SISTER RELATIONS BETWEEN NORTHWEST AND PALESTINIAN EPISCOPAL CHURCHES
The idea of a sister relationship between the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Diocese of Olympia in Washington State was conceived in early 1995. The Rev. Samuel Barhoum, rector of the Holy Family Episcopal Church in the village of Raineh, Israel (just outside Nazareth), had finished his seminary training in Berkeley, California, and met with interested members of the Seattle community at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral. Explaining that sister relations between churches in the United States and Palestine/Israel play an important role in making the American public aware of the plight of the Palestinian people, he found a partner in the Rev. Stanley Fowler, Jr., the rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Seattle, who had traveled to the Holy Land with his wife two years earlier.
In the summer of 1996, Reverend Fowler started a youth exchange program, taking a group of young people to a one-week conference to meet with Palestinian youth. The next year, he brought a group of Palestinian youths to Seattle and provided them the opportunity to visit churches and tell their story to the local community. The community of St. Andrew's Church has also sponsored a preschool in Raineh, donating preschool supplies to kids.
"After the sister church relation was established," Rev. Fowler recounted, "the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia entered into a companion relation with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem," with altogether eight sister church relationships so far. Seattle's Trinity Episcopal Church has a sister church in Haifa, and St. Thomas's Episcopal Church in Medina is paired with one in Ramallah, to name just two others.
Reverend Barhoum, who is the youth director for the Diocese of Jerusalem, said he is working to "support the people in the area so they don't eventually have to leave." Rev. Fowler is helping him by "promoting the Palestinian side of the story [and] supporting the ongoing survival of Christian churches in the Holy Land," he said.
"Strengthening the community to support people to withstand the discrimination they're experiencing" is one of his community's goals in cooperating with the sister diocese, Reverend Fowler said. "The Christian community in the Holy Land is invisible to the rest of the community so part of the purpose of our sister relation is to help us become aware and advocates of Palestinian human rights, justice and peace. …