of itself, would be cause for alarm. Who had been there before them? They cautiously walk into the tomb and find it empty. What happens next would cause anyone to be terrified. Two men in dazzling clothes (AKA angels) stood beside them and began to speak to them. These heavenly beings remind the women what Jesus had told them about how he would rise again on the third day. Immediately after their conversation, the women return to the eleven disciples and tell them everything that had happened. Hallelujah! What terrific news!

Jesus was no stranger to persistent hope. Jesus taught these women, and his disciples, what it meant to persistently hope. To have hope is more than a wish. It involves knowledge of something true, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s not a premonition, or some special kind of revelation. It’s the hope we carry with us even when circumstances seem dire. It’s the hope that propels us forward in the face of uncertainty and fear. This is the kind of hope exhibited by the women that morning. It seemed as though everything was lost. Their Lord had been crucified. What would happen to them, his followers? Still, they faithfully went to the tomb to honor him by preparing his body for burial. Although none of them expected to find the tomb empty, I imagine them replaying Jesus’ words on the walk to the tomb. What did Jesus mean when he said he would rise again on the third day? Maybe it was this wondering which propelled them to go to the tomb that morning.

Palestinian and Israeli women are often the most overlooked, yet effective peacemakers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM  CHURCHES FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE 

Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries

keyJerusalem (CNN)The key to one of Christianity’s holiest sites is held by a Muslim family, and it has been for centuries. This is more than just tradition. It is the very essence of Jerusalem, part of what makes the Old City’s cultural and religious history so special.

We meet Adeeb Joudeh at the Jaffa Gate to the Old City. It is 3:30 a.m. At this hour, the tension of the city has melted into the darkness. The narrow alleys are eerily quiet. As Joudeh makes his way through the city’s deserted streets, his footsteps are unnaturally loud, echoing off the walls of the empty stone streets.
He carries with him an ancient cast-iron key, some 500 years old. The key is 12 inches long, with a triangular metal handle and a square end.
It is the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many believe Jesus Christ was crucified and entombed. The church is one of Christianity’s holiest sites, and many Christian denominations share this holy space for prayer. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world make a pilgrimage here for the Easter holidays. Few are aware of Joudeh’s significance, and how important a part his Muslim ancestors have played in the story of this holy place.
Joudeh’s family has held the key in their protection for generations. In his house, Joudeh keeps a binder full of pictures of his grandfather and great-grandfather who once held this sacred task, and his family has kept the historic contracts bestowing upon his family this job, written on parchment and signed in golden ink. The oldest dates back to 1517.
“This is the family heritage,” Joudeh says, smiling as he talks. “It’s all we own as a family, and this is an honor not only for our family. This is an honor for all Muslims in the world.”

Easter in Islam: Christ is risen and will return

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Easter is celebrated to varying degrees in the Islamic world, ranging from outright illegal in Saudi Arabia to being openly celebrated in some of the Gulf States and the Far East. A natural question is, just where does Islam diverge from Christianity on the matter of Jesus’ AS1 crucifixion and resurrection? The Qur’an says,

[4:157] That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not

 [4:158] Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise

 [4:159] And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them

Here, the Qur’an states clearly that Jesus AS was not killed nor crucified, but was indeed raised to Heaven. Therefore, Easter has no direct analogue in Islam since it is the celebration of his resurrection. However, as the third verse above explains, Jesus will also play a role on Judgement Day.

There is of course some historical evidence that supports the crucifixion as a recorded event, including from some Roman sources. And the verse in the Qur’an itself says quite expplicitly that “so it was made to appear to them”. So it seems plausible that someone was crucified, unless it was all a divine illusion. One of the mainstream views among muslim theologians is that another was crucified in Jesus’ AS place; either as punishment (likely Judas) or as a willing martyr (often cited as Simon). There are also various minority views, in which Jesus AS did die or achieved separation of spirit from his body. The Wikipedia article “Islamic views of Jesus’ death” provides a comprehensive overview of the various interpretations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEF.NET

Gifts at Easter are latest bridge between Sacramento-area Muslims and Christians

Good-Friday-Bonds-UK-Muslims-Christians_To honor their Christian friends at Easter – a celebration of renewal – Muslim leaders in Sacramento will deliver 300 gifts at noon today to the First Covenant Church in Rancho Cordova.

Gifts for the children of the 2,000-member evangelical church are part of an interfaith exchange that Pastor Mark Shetler and Irfan Haq of the SALAM Islamic Center started in 2012. The gifts represent “a gesture of good will and a show of love and respect for our Christian brothers and sisters,” said Haq, president of the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations. “This is possibly the first such gesture taking place in U.S. religious history.”

First Covenant made some history of its own in 2012 and 2013, when about 60 congregants served iftar dinners for hundreds of Muslims during the month of Ramadan, Shetler said. Throughout Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, breaking the fast with an iftar meal after sundown.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MERCED SUN-STAR