Muslim and Christian Leaders Travel to the Middle East to Advocate for Christian Minorities in the Arab World

Led by non-profit Clergy Beyond Borders

For Immediate Release: April 9, 2014

For more information contact: clergybeyondborders@gmail.com. Nazir Harb (nnharb@gmail.com), (206) 962-1821 (for Arabic language or English) Rabbi Gerry Serotta, (301) 908-6155. Website: ClergyBeyondBorders.org

While traveling the delegation may be reached directly by phone (865-300-6848 or 202-744-9464), Skype (vitalvisuals) or by email (smartin@vitalvisions.org)

WASHINGTON: A group of leading U.S. Muslim leaders will travel with Christian advisors to promote a vision and a reality that would ensure that Christians remain in the Middle East. Imam Yahya Hendi, President of Clergy Beyond Borders (CBB) emphasized his conviction that “Christians contribute to the beauty and variety of ancient civilizations. We support their presence, not simply as a minority, but as citizens enjoying full equality under the law, and therefore in a position to continue to contribute to regional peace, justice, and stability.”

With the Christian festivals of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter as a dramatic context, the delegation will issue a comprehensive call for full inclusion of Christian communities in the religious and civic life of Muslim-majority lands. Members will meet with government officials, church leaders, and Christian organizations in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine and will be in the region from April 13-21.

Two Families, One Journey (part 2)

I am sixteen years old and a Muslim. Yes, I pray, fast, go to the mosque, and dress modestly, but I have also celebrated Christmas for two years.

Elisabeth and I met in December of 2011. Initially, my father had announced a road trip down to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to meet up with one of his dear friends and celebrate Christmas. Being Muslim, this experience was going to be delightful, and we kids didn’t know what to think! Kids being kids, we asked if this still mysterious family had any kids our ages, and were practically at the edges of our seats waiting for the extremely long car ride to come to a relaxing and long awaited halt.

We checked into our prepaid hotel room, already feeling the love and affection this family was radiating, but all we could do was imagine, imagine how they look, act and behave.

Finally, the time had come to meet them! Not every member of their family had come to the hotel to welcome us, but surely three came, Elisabeth, Matthew, and Steve Martin. We talked about phone apps and sports, learning that we had very similar interests. We were both in band, marched instruments, played sports, and had religious figures in our lives. We said our goodbyes and hoped to see each other bright and early the next day, after all, it was going to be Christmas Eve, an event the six of us had not yet experienced.

One Christian, one Muslim, two different parts of America, and yet we had so much in common.

Two Families, One Journey (part 1)

I am sixteen years old, and I am a Christian.

About three years ago, my father came to my brothers and me with an unusual request. He sat down with the four of us and asked if we would be willing to share our Christmas holiday with a family of Muslims who, not only had we never met, but had never formally celebrated Christmas before. I try to be a person who is open to all things, but, admittedly, I was a little hesitant in my agreement. This is my family tradition. What will change? What if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? A dozen questions came into my mind. I had never even met a Muslim before. I am embarrassed to say so, but the world I live in is one that stereotypes, and as a result, a part of me feared the alien family that soon came to be some of my best friends.

Nevertheless, Christmas approached quickly in the year of 2011, and I became more excited for the Hendi family’s arrival than I expected. I carefully planned my outfits for the week and drilled my father on all of the must-know facts about the Muslim religion that was so foreign to me. I anxiously awaited their arrival, not knowing what to expect. My dad could not answer all of my questions, because I do not think he knew what he was getting into either. Soon enough, they arrived at their hotel and I went to say hello. They came to our house for the first time a day later.

Our time together was not awkward for very long. Their family has three girls and a boy, and my family has the opposite, so it was perfect for me. Although I had trouble remembering all of the Hendi Family’s names, I knew that I really liked having them around. They were kind, they were funny, they were generous, and we got along without even having to try. We shared many laughs and tears in our short time together.

Middle East Caravan of Reconciliation

Dear Friends,

Recently, an increasing tendency among Arab Christians to migrate from the Middle East has reached a tipping point. In the last decade alone the 7% of the population of Palestine that is Christian has fallen to 1.7%. Much of this occurred in the last three years. This mass exodus is continuing, and growing in momentum, because Christians feel under threat by their Muslim neighbors or regional instability caused by regime change and war. In these unprecedented times in the Middle East, Vital Visions, along with our partners Clergy Beyond Borders, has decided to take unprecedented steps to reverse this disheartening tide.

Note: tax-deductible donations for this caravan can be made by using the "Donate" button on the right sidebar.

Over the past three months we have recruited an experienced and influential core team of 12 Muslim and Christian leaders who will travel to Jordan and Palestine on April 13th for one week to meet with Christian leaders and prominent politicians in Jordan and Palestine. We have also been invited to celebrate Easter in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity and we, Muslim and Christian clergy, have accepted. Our commitment to supporting Arab Christians has drawn the attention of important political and religious figures as well as news media throughout the region and beyond. Our trip will be covered by reporters from CNN, Aljazeera, and others.

Inheritance

Vital Visions announces a new program opportunity for your church or university. "Inheritance: Wounds in the hearts, minds, and landscape of the Holy Land" is a traveling photo exhibit that provides the perfect opportunity for a discussion of conflict, peace, and justice. Vital Visions President Steven D. Martin brings photographs and stories about his time in Israeli and Palestinian cities and will bring a message of how deep wounds, not religious differences, create the context for the challenges of this part of the Middle East.