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Day 6 of John Feister's trip to the Middle East takes him to Mar Elias College in Galilee.

Special Features
Day 6: Galilee
Now, late in the week, some themes are emerging. The first, of course, is one we’ve known: The Holy Land is in crisis. That crisis is running Christians out. But as we scratch below the surface in our travels and conversations, it becomes clear that the political situation of the Palestinians—that is, the local Christian community—is the context for the crisis of Christianity.

I suppose we could have or even should have known this, but we Americans seem allergic to international news. “Why can’t they all get along?” we might say. Or “If only they can learn from us how democracy works, then they’ll be o.k.” Much of that energy as driven our military involvement in the country next door to Jordan, Iraq.

day 6 Mar Elias College DSC_0454
(photo by John Feister)
During our visit to Mar Elias College in Ibellein (in Galilee) today, we heard from Elias Abu, a teacher and activist who has been on extensive speaking tours in North America. The college serves 1,100 students, with a devotion to Palestinian identity. “We are not terrorists,” pleaded Abu, “We are the terrorized! We are peace lovers, peacemakers!” We sat around a conference table with Abu and a group of students who, once again, looked much like students back in the United States.

Interestingly, some reported friendships with Jewish students in various parts of Israel, via the Internet. It’s a lot more accessible than face-to-face contact. During our hour or so together, before we ate lunch with the group, Abu quoted James Baldwin, who observed the ignorance of so many Americans about  the plight of blacks. “It’s innocence that constitutes the crime,” wrote Baldwin.

On Wednesday, at Bethlehem College, I had looked out looked out from the campus over a great expanse, to the hilltop Jewish developments (a.k.a. “settlements”) and marveled at a bridge spanning the large valley. One of our Palestinian guides (he himself had spent most of his career teaching in the United States) looked at me and said, dryly, “You bought it.” He was, of course, referring to the massive flow of U.S. tax dollars into the Israeli government. I can’t say that I had ever thought of my tax dollars as paying for an apartheid system here in Israel. That bridge I was admiring is itself part of a huge Israeli highway system set up to allow Jewish Israelis to move about in the country outside of the inconvenience and dangers—real or perceived—of the Palestinian checkpoints.

On this day we also had the privilege of talking, close up, with another renowned Palestinian advocate besides Elias Abu. In Haifa, overlooking the Mediterranean, we met with Archbishop Elias Chacour, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Galilee, Akko, Nazareth and Haifa. An active promoter of peace between Arabs and Israelis, he is author of Blood Brothers, his well-known story of growing up Palestinian. We’ll take up in detail what he said in a later report at AmericanCatholic.org.

But for now, consider these words he told us: “We don’t need more cruelty; we need a committed friend. Go in peace back home to tell what you have seen.”

It reminds me of another man from Galilee





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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Pope Francis said, “The Church gives us the life of faith in Baptism: that is the moment in which she gives birth to us as children of God, the moment she gives us the life of God, she engenders us as a mother would.”


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