The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) releases the Arabic version of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” booklet 2024 titled, “You shall love the Lord your God... and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) The title has been chosen at a time when the world and the Middle East are suffering from many wars, conflicts, crises and divisions in light of a wave of injustice, inequity and hate speech.
Hence, the booklet invites us to Pray and work together in mutual love during this difficult period that the world is facing, especially that the love of Christ that unites all Christians is stronger than their divisions and will overcome all violence.
The booklet is centered on the Biblical text from Luke 10:25-37, in which Lord Jesus reaffirmed the traditional Jewish teaching from Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”; and Leviticus 19:18b, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
In the introduction of this booklet written by the Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches Dr. Michel Abs, under the title “The One That Never Falls,” he says, “this verse poses the greatest challenge to human: to love the Lord and to each one love his/ her neighbor as himself/ herself. Here the verse equates Man’s love for himself/ herself, for his/ her Lord, and for his/ her neighbor, and this is the pinnacle of altruism and the pinnacle of justice, which require self-refinement and to stop the unbridled selfishness.
This verse carries in its meaning a basic value of social cohesion and harmony, and it is worth remembering, especially to all those who have strayed from the path and deny their faith, that the values’ ladder, which found its peak with the Incarnate Lord, is the foundation of modern civilization that we are witnessing an attack on it today. In some circles and in some societies in the world.”
As for the introduction to the theme of the year 2024, it stresses that “Christians are called to act like Christ in loving like the Good Samaritan, showing mercy and compassion to those in need, regardless of their religious, ethnic or social identity. It is not shared identities that should prompt us to come to the aid of the other, but love of our ‘neighbor’. However, the vision of love of neighbor that Jesus puts before us is under strain in the world today. Wars in many regions, imbalances in international relations and inequalities generated by structural adjustments imposed by western powers or other external agencies all inhibit our capacity to love like Christ. It is by learning to love one another regardless of our differences that Christians can become neighbors like the Samaritan in the Gospel”.
Noting that the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” is in an eight-day Prayer celebrated by Christians around the world between 18 and 25 January 2022. This year’s booklet presents resources that were edited by an Ecumenical team from Burkina Faso facilitated by the local Chemin Neuf Community (CCN), and jointly prepared and published by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. The resources are translated into Arabic by the Middle East Council of Churches, as every year.
The MECC chose the icon of the Good Samaritan as a cover image, to stress the necessity of loving God and neighbor despite all the challenges and difficulties that surround people today, as well as to emphasize the importance of service, giving, and supporting the most vulnerable and neediest people.