WHY ELIAS CHACOUR IS EXTRAORDINARY
Elias Michael Chacour is the current Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the largest Christian community in Israel. He is most famous for his work in uniting Israelites and Arabs in an effort to encourage them to live peacefully together. He is also the founder of the Mar Elias High School, a multi-cultural school that houses students from all religious backgrounds.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND RECOGNITIONS
As someone who emphasizes and promotes peace, Elias has received several awards and recognitions for his efforts in uniting two old foes. He is most known for receiving the Niwano Peace Prize (the Asian equivalent of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize), the Marcel Rudloff Peace and Tolerance Award, and the World Methodist Peace Award. He was also honoured by the French government by conferring him the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, one of the highest civilian awards in France. Having been nominated for the Nobel Prize three times, Elias truly proves himself one of the world’s leading peace advocates.
Elias is one of the most prominent Christian leaders in the Middle East and Asia, and is known worldwide for his efforts in promoting peace in Israel between the Israelites and Palestinian Arabs. He has authored two books, “Blood Brothers” and “We Belong to the Land”, both of which became successful and even had numerous prints in other languages for their compelling story of the life of Elias, from the time he was expelled from his own town to the founding of his school.
VALUING LIFE: ELIAS’ INSPIRATION IN CALLING FOR RECONCILIATION
A true advocate of peace and unity, Elias has always promoted the value of life, and this is what drives him in seeking a peaceful solution, no matter how difficult it may seem to be. In fact, Elias has for numerous times stated that he would rather have all the expensive weapons or things destroyed than to see a single drop of blood shed due to war, as he pointed out in an interview:
“I remember a Swiss professor who was angry at a PLO attack on a Swiss Air jetliner. 'You Palestinians are welcome to throw bombs in Tel Aviv and Haifa and Jerusalem, but in Zurich, in a Swiss airplane, no!' I told that Swiss friend, 'I prefer that every Swiss airplane, if they are empty, be exploded rather than one Jew or Palestinian be wounded. The airplanes are not worth a single drop of human blood.'”
A TRUE CHRISTIAN: LOVING LIKE CHRIST DID
Elias is a Christian by heart, and as a true follower of Jesus Christ he shows no prejudice against people of other religions but instead welcomes them openly, contrary to some people who claim to be Christians but do not love others. Elias also does not care much about the sects; for him, being a believer means that he is able to represent Christ to other people by loving them and taking care of their needs.
As he says in an interview:
“To touch Jesus Christ, to have contact with him, is only possible through his living brothers, his living sisters, the community. We Christians in Galilee have a vocation to behave beyond all confessional and denominational boundaries, to try to behave as Christ behaved, to represent the living, risen Christ to all who come searching for him. We do not have to show you that we are reformed, or re-reformed, or not-yet-reformed, or Roman Catholic, or Orthodox. That should mean nothing to us here in Galilee. What means something is that the man of Galilee is risen and is still alive.”
In spite of the terrible experiences that Elias had with the Jews (who took his hometown, destroyed it and discriminated him for most of his life due to his Palestinian heritage), Elias truly exemplifies a Christ-like attitude by remaining friendly and loving to every Jewish people that he has met. As he says in an interview:
“Life is simple, you know. Life is not what bullets shall make it. At the grassroots remain individuals who can pray together, who are acquainted together. Jews come to my home like my Palestinian friends come. They are welcome as well as my brothers and my relatives. I greet them, I salute them, I love them; we agree to disagree agreeably. At least this is big progress.”
All in all, Elias is a true example not just of what it means to be a Christian, but what it means to be a person. Throughout his life, Elias has remained to be a peaceful and loving person, treating everyone equally and helping everyone in need, no matter what their background may be. He is a true hero, someone that deserves our respect, admiration and support.
“I believe that that foolish man of Galilee, Jesus Christ, had something to tell us, to tell me. Not considering his existence here, I would immediately go into despair. Immediately. And forgetting him, I would first despair of the institutional church and its hierarchy, and only later, of the Jews.” – Elias Chacour
10 REASONS WHY ELIAS CHACOUR IS EXTRAORDINARY
- Father Elias Chacour is the first Palestinian-Arab to become the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
- He is the founder of the Mar Elias High School, one of the largest all-cultural schools in Israel.
- He is a recipient of the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize, considered to be Asia’s Nobel Prize.
- He had numerous negative experiences with the Jewish people yet continues to treat them with love and equality.
- He is among the leading educational and peace activists in Israel and the Middle East.
- He is a recipient of the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, one of the highest honours that the French government can bestow on a civilian.
- His persistent attitude has enabled the Mar Elias High School to succeed in its operation in spite of the numerous obstacles and threats that he faced.
- He describes himself as a Palestinian-Jewish-Christian.
- He is one of the leading figures in the reconciliation of Israel and Palestine.
- He is a recipient of the Marcel Rudloff Peace and Tolerance Award.