On July 2nd 1964, returning from India, I was welcomed by the Church Council to serve in the Land of the Holy One. Ever since, both as priest, and Bishop for more than 10 years, never have I forgotten Luke's words written on the wall of Christ Church - Nazareth, where I served for 28 years. Defending human dignity and freedom, turned me into a ‘captive,’ banned from travel abroad for 4 years. Upon my release, a gift of the beautiful painting on this card reached me. I hand it to you entrusting you with the ministry of freedom, healing and reconciliation.
A bird with a broken wing cannot fly. Chained feet and hands cannot freely live. Such is the situation around us. Wars and rumors of wars have deafened the ears of the powerful. There are no winners. All are losers. What is left are numb minds and broken hearts. Fighting for its life, the pulse of peace, not least in our Middle East, is being brutally hushed as the numbers of rotten bodies continue to rise. Despite the darkness of oppression, we continue to bless that Holy night for it reveals the stars.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, first human to step on the moon said: ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ I have always believed in small beginnings.
I have a great dream which requires a small step to mushroom in the land. I called it ‘Integratsia.’ I see children of the three Abrahamic faiths: Arab Christians, Moslems, and Jews gathered in the warmth of harmony in one educational center co-living and integrating as one. The iceberg that has been separating people on basis of race, color and religion, has got to melt down. Extend a hand. Make this dream come true.
Nothing is ever completed; but by the grace of God, ever completing. I thank God for the many trials and blessings I have experienced over the last 41 years. Much of what I have been able to accomplish for His glory, would not have been possible without you. As I prepare to move away from my Diocesan duties, I look forward to rejoining hands so that the impossibilities of today become windows of opportunities for our dear future generations. Together, with faith, no doubt we are twice armed and peace shall prevail.
May God bless you all through Christmas and continue to make each and every one of you a unique blessing throughout the New Year.
The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem