Unification News for September 2004
Report for Thursday 19th August from the Africa / Oceania Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands
By Rev. Greg Stone
Secretary General IIFWP
A bus of 50 participants from Oceania and Africa along with Dr Antonio Betancourt and Mr Bill Selig departed Jerusalem for Ramallah at 9am. The bus was packed and there was a great sense of excitement and anticipation for the day ahead.
First stop was Ramallah and the Khalil Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center for the disabled in the Palestinian Community specializing in spinal cord injuries. After a formal welcome and introduction by the director and staff, we visited the patients bearing gifts, smiles, love and song. The patients broke into song and joy with us as we sang "We are the World" and other beautiful and joyful songs of peace and brotherhood. Patients were clapping, rocking and swinging in their wheel chairs, some playing the guitars along with us.
One Ambassador of Peace, a Member of Parliament from Africa, who himself was permanently on crutches, delivered an inspiring and spontaneous message of encouragement to the many disabled young men "You should never consider that you are less or can do less than anyone else" he said. "I was unable to walk like many of you but now I am an MP and my next goal is to be President of my nation. You can do it too". What an inspiration for them all; the message was perfect. As we departed many came out and waved the bus goodbye into the distance.
Our next port of call was Palestinian Authority Presidential compound. The guards welcomed us warmly. We were all stunned to see the devastation of the compound and stood in a circle around the crumpled wreckage of President Arafat's 2001 Mercedes car and prayed for an end to the carnage, for peace and reconciliation for all sides.
Then on to the Greek Orthodox Church of Ramallah for an international friendship exchange with the Bishop and about 100 parishioners. This was a first and what a success. After welcoming speeches from the Bishop and parish leaders we were treated to a beautiful lunch which also commemorated the transfiguration. Towards the end of lunch the African and Oceania participants stood up with guitars and bongo drum and broke into spontaneous songs of thanks for our gracious hosts. The joy was contagious and it wasn't long before the parishioners grabbed the bongo, joined in and made a joyful sound unto the Lord. The meeting was a great success and we were invited back for another visit.
On our way back to Jerusalem our next stop at the Franciscan St John Ba Harim Church was profound indeed. This was the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah the parents of John the Baptist.
A moving and tearful ceremony was conducted by Dr Antonio Betancourt The crown of thorns was buried resolving the historical resentment in Jesus heart and bringing healing to the relationship between Jesus and Mary and indeed between all parents and children and men and women.
All Ambassadors for Peace on the bus were deeply moved. Sir Toaripi Lauti, first Prime Minister of Tuvalu said that he had had an amazing and beautiful day.
Healing, reconciliation and the glory of God is being revealed daily in the Holy Lands.
VICTORY FOR OCEANIA AND AFRICA - BRINGING PEACE AND SERVING WITH LOVE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
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