In response to the great wave of violence Gaza suffered in the attack of November 2012, Sabeel acted quickly to organize a special ecumenical and interfaith prayer service to show our solidarity with those in Gaza. On November 20, 140 Christians, Muslims, and Internationals gathered at the Dominican Church in Jerusalem, including representatives of all the heads of the churches as well as the governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Husseini.
The service began with a moment of silence for the victims of the attack on Gaza, followed by opening prayers by Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah and Archbishop Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church. Fr. Jamal Khader gave a powerful homily in Arabic, and he focused those present on the reason for the service:
“Our prayers today are focused on our brothers and sisters in the Gaza strip: for all the people who are suffering, injured, martyred, for those whose houses have been destroyed, for everyone suffering in this unjust war. These prayers are not a shelter for the people who have no power, but they are a cry to God in a time when the world is not listening to the voice of the oppressed.”
Fr. Jamal spoke of Cain and Abel, lamenting how the voice of a brother’s blood still cries out to God from the ground (Gen 4:10). Still, we trust God, and we trust Jesus that he will listen to our cry. Fr. Jamal reminded the gathering, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). The prayers of faithful people are not separate from their lives and commitments; prayer reminds us of our own duty to “model our lives after the life of Christ,” revolting against oppression and hate and standing with the poor and the hurt. In readying ourselves to contribute to relieving our brothers’ and sisters’ pain, like Jesus did, we “launch” from praying to becoming the instruments of God’s peace.
Sabeel invited Fr. Simon Herro to lead the gathering in general prayers for peace and specific prayers for our brothers and sisters in Gaza. The prayers were prayed in Arabic, English, and French, by both Muslims and Christians. The Al-Raja Jerusalemite band wrote and performed a special song for Gaza, and led the group in a number of hymns as the gathering ended with the congregational lighting of candles and the singing of “Yarabba Ssalami,” which in English means, “God of peace, grant us peace.”