The session began with a musical offering from soprano Valentina Moustafa, accompanied on piano by ICB music director Matt Middleton. Among the approximately 50 people in attendance were His Grace the Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, and Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb.
Opening remarks and prayer were made by the conference coordinator, Ms. Janet Lahr Lewis, and included the “Four Elements Medicine Wheel Prayer” by Ralph Metzner, which corresponded to the beautiful wall-hangings that graced the stage where the speakers and panelists were to sit.
The opening message from Rev. Dr. Raheb welcomed the conference delegates, who joined us from 12 countries, 4 continents, and several religious backgrounds. Unfortunately, the delegates from
Rev. Dr. Raheb explained that the conference theme of “God’s Reign and People’s Rule” was chosen two years ago, as the most critical topic for the future of the
Bishop Younan then spoke on God’s will, and the danger of the fatalistic belief that “everything is from God”, which he said is “killing the Arab world”. This belief, he said, strips power from humans and ignores human free will – the capacity to do good or do evil. Another problem is the reversal of the traditional belief that God uses people to accomplish His will; lately, it seems that people are using God to accomplish their will, or as a justification for behaviour which is, in reality, self-serving or unfaithful. It is our vocation as a church to work against extremism and instead work for justice, and for humanity.
Regarding the issue of land, the Bishop said that “God is not a real estate agent”, making deals and giving certain parcels of land to certain people. As Christians, our numbers here in the