Pastoral Letter about Violence in the Middle East,

Terrorism, and the Refugee Crisis

 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dear friends,

 

These are indeed challenging times.

 

My prayer is that we in Community of Christ may continue, through it all, to focus on Christ and to stubbornly stick to building communities of joy, hope, love and peace.

 

I'm continuing to follow with interest the ways different organizations are trying to make sense of recent world events. It may well be that there is little or no consensus.

 

Community of Christ is a member church of the National Council of Churches in the USA. So I’m attaching a recent statement from the NCC on world events. Community of Christ, the NCC and all of us continue to struggle to understand and to know how to respond.

 

May we be guided by the Holy Spirit as we contemplate our own personal stewardship over our own actions and our own voices. I pray for wisdom and discernment for me, for you, for the church and for world governments.

 

Most of all I pray for those who have been driven from their homes and employment, who are wandering with children and grandparents, aunts and uncles, living off of their own resourcefulness and off of the mercy of neighbors.

 

I know that you are making this a matter of prayer, personally, in your families and in your congregations.

 

I believe that this makes a difference.

 

May God have mercy.

May that mercy be contagious.

May we all find ways to express God's mercy.

 

Sincerely,

Apostle Arthur Smith

 

Recent Middle East Violence and Acts of Terrorism
A Statement Adopted by the NCC Governing Board, November 18, 2015

 

Over many years, the National Council of Churches has often expressed our aspirations and sorrows, our confidence and fears, related to an eventual peace in the Middle East.

At this time,

 

  • Inter-communal violence is consuming Israel and the Palestinian Territories

  • Terrorism and civil conflict are raining fire upon Syria and Iraq

  • Horrific acts of terrorism have recently taken place in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad and many other cities around the world

  • Afghanistan is sliding back into chaos

  • Refugees are fleeing the region and entering Europe in large numbers with no end of suffering on the horizon

  • Religious minorities are being persecuted, and sectarian strife is affecting Christian, Muslim and Jewish populations

  • As we approach the celebration of the birth of Christ our hearts are filled with sorrow and fear that peace will remain out of reach in the Middle East for much longer than we could ever have imagined.


We have no illusions that establishing peace will be easy. We lament that the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is ever more elusive and negotiations are not taking place. We pray for a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. We call upon religious communities to build upon their historic legacies of inter-religious relationships, dialogue and action. When all these are in sight, we can envision peace. And yet such a vision seems hard to fathom today.

Still, we remain people of hope. The Lord we follow, Jesus Christ, died a violent death. But he was resurrected from the dead in the singular miraculous event that is at the core of our belief. Thus the hope of resurrection, and of the eternal life and profound peace it symbolizes, permeates our being and calls us to be vigilant in our hope for peace in the region where he lived among us.

We witness to this hope for peace with our fellow Christians in the region. We stand together with our Muslim and Jewish and other sisters and brothers of goodwill who seek peace there. As the National Council of Churches, we will continue to encourage our churches and congregations to support a renewed peace settlement as the only option. And we call upon the United States government and the United Nations to enforce previous commitments towards a just peace and do everything to ensure that a just peace has a chance to emerge from today’s chaos and destruction.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.