This week marks the arrival of 10 international peacemakers to Louisville, Ky., and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) office. Their stopover in Kentucky for a brief orientation session is the beginning of a tour that will visit 43 presbyteries, three colleges and two mission network meetings in the U.S. over the next month. One of the peacemakers is Ashraf Tannous, pastor and religion teacher for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem.
Tannous, also the national youth pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, will talk about the current challenges faced by Palestinian Christians. One of the broadest issues he deals with on a daily basis is young people emigrating from their homeland.
“We’re fighting to prevent our young people from leaving this land, this is the land where they belong—the land of the Bible, the land of our Lord Jesus Christ and the land of the resurrection,” says Tannous. “The history of Christianity will not be told by the dead stones of the churches, but by the living stones, the Christian believers who’ve kept this treasure since the time of Jesus until today.”
According to Tannous, the occupation is Palestine’s biggest challenge, saying it causes immigration, unemployment and insecurity. He says all of these factors combine to discourage young Palestinians from marrying and building new families. His work includes trying to find jobs for family members; ensuring at least one person in the family can provide for the others. Another important aspect of the church’s work, he says, is keeping faith in a world where hope, faith and love barely exist.
“The church in my country is perceived as an authority that has all the power and has the ability to solve everyone’s problems, when in fact it is not,” says Tannous. “From a spiritual dimension, however, it is the place where people find comfort, strength and the word of God to console them amid hopelessness.”
When Tannous embarks on his tour of presbyteries and churches later this month and in October, he will send a powerful “come and see for yourself” message to congregants.
“It is very important to come and visit Palestine,” he says. “See, live and observe the situation of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are striving to make a life. The occupation is a hard reality, and we need your prayers very much—so please pray for us. And don’t stop being Christians fighting for justice, peace reconciliation and equality.”
Tannous joins nine other international peacemakers from countries such as Congo, Cuba, India, Iran, Iraq, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Armenia who are traveling across the U.S. Sept. 25 – Oct. 8. Visit the Peacemaker web page for more information. Peacemaker visits are made possible by your gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.