February 11, 2021
-- Special Report --
The People's Patriarch
A new film about H.B. Michel Sabbah,
Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem
His Beatitude Michel Sabbah was Archbishop and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1987 to 2008. Born in Nazareth, Patriarch Sabbah was the first Palestinian to hold this position. For his entire career the Patriarch has fought for his people, with tireless energy and unfaltering spiritual clarity. He is an author of the 2009 Palestine Kairos Document, a towering work of theology and "a word of faith, hope and love" that continues to light the way in the ongoing struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people. The Patriarch serves as President of Kairos Palestine and is a guiding spirit for the global movement that has arisen in response to the call of the Palestinian Christians.

Take 25 minutes to view this beautifully produced film. It is built around a recent interview in which the Patriarch shares the history of the Palestinian struggle, his views on the current situation, and his uncompromising commitment to the truth. To watch this film is to receive a lesson in the meaning of resistance. "We are between life and death." states the Patriarch. "We must raise our children to survive, thrive and love one another. Only this kind of love will enable them to face their oppressors."
The story opens in January, 1988. Returning from Rome after being appointed by Pope John Paul II, the Patriarch stepped into the cauldron of the first intifada, which had erupted the previous month. Upon arriving in Palestine, he was asked by journalists for his thoughts about the uprising. View the film to hear the response of the just-arrived new Patriarch to this question.

The words of a prophet are not gentle, they do not dress the truth in mild and comforting tones. Like Jesus in his time, Patriarch Sabbah stands before Jerusalem, witnessing the truth and speaking it for all with ears to hear. "Jerusalem today," says Patriarch Sabbah, "is not a holy city of love. It is a city of hatred. It is a city of war. Jerusalem will become a holy city when it is filled with love, when both peoples go back to being people of love." "We are between life and death" continues the Patriarch. "We must raise our children to survive, thrive and love one another. Only this kind of love will enable them to face their oppressors."
The Kairos Palestine document speaks of "resistance with love as its logic." This is the message of the life of Patriarch Sabbah, a message not only for Palestine but for all of humankind. The Palestinian struggle teaches us that resistance begins with the courage to speak the unvarnished truth. In the film, Patriarch Sabbah names the big lie: "Today the mask has fallen away-- there will be no Palestinian State. We are a people deprived of statehood." He has these words for his people, especially the young: "Hope, resilience, and don't run away."
The person of Patriarch Michel Sabbah presents us with a model of leadership for our world today. "I am not a politician, I am not a warrior," he states. "I am a Christian clergyman, in charge of my flock. and the responsibility of a pastor is not only to his community but the wholeness of humankind." We live in a world desperate for leadership, a world where commitment to principles of democracy and human dignity are being tested, a world confronting the prospect of environmental catastrophe. Leadership is embodied in the person of this humble, soft-spoken man who instructs us with honesty, directness and inescapable moral imperative.

The voice of Patriarch Sabbah is the voice of the gospels, echoing the voice of the colonized and tyrannized people of the Palestine of 2000 years ago. It is the voice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "church from below," the voice of those described by Howard Thurman living "with their backs against the wall" of racism and oppression. Watch this video. Share it with your pastor, your priest, your friends, colleagues and family members. You will be moved, inspired, and fortified for the work ahead.
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