A Week of Prayer for Unity Among Christians in the Middle East

On the evening of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. Thus filled with the courage of the Spirit, they left the safety of the Upper Room and went out into the streets of Jerusalem. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." (Acts 2:4) Jews from many different nations were together in Jerusalem, all of them speaking different languages, and yet each person understood the disciples as if they were speaking in his own language. 

This scriptural and historical incident illustrates for us God's plan for Christian unity. And yet, today, if you ask the average Christian American what religion he is, he will not answer "Christian," but rather, "Catholic," "Lutheran," "Baptist," or any one of the other 33,000 Protestant denominations that exist in the United States.

Interestingly, if you ask a Christian in the Holy Land what religion he is, he will most likely answer simply, "Christian." 

According to the statistics from the Center for Studies on New Religions, Christianity is the most widespread religion in the world, with two and a half billion faithful. In countries like the United States, it remains the dominant religion. In the Holy Land, however, Christians account for only 2% of the population.

Perhaps it is that minority status that causes Christians to band together, focusing on their commonalities - that of believing in and worshipping Christ - rather than their differences. 

Christians may be a minority, but you will find Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians, Anglicans and Lutherans in Jerusalem. From January 20th to January 28th, all of these Christians came together to celebrate their common faith in Jesus during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Holy City. They gathered in a different church every day, with the theme, "Your right hand, Lord, magnificent in power."

"It is important to have not only a week of prayer together and a week of mutual acceptance and union, but it is also important to remember that, despite our differences, we can do many things together," Rev. Ibrahim Azar, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land said. "Christ can lead us to walk paths that we can not even imagine and for this we pray together. "

Unity is, above all, necessary in the present context of the Middle East. Msgr. Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Vicar – Jerusalem, said, "More and more, we, all Christians, all denominations, all congregations, feel that we can not be divided because our nature in Jesus Christ is to be one. Division is not normal, it goes against our nature, which is to be one as one is the Father in Christ."

Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said, "Unity already exists, because the Church of Christ is one; we are men who must rebuild unity according to the will of God."

One of the prayer meetings was held in the Cenacle - the Upper Room where the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. 

"Praying here is very special," Fr. Frans Bouwen, m.afr., of the White Fathers Community said. "Here, Jesus prayed with the disciples for unity. And this is the place of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can give unity to all languages, as happened on the first feast of Pentecost.”

>>Some content is from Terra Sancta Blog and Christian Media Center.