Seeking justice in Israel

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs reports that following the meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops March 25 – 30, two letters were issued: a letter from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the Church; and a letter from the House of Bishops to the Israeli ambassadors to the nations where the Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence. The letters call for resolution of the denial of “Temporary Residency Status” for The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Diocese of Jerusalem Bishop Suheil Dawani and his wife, Shafeeqa, at the 2010 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: General Synod Communications

The following are the two letters:

To the members of The Episcopal Church

From the House of Bishops:

At our meeting in Kanuga, North Carolina, 25-30 March 2011, we considered the plight of our fellow Christians in the land of the Holy One. Bishop Suheil Dawani, of the Diocese of Jerusalem, has for many months been gravely limited in his ability to function as leader of that diocese. We urge your reflection on the following letter, and your response as you deem most appropriate. Change is likeliest when the leaders of our governments know of our urgent concern.

In every part of The Episcopal Church, your response is most likely to be effective when directed to Israel’s ambassador to your nation, to your national leader – President and/or Prime Minister, and/or to your legislative representatives in your national government.

In the dioceses of The Episcopal Church within the United States, those contacts are:

Ambassador Oren:
President Obama:
House of Representatives:

In the dioceses of The Episcopal Church beyond the United States, we urge you to work with your diocesan bishop if you are uncertain about how to contact the Israeli Ambassador, your President or Prime Minister, and your legislators.

May God bless the land of the Holy One with peace. I remain

Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


A letter from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to the Israeli ambassadors to the nations where The Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence

30 March 2011

It is with deep concern that we inform you that the Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, has been denied renewal of his “Temporary Residency Status” in Jerusalem. This action was taken when the A-5 permits held by the bishop, his wife, and youngest daughter were revoked by the Government of Israel, effective 24 September 2010.

The Government of Israel claims that the permits were denied because of an accusation by the Ministry of the Interior that Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring land owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians, and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the Church. There were further allegations that documents were forged by the bishop.

Bishop Dawani has vehemently denied these allegations and responded formally to the Ministry of the Interior. He has never received a response. The bishop also sent a letter challenging the allegations and demanding that any evidence to secure the claim against him be made known to him. To date no information has been forthcoming.

The Archbishop of Canterbury received assurances that the situation would be resolved promptly. Other Anglican leaders including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington D.C. (the Rt. Rev. John B. Chane), and the Primates of the Anglican Communion, representing Anglicans throughout the world, have all used their influence individually and collectively with Israeli authorities, without success to date.

Diplomatic efforts through the British Foreign Secretary, the British Ambassador to Israel, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, the State Department of the United States, and the American Consul General in Jerusalem, and Christian and Jewish leaders in Jerusalem have all provided support for Bishop Dawani in his ongoing contact with Israeli authorities, but without tangible results. In terms of discovering the source of the allegations against the bishop, or the restoration of the residency rights which are crucial to his ability to provide leadership of his diocese, and residency in Jerusalem for himself and his family, the Israeli Government has failed to respond. Because of the current situation the bishop is unable to conduct any legal business on behalf of the diocese, and is crippled in his ability to run the day to day affairs of his diocese, which comprises schools, churches, and hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and occupied territories, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

We seek your assistance in resolving this situation as rapidly and completely as possible. The ability of our brother, Bishop Dawani, to lead his diocese is severely compromised. We ask your urgent attention to this matter.


The bishops of The Episcopal Church, in 110 dioceses and two regional areas in Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the United States of America (including Guam and Puerto Rico), and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands


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Committing to Haiti’s future

By Mary Frances Schjonberg, February 10, 2010


[Episcopal News Service] The wider Episcopal Church can most effectively help the earthquake-ravaged Diocese of Haiti by praying, contributing to emergency relief efforts and planning how it will help the diocese achieve the rebuilding priorities that it will eventually set.

That is the assessment Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori came away with after visiting Port-au-Prince Feb. 8 to survey the damage wrought by Jan. 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin and other surviving members of the diocese need help now and they need time to discern a plan for the future, the presiding bishop told ENS during a Feb. 10 interview.

“The challenge is that they’re still very much in emergency-response mode and I think will be for some time to come,” she said. “They’re still not able to get food and water and shelter to everybody who needs it, so that’s got to be the immediate focus.”

Jefferts Schori also said she felt moved by the people who were hard at work at every site she visited. For example, she said, at the ruins of the Episcopal University of Haiti “it was just incredibly touching to see those folks at the university using mauls to break up the building pieces so that they can look for bodies — and they are clearly there, you can smell them.”

The presiding bishop said she went to Haiti after being a co-consecrator at the Rev. Griselda Delgado Del Carpio’s consecration and ordination as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Church of Cuba because it was essential to assure Duracin of the wider church’s support. Plus, she said she wanted “to get a sense of how we might be most helpful for the long haul.”

The diocese, known locally as L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti, is caring for about 25,000 Haitians in roughly 20 makeshift camps around the country. The earthquake left an estimated 230,000 people dead and many towns in ruins; countless people have left the capital for the countryside.

Jefferts Schori said that the wider church must remember that Haitian Episcopalians, including Duracin, are struggling to get their basic needs met, and that long-term planning will come later.

“The bishop is going to need his own support system in order to return to highly functional leadership,” she said. “Don’t expect the bishop to have a strategy; it is far too early for that. He’s dealing with his own immense losses.”

For instance, Duracin has only seen his severely injured wife Marie-Edithe three times since she was evacuated from Port-au-Prince a few days after the earthquake. Her severely injured leg was initially treated at Zanmi Lasante in Cange and later on the USNS Comfort hospital ship. From there, she and son James were transported Feb. 9 by the by U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to Tampe General Hospital in Tampa. Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith is coordinating pastoral care for the Duracins.

Jefferts Schori said that once the emergency-response phase is behind them, Haitian Episcopalians will be able to begin stabilizing their diocese and strategizing about the future. While Episcopal Relief & Development is well-positioned to help the diocese with emergency needs and help it begin to set priorities for the future as well as develop strategies for meeting those priorities, she said, “ERD cannot do all of that. They do not, for example, rebuild church buildings.”

The presiding bishop suggested that “there’s going to be immense need for partnership for the longer term.”

“Dioceses [in the U.S. part of the Episcopal Church] can probably be most helpful by thinking about how they can mobilize people to assist in that work,” she said.

She suggested that those dioceses could “begin their own rebuilding funds with the trust that direction for how to use those funds is somewhere down the road.”

Meanwhile, Jefferts Schori said she wanted to discourage dioceses from deciding on their own that they will rebuild a specific Haitian church or diocesan ministry building.

“The priorities are going to need to come from the Diocese of Haiti — the priorities and the strategy — and it’s going to be some months before they begin to emerge,” she said.

Individual Episcopalians are called to prayer for their brothers and sisters in Haiti, she said, and to giving to Episcopal Relief & Development.

“You [also] can begin to challenge you parish and your diocese to begin to think about the longer-term rebuilding efforts,” she added. “Collecting funds for that is probably the most appropriate thing to do.”

Jefferts Schori urged Episcopalians to commit themselves to helping in what will be a multi-year process of recovery and redevelopment.

“The Diocese of Haiti has had a major impact for 150 years on the nation of Haiti,” she said. “They will be again, but it’s going to be a number of years before they are able to function at the same level they were before the earthquake.”

The presiding bishop acknowledged that such a long-term focus can be a challenge in itself.

“Maintaining an awareness of the ongoing nature of this tragedy is going to be the toughest for at least those of us who live in a society that moves on to the next issue,” she said.

Jefferts Schori visited Port-au-Prince with the Rev. Lauren Stanley, one of four Episcopal Church missionaries assigned to Haiti and the only one who was not in-country at the time of the Jan. 12 quake. Duracin has asked Stanley to help the diocese coordinate offers of relief and recovery made by others in the Episcopal Church, and to tell the diocese’s story.

“She’s a powerhouse. She’s working overtime. She’s working at 150 percent,” Jefferts Schori told ENS, noting that in Stanley’s first five months in Haiti she had established good working relationships with the Haitian clergy and learned to speak Creole.

“She understands very clearly the challenges and the systemic complications, so she is an immensely effective witness both here [in the U.S.] and in Haiti for the ongoing challenges and needs,” Jefferts Schori said.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and editor of Episcopal News Monthly.

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PB goes to Haiti

‘You have already had your Good Friday,’ Jefferts Schori tells Duracin

By Mary Frances Schjonberg, February 08, 2010


[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori paid a poignant visit to Port-au-Prince Feb. 8 to survey with Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin the devastation wrought by the Jan. 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

After climbing over the ruins of the diocese’s Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral), the presiding bishop turned to Duracin and said “You should skip Lent this year; you have already had your Good Friday.”

“Yes, we can all sing Alleluias together,” Duracin replied, according to the Rev. Lauren Stanley, who accompanied Jefferts Schori on her five-hour visit.

Pointing to some of the cathedral’s 13 bells that were visible among the ruins and that appeared to be salvageable, Jefferts Schori said “they will ring again” and that the cathedral “will rise again,” according to Stanley.

While at the cathedral, Jefferts Schori and Duracin said prayers at what the Haitian bishop is calling the diocese’s “open-air cathedral,” which consists of some plastic sheeting stretched over a frame of two-by-fours that shelters some pews rescued from the cathedral ruins.

The two bishops each prayed aloud with those who happened to be at the site. Some of the older women members of the cathedral were combing the ruins for pieces of the building’s world-famous murals depicting biblical stories in Haitian motifs. The gathered congregation also sang “How Great Thou Art” in French, Stanley said.

During the visit, Stanley said, Duracin asked her to “tell the world that physically the church is broken, but the church is still there in faith. Our faith is still strong.”

She said the bishop asked for the support of Episcopalians everywhere to help Haitians rebuild the structures of the church because that work “will have a positive impact on our faith. It will bring us courage, confidence and a good future.”

“We are approaching Lent,” Stanley quoted Duracin as saying. “I ask people to be with us in the desert so that on Easter, all of us in Haiti and all the Episcopal Church may sing together in joy: ‘Alleluia, Alleluia, the Lord is risen indeed.'”

The trip was also meant for Jefferts Schori and Duracin to talk about the immediate and future directions of the diocese. The presiding bishop assured Duracin that the entire Episcopal Church stood with his diocese in prayer and support, and would continue to do so, according to Stanley.

Stanley is one of four Episcopal Church missionaries assigned to Haiti and the only one who was not in-country at the time of the Jan. 12 quake. Duracin has asked Stanley to help the diocese coordinate offers of relief and recovery made by others in the Episcopal Church, and to tell the diocese’s story.

Stanley said part of the discussion in Port-au-Prince centered on how she can continue to assist Duracin and the diocese by splitting her time between Haiti and the U.S. As part of that work, she will begin to help coordinate the work of Episcopalians elsewhere in the church who have interests in or connections with specific places and ministries in Haiti, she said.

Stanley said she was gratified to hear Duracin’s confidence in her ability to help the diocese connect more strongly with “our partners who are working together to help God’s beloved children in Haiti.”

Stanley, who spoke with ENS by phone from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, after the visit, said that Duracin wanted the presiding bishop to see the extent of the devastation the diocese suffered. While the full extent of damage is still being assessed, it is clear that most of the diocese’s churches and schools were destroyed or heavily damaged. The convent of the Sisters of St. Margaret, adjacent to the cathedral, was also destroyed.

The lost schools include the Holy Trinity complex of primary, music and trade schools next to the demolished diocesan cathedral, the university and the seminary. A portion of the St. Vincent School for Handicapped Children, also in the Haitian capital, collapsed. Students and possibly staff were killed at some of the schools.

Stanley said that Duracin, Jefferts Schori and she visited the Holy Trinity school complex, the Episcopal University and the survivors’ camp on a rocky field at College Ste. Pierre, a diocesan school destroyed by the quake. (The diocese, known locally as L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti, is caring for about 25,000 Haitians in roughly 20 makeshift camps around the country. Since the quake, many people have left the capital for the countryside.)

The three also surveyed Duracin’s home which collapsed in the quake, trapping and severely injuring his wife, Marie-Edithe. Duracin has told ENS that he is been spending his night sleeping in a tent outside another home that he was having built for his family.

The Rev. Kesner Ajax, head of the diocese’s Bishop Tharp Institute of Business and Technology (BTI) in Les Cayes, drove the three around the city. Everywhere they where they saw evidence of destruction and death, Stanley said.

The Holy Trinity music school once housed the country’s only concert hall, but now “you can see where it came smashing straight down and there are still bodies of our students in there as well,” Stanley said.

Duracin told them that “this is why we cannot just use a bulldozer” to clear the wreckage.

There is a common grave just outside of the Episcopal University and Stanley said they stopped to pray at that grave. One of the lower level classrooms that was destroyed usually had more than 100 students in it, she said, but only nine bodies have been found. People are going through the rubble by hand searching for the dead.

On the street outside the university, there is an outdoor holding cell for prisoners, Stanley said.

At the diocesan trade school, only the façade is still standing, Stanley said.

“There nothing left except bodies,” she said. “We could actually see one body at the ruins.”

Stanley said: “It was heart-wrenching to see the city that I love — to see the things that this church has done for so many years that makes me so proud to be an Episcopalian in Haiti — totally gone,” Stanley said. “It is beyond heart-breaking. I don’t have adequate words to describe the devastation.”

Jefferts Schori flew to Santo Domingo on Feb. 7 from Havana, Cuba, after being a co-consecrator at the Rev. Griselda Delgado Del Carpio’s consecration and ordination as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. She and Stanley, who met her in the Dominican Republic capital, flew into Port-au-Prince the next day for the visit.

They brought with them a number of gifts and supplies for Duracin and the diocese, including six episcopal clergy shirts for the bishop that were a gift from the Church Pension Group, three liturgical stoles and 3,000 communion wafers from the presiding bishop, and pants and socks for Duracin and a bottle of Taylor tawny port communion wine from Stanley.

She also gave the bishop an alb and cincture that was purchased by Rhonda Busch, an administrator at Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke, Virginia. The church, where Stanley was priested and which still supports her missionary work, offered a requiem mass Feb. 4 for the victims of the earthquake who were members of the Church of St. James the Just in Pétionville, Haiti. Stanley serves the English-speaking congregation there.

“In our culture it is very important that the leader look like a leader,” Stanley said. “In the church in Haiti, it’s very important that the bishop look like the bishop because when he is properly dressed and properly vested then we know that he can take care of us and we know that we have not been forgotten.”

Duracin told Stanley that the bread and wine will be used Feb. 12 during the Episcopal Church’s part of the nationwide prayer services planned to mark the one month anniversary of the earthquake.

Stanley also brought with her a nearly 150-year-old brass cross that had once been part of a processional cross used by missionaries. She was given the cross by the Woodson family of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, whose members attend St. Paul’s Episcopal Church there. While looking through the rubble at College Ste. Pierre, Stanley said, the presiding bishop found a staff that might have been a short processional cross or a verger’s wand and which the three discovered fit the cross perfectly.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and editor of Episcopal News Monthly.

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