Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.
Elias Chacour (1939- ) was born into a Palestinian Christian family in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee. When he was 8 years old, he and his family were evicted from their home. They moved to the neighboring village of Jish and became refugees in their own homeland. They were granted Israeli citizenship when the state was founded in 1948. Chacour attended school in Hafia and Nazereth. He then received seminary education in Paris in 1958. He became a priest of the Melkite Catholic Church in Ibillin in 1965.
We have to move beyond tolerance to the point of accepting one another, which means accepting that the other is different and that this difference is an enrichment, not a threat. That is the way our attitudes have to evolve, and unfortunately this is not yet happening.
In Ibillin, Chacour realized no educational opportunities existed for children after the eighth grade. To solve this problem, he created a school where children regardless of religion could come together and study. In the early 1980s, a school building was built and his vision became reality. Today, the Mar Elias Educational Institutions have over 3,000 students and faculty who are Christians, Druze, Jews, and Muslims. The students range from age 3 to age 18.
Before we were ever Jews, Muslims or Palestinians we were simply men and women. We must always remember our common identity. The trouble is that we educate our children, not to be human beings, but to be Zionists, or left wing, or right wing, or Palestinians fanatics standing on their rights with hatred in their hearts.
Chacour is a proponent of nonviolence and a firm believer in the Sermon on the Mount. He travels around the world speaking about peace and he also welcome pilgrims to his hometown Ibillin. He has been nominated for theNobel Peace Prize three times and has received the World Methodist Peace Prize (1994) and the Niwano Peace Prize (2001). He has also been awarded multiple honorary doctorates from universities such as Emory, Duke, and University of Indianapolis. Chacour wrote two books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land. Blood Brothers chronicles his early life and experiences and We Belong to the Land tells stories from his work with the Mar Elias Educational Institution. In 2006, Chacour was appointed the Archbishop of Hafia, Akko, Nazareth, and Galilee. He retired from this position in 2014.
My proposal to you is that we should work together in harmony to create a human society in which it will be good to be alive. … Neither you nor I nor our friend the sheik was born a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew. According to the Bible, we were born first and foremost as children, created in the image of God.