Subject: NCC Weekly News: Syria and Egypt in Holy Week

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Holy Week Greetings, Violence in Syria and Egypt
Christ is Risen from the dead! 
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
(Orthodox Christian Easter Hymn)

This week the National Council of Churches, along with the entire Christian community, travels the road to Easter. Beginning with Palm Sunday, and the commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem; continuing to Calvary, and the remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion; and culminating at the tomb and the celebration of Jesus’ glorious resurrection: the Church metaphorically, liturgically, spiritually, and prayerfully follows our Lord through the Passion and Pascha. We believe that through this journey he has brought salvation to the world.

This year the Christian procession through Holy Week has been marred by violence in the Middle East. On Palm Sunday, two congregations of the ancient and venerable Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt were bombed in terrorist attacks. The National Council of Churches mourns the 45 people who lost their lives and we condemn the extremist ideology and violence by which these deaths took place.

We, as Christians, also pray that their memories will be eternal. Indeed, eternal life is what the Easter celebration is all about! Having accompanied them in death, Jesus will bestow life upon them, eternal life that knows no more suffering and turns sadness to joy.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to Holy Week, a chemical weapon attack reportedly carried out by the Syrian government claimed the lives of more than 80 people and the United States carried out a military strike against Syria in response. Moving forward, the National Council of Churches urges decisive multilateral action consistent with international law to ensure chemical weapons are never used again and we call for urgent diplomatic initiatives to bring an end to the Syrian civil war.

May the memory of all of the victims of this recent violence, as witnesses of the reconciliation of the world to God, now compel us, and all people of goodwill, to seek the reconciliation of all people to one another. And may we look ahead with joy toward Easter morning, when we will proclaim in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, that “Christ is Risen! Indeed he is Risen!”

We Are A People Of Hope

In his Easter message, United Church of Christ General Minister and President John C. Dorhauer, noting the deadly Palm Sunday bombing of Coptic churches in Egypt, urges the followers of Jesus to remember the hope of this Holy Week.
Interfaith Leaders Gather to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Riverside Church Speech

On Tuesday, April 4th, interfaith leaders from Washington, DC, and across the region gathered at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to celebrate and commemorate the remarkable speech given by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., entitled, "Beyond Vietnam," in which King prophetically called out the "triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism."

The event took place at the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church where President Abraham Lincoln attended with his family. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from this church's pulpit while in Washington, DC, in 1968. While the sermon, "Beyond Vietnam" was preached at Riverside Church in New York City, this gathering of national faith leaders came together in Washington, DC, to recall this timeless sermon, discuss its application to contemporary life, and to march to the White House to call for justice and an end to war.

Persons in attendance included Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Rev. Anthony Grimes, Sister Simone Campbell, Amb. David Saperstein, Albert Sabir, and many others.

WCC general secretary extends prayers for Stockholm

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, denounced the terror attack in Stockholm, Sweden, on 7 April and mourned the loss of life, extending prayers for the victims and their families and friends.

A lorry was driven into a store in central Stockholm, killing at least three people and injuring a number of others, Swedish media reported. Unconfirmed reports have emerged of a secondary incident - a shooting - in a separate area of the city.

The incident occurred on Drottninggatan (Queen Street), one of the city's major pedestrian streets, just before 15:00 local time. Swedish police said they are treating it as terrorism.

ELCA presiding bishop delivers Easter message

In her Easter message, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), reminds us to rejoice even when the brokenness of this world breaks our spirits. Listen to Eaton’s message.

WCC shares concern over escalating tensions on Korean peninsula

The World Council of Churches (WCC) joined the National Council of Churches in South Korea (NCCK) in expressing grave concern at the redeployment of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to the seas surrounding the Korean peninsula.

“In a context of already heightened tensions - especially in the midst of the ongoing joint US and South Korean Foal Eagle-Key Resolve military exercises and the steps being taken to deploy the US missile defence system THAAD in South Korea, and North Korean threats of a nuclear response - this constitutes a further escalation of military confrontation in the region,” reads the statement.

Holy Week 2017: Joint statement on the Middle East

“As Jesus was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen…. As he came near and saw the city [of Jerusalem], he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!’” —Luke 19: 37 & 41-42.

In the beginning of Holy Week, marking the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, his suffering and his death, we watch with sadness and grief the tragic violence of the past several days throughout the Middle East. Our pr
ayers, our solidarity, and our support are with the people of the region, as it remains a place of conflict in which innocent people become victims of senseless and horrible violence, and restrictions.
  • Yesterday, 45 people, including worshippers and police guards, were killed and more than 100 people were injured from explosions in Coptic Orthodox churches in Tanta and Alexandria, Egypt. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killings. We offer our condolences and support to the Christian community in Egypt, who try to make sense of these acts of terror in their places of worship; and to all citizens of the country, who cope with the fear such acts foment. We share with religious leaders in Egypt, both Christian and Muslim, and leaders from around the world, in our condemnation and abhorrence of these heinous attacks, fervently praying that the dignity and safety of all people are respected and honored, and that such violence may end.
A Time To Break Silence
FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017 – 1 – 4 P.M.
Sponsored by the National Council of the Churches
Ecumenical Advocacy Days Pre-Event

Christians gathering at the 2017 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be lifting their voices in response to what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the three triplets of Materialism, Militarism, and Racism. What is the theological basis for this message when it comes to the struggle against these evils? Sponsored by the National Council of Churches, this pre-event will analyze the Christian foundations of our common work to create the “Beloved Community” where the social, political, and economic rights of all are respected and people are able to realize their full potential as children of God.

  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James, Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church (Rochester, NY)
  • Rev. Dr. Reginald D. Broadnax, Pastor, Mt. Olive AME Zion Church (Durham, NC), Professor and Chair of Religion, Clinton College (Rock Hill, SC)
  • Rev. Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell, Professor of Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Dr. Leslie Dawn Callahan, Pastor, St. Paul’s Baptist Church (Philadelphia, PA)
Joint 2017 Easter message from the Presidents of CCEE and CEC

Christ is risen!

Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate son who came to us and was killed on the cross for human sin, is risen from the dead! This is the good news of our faith we would like to share with the entire world. The Christian Easter celebration means that through Jesus Christ life triumphs over death, hope over despair, and peace over conflict. The raising of the Lamb of God from the dead cleaves history; nothing is as it was before Christ’s resurrection.

The crucifixion is an ongoing reality: human life is violated and creation is exploited. Through war, greed, and injustice, life is under threat and being destroyed. For too many, too often the world is marked by violence and by fear, but Jesus Christ is stronger than our closed doors or walls in our heart. He enters to say: “Peace be with you” (John 20: 21).

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