Hope in times of crisis

Two speakers from Uniting Church partner Churches in Maluku, Indonesia and Beirut, Lebanon shared with grace and vulnerability at today’s UnitingWorld lunch.

Rev. Hrayr Cholakian and Rev. Elifas Tomix Maspaitella may be separated by very different geographical locations, but their shared stories demonstrated many similarities, with both responding to difficulties in their home countries with grace and humility. The men openly shared the ways God has impacted and shaped their ministry to bring hope in times of crisis.

Rev. Hrayr Cholakian, was ordained into the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE) in Beirut, Lebanon in 2012. Rev Cholakian is grateful to his father for impacting his decision to enter ministry. His Father was a quiet and unassuming man who never complained, even on his most difficult days when the heartache of war was part of daily life. Rev. Cholakian shared how his father demonstrated Christ to him.

“Even though he (Rev Cholakian’s father) went to work six days a week and came home tired he never missed church on Sundays. His life reflected the life of Christ in our home. It’s how you view a life that makes a difference to what happens around you.”

Rev. Cholakian’s father demonstrated hope through love and community with others. His ability to be Christ-like towards others demonstrated values of love and community, not only through his Christian connections but other religious groups. “Living with Muslim refugees in our building, he treated them like brothers and sisters and at no point was there a distinction between Muslim and Christian and because of that we experienced the hospitality of our Muslim neighbours.”

This hospitality is something that Rev. Elifas Tomix Maspaitella from the Protestant Church in Maluku also experienced: “We tried to make peace, but we need a long time to make peace because of the conflict in the region of Maluku.”

Rev. Maspaitella spoke at length about the Maluku Islands sectarian conflict as a period of ethno-political conflict along religious lines.

“As the church it is our calling to make the peace. We must invite our Muslim brothers and sisters to join in the peacemaking. In 2008, after a long time of unrest, we became one with Muslim people. I was able to invite a Muslim preacher to preach at our church. Christian and Muslim women joined to together in economic development. Making crafts together in an act of solidarity”

Rev. Cholakian was able to attribute the loving presence of people as a way to find hope in times of crisis.

“At the most distressing times during war, it was human actions that became more important to us than finance. I recall some Christian youth groups who came to us and gave a performance. This gift encouraged us to remain hopeful in our situation.

“The idea of community is very Christian and so is love. Having a Christ-like presence in times of crisis demonstrates hopefulness.

“Working at a grassroots level and living alongside others, I see my influence as a neighbour, as a pastor and as a leader in my congregation the most beneficial attribute I can provide in times of unrest.”