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Elias Chacour educates many “living stones”

Christian pilgrims visiting Israel/Palestine often experience amazing insights. The land itself becomes “the fifth gospel,” and walking the stony paths where Jesus walked makes the Bible come alive. Travelers with open eyes and hearts, though, are most inspired by meeting “Living Stones.” Hospitality is such a high cultural value that visitors often leave with stories of warm welcomes and even new Facebook friends.

One Palestinian Christian who has welcomed thousands of guests to his home near Haifa and the schools he founded is Fr. Elias Chacour, Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee. As a young priest in the Arab village of Ibillin, Chacour saw well-educated children as Israel/Palestine’s best hope for a just and peaceful future. He started a top-quality kindergarten in Ibillin, then a high school, and finally an elementary school to “Build Peace on Desktops.”

Forty years later, 3,000 Christian, Muslim, Druze, and Jewish students and teachers come daily to his Mar Elias campus on a hillside known as “the Mountain of Light.” An American nonprofit, Pilgrims of Ibillin, helps schedule in-depth visits to the Mar Elias Schools.

Chacour recently welcomed a group from Edina, Minnesota, by saying, “Your visit is priceless,” embodying a message of solidarity and hope. But he also charged his guests to “take inspiration to your own Galilee.”

Archbishop Chacour brings his peace-making message to the Twin Cities area in September. He assures that all are welcome to his public presentations. Scheduled presentations on Sunday, September 23, are at Christ Presbyterian Church, 6901 Normandale Road, Edina (preaching at 9:30 and 11 a.m. worship services) and St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 900 Stillwater Road, Mahtomedi, Minnesota (7:30 p.m.).

On Monday, September 24, he will speak at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 2730 East 31st Street, Minneapolis, (noon, includes lunch; reservation required: 612/729-8358), and Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis (7:30 p.m.).

For more information, visit www.pilgrimsofibillin.org.

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