Bishop Hudson’s prayer for peace in the Holy Land

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A reflection by the Moderator of the Holy Land Co-ordination, Bishop Nicholas Hudson.

From Mount Nebo, Moses saw the Promised Land. I was deeply moved to stand there a year ago with Bishops from diverse countries who form the Holy Land Coordination. We looked down onto the River Jordan as it flowed into the Dead Sea, the lowest place on the planet.

Jesus surely chose to be baptised in the lowliest place on earth as a way of saying, “Whatever depths humanity descends to, know that I am with you” – as he surely chose to be baptised with sinners as a way of saying, “Know that I take the sins of the world upon my shoulders.”

How often have I been borne back to those places in my heart in the months since 7 October, when such a barbaric atrocity was visited upon the descendants of Moses; and, since then, such violence perpetrated against the Muslims and Christians of Gaza and the West Bank. How Jesus must weep for all who suffer such grievous injury and despair in the land of his birth. How he must be calling to the hearts of each of these peoples to cease their hostilities, to change, come back to their God.

‘Metanoia’, conversion, received frequent mention in the Synod which was taking place in Rome as hostilities erupted in the Holy Land. In communion with religious people across the world, we fasted and prayed many times for a change of heart on the part of those who lead the peoples who dwell there. We prayed that the words of Jesus might resonate there more loudly than ever: “Forgive your enemies.  Welcome the stranger in your midst.”

It was a shock to hear that there will be no festivities this year in Bethlehem’s Manger Square. Christians will doubtless still gather in the place of Christ’s Nativity to sing how, in Bethlehem, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” As we do the same this Christmas night, in churches across England and Wales, part of my heart will be transported back to the top of Mount Nebo to look out with Moses in a communion of prayer for the whole Promised Land: “Come, Lord Jesus,” I will be praying.  “Come visit your people and guide them from warfare into the way of peace, truth, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence. Maranatha, come!”