(Archbishop) Abuna (Father)
Were one to chose
two words to describe Father Elias Chacour, those would have to
be that he is a man of faith
He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.
Chacour was born in the Palestinian village of Biram in the
upper Galilee in 1939. In 1948 after a United Nations
resolution, his country of Palestine became the sovereign state
of Israel. Three years later, his own village of Biram would be
changed forever. In 1951, Israeli soldiers marched into Biram
and told the inhabitants that they would have to leave the
village temporarily for security reasons. When the inhabitants
of Biram returned, they found their houses, their entire
village, bulldozed by the Israelis. They have never been allowed
Many people in Abuna Chacour’s position would have lashed out in rage and spent the
rest of their lives plotting revenge on Israel. However,
although distraught over the loss of his home, this would not be
the course his life would take.
Abuna Chacour became a
priest in the Melkite Catholic Church, which dates back to the
Byzantine period and Constantine. Father Chacour is a man of
faith, of the Christian faith. He is also a Palestinian. It is
often assumed that all Palestinians are Arabs and are Muslims.
However, this is a very incorrect assumption. There are actually
between twelve and fourteen million Arab Christians in the
world, and many of them live in Palestine, and are thus often
Chacour is quick to point out that he was not born Christian. "I
was born a baby in the image and likeness of God, not more, and
not less either." According to Chacour, this is something that
unites all of humanity under God.
"Jews are also born babies in the image
and likeness of God. It is good for them to have a homeland and
freedom of expression, but not if that means someone else is to
have freedom of expression."
We are all human children of God, and we all make mistakes.
However, we are also called by God to live together in peace and
share all that God has given us.
Father Elias Chacour is also a man of action.
The "Arab-Israeli Conflict" as it is often called runs so deep
and is so complicated that most people sit idly by, concluding
that there is nothing one person could do to help. But not
Father Chacour. "Peace needs no contemplators, it needs actors,
people who are willing to get their hands dirty, to get up and
do something. The same is true for justice." True to his words,
Father Chacour has done something.
Israel has a public education system which
Palestinians have access to. However, many Palestinian children
seem to get left out of this opportunity for many reasons. Some
are unable to pay for the necessary supplies and materials for
school. Others live in what have become remote Palestinian
villages and have no way to get to and from schools. This is
where Father Chacour felt he was called to make a difference.
Chacour started a school in the Palestinian town of Ibillin in
the Galilee to educate disadvantaged Palestinians who were
hungry for knowledge. This started in the early 1980's with one
class of twenty students. Since then, God has led Father Chacour
and his school to heights that no one would have imagined. There
is now a kindergarten, elementary, and high school which is open
to everyone. There are over 100 teachers in the high school
alone, some Muslim, some Christian, some Palestinian, and some
Jewish. There is also a teaching center which trains individuals
how to teach young people. Ibillin also has a college which is
attended by over 600 students, and offers degrees in a variety
of fields such as engineering, communications, and food
processing. This college has a diverse faculty of about fifty
professors, at least forty of which hold doctoral degrees.
Father Chacour is now working on getting an accredited
university started. Today, there are about 4000 people on the
Ibillin campus at any given time.
of this school was not without challenge and frustration. As the
high school grew, Abuna Chacour wanted to build a gymnasium for
the young people to be able to play sports
have physical education as well. Father Chacour tried
unsuccessfully to get a building permit from the Israeli
government for six years. During this time, he began building
anyway. The Israeli police stopped him. Chacour began working
underground at night. However, this too was stopped by the
Israeli government. Father Chacour then flew to the United
States to speak with then Secretary of State James Baker.
Chacour was only able to meet Baker’s wife. However, it would
not be long until Jim Baker would fly to Israel to hand-deliver
a letter to the Israeli government. Father Chacour got his
Chacour wants everyone to know that there are many Palestinians
in Israel who do not desire war, but peace. It is not Father Chacour’s desire to make anyone become one-sided and hate Jews.
Palestinians want to be able to live in a land that they have
called home for hundreds of years without oppression and
discrimination. "The world
does not need any more enemies, but common friends. It is much
more difficult to move toward peace than to go to war." There
are those on both sides of the Atlantic that do not agree with
Father Chacour. However, as he has demonstrated, it only takes
one person to make a difference. As fellow Christians with
Father Chacour, we all have a responsibility to work for peace
and justice in the world and to stand up for justice where there
To find out more about Father Elias Chacour and what you can do
to help, visit his school’s website at
Also worthy of consideration is Father
Chacour's book Blood Brothers. You can get a copy at our