Winnipeg churches hold Nakba Day service

May 27, 2024 | News | Volume 28 Issue 8
John Longhurst |
Dan Epp-Tiessen lights a candle. Photo by John Longhurst.

A call from Christians in Palestine to lament and pray for people suffering in Gaza prompted Mennonites in Winnipeg to organize a service.


The May 15 service took place on Nakba Day, the day when Palestinians commemorate what they call The Nakba, or catastrophe. That’s when over 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the founding of the state of Israel 76 years ago.


The call for prayer and lament came from Kairos Palestine, an organization made up of Christian Palestinians.


Karla Braun, who is part of Hope Mennonite Church, was one of the organizers of the service in Winnipeg. For her, it was a way to pray, grieve and call for an end to the fighting.


“My heart is heavy with what we are hearing out of Gaza,” she said, adding what also breaks her heart is hearing from Palestinian Christians in the region who feel abandoned by the church in the rest of the world.


“We have a responsibility to Palestinian Christians,” Braun said, adding, “we will be held to account by God for what we did during these days . . . I can’t do nothing.” Also working with Braun to organize the event was Donna Entz, who attends Home Street Mennonite Church.


Entz, who worked with Mennonite Church Alberta to build interfaith and cross-cultural relationships with Muslims, also saw the service as a way to remember Palestinian children killed in the fighting.


“As a grandmother, I see the world has really let them down, just as the world let down the children who were murdered during the Holocaust,” she said, adding the service is a chance for her “to ask for forgiveness from the children of Gaza.”


The service itself featured singing, prayers and sharing by Mennonites, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. It was opened by Home Street Mennonite Church co-pastor Judith Friesen Epp, who explained the event was a time to express “lament, rage, solidarity, protest, resistance and hope . . . over the tremendous loss of life and land.”


Esther Epp-Tiessen added that she grieves for both the suffering in Gaza and “for the victims of October 7, the hostages not returned, all the killed and wounded.”


Also on May 15, Mennonite Church Manitoba executive minister Michael Pahl issued a letter urging church members to view the events in Israel and Gaza not through “the lens of partisan political interests or lobby groups,” but “through the eyes of Jesus.”


Like Jesus, Christians should love our neighbours and our enemies, Pahl said. We should stand with Palestinians around the world, Pahl said, “even as we also stand with Israeli families grieving loved ones killed by Hamas and awaiting news of those still held hostage.”


Pahl went on to call for an immediate ceasefire and the immediate and safe return of all remaining hostages, “and for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to come together again in pursuit of a lasting, just peace for both Palestine and Israel.”

Dan Epp-Tiessen lights a candle. Photo by John Longhurst.

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