In Israel on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee lie the ruins of the ancient town of Capernaum. Walking through Capernaum, you will come across the remains of a beautiful Jewish synagogue built of white limestone, often referred to as “The White Synagogue”, that dates from the 4th century. Visible below certain sections of the walls of the White Synagogue are the remains of what is most likely an earlier synagogue, built of basalt and dating to Jesus' day.
It is the earlier synagogue that has special meaning to Christians. Having arrived in this area from Nazareth, Jesus found a small group of ordinary fishermen. He preached in the synagogue in Capernaum and taught his disciples in or near Simon Peter's home nearby, which has now been excavated. It was a modest dwelling of a fisherman and his family. Who would believe that what happened in this quiet place two millenia ago would change the world?
Visiting the Holy Land is an extraordinary and unforgettable experience, and we encourage everyone to do so. Christian visitors help local economies and benefit both Israelis and Palestinians. You not only walk where Jesus walked; you will contribute to the peace process though your visit and support, and have the opportunity to meet many fascinating and inspiring people.
Rev. Dr. Bill Harter, our co-convener at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, has led many visits to the Holy Land with both Christian and interfaith groups. We are aware of several trips planned for 2012. If you would like to explore a trip, we encourage you to contact Rev. Harter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace call on all people of faith and in particular the Presbyterian Church (USA) to condemn Syria's escalating violence and repression directed against its people. The international community and our faith based institutions can no longer remain silent. To date, in the last 8 months, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations estimate that over 3500 people have been killed by the Syrian government acting through the Syrian military and security services. We have seen compelling evidence of arbitrary executions, excessive use of force, including but not limited to arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, indiscriminate use of snipers at peaceful protests and funerals, the systematic persecution of protesters and human rights defenders, as well as numerous instances of crimes against children. A few weeks ago Human Rights Watch officially accused the Assad regime of "crimes against humanity." In an unprecedented move, the Arab League approved major economic sanctions against Syria. The League took this action after Syria failed to accept a League deadline to allow hundreds of observers into the country as part of a peace agreement Syria accepted earlier this month to end the crisis. The United States and the European Union have already imposed significant sanctions against Syria. In mid-November United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn "continued grave and systemic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities." As Syria's long-time friend, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey stated: the time has come for President Bashar Assad to step down for the welfare of his own people. The time has also come to implement the Arab League peace plan: to pull all troops from Syria's cities and open the country to the Arab League observer mission to monitor and promote observance of human rights.
For more information on Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, please visit our website at www.pfmep.org