Social Justice Activist Spotlight: Elias Chacour

Archbishop Cropped“Peace needs no contemplators, it needs actors, people who are willing to get their hands dirty, to get up and do something. The same is true for justice.”

Elias Chacour was born in the Palestinian village of Biram in upper Galilee in 1939. In 1948, after a United Nations resolution, his country of Palestine became the sovereign state of Israel. Three years later, his own village of Biram would be changed forever. In 1951, Israeli soldiers marched into Biram and told the inhabitants that they would have to leave the village temporarily for security reasons. When the inhabitants of Biram returned, they found their houses, their entire village, bulldozed by the Israelis.

Elias Chacour became a priest in the Melkite Catholic Church, which dates back to the Byzantine period and Constantine. He is a Christian Palestinian. It is often assumed that all Palestinians are Arabs and are Muslins. There are actually between twelve and fourteen million Arab Christians in the world.

Though the Israeli government tried to keep him from doing so, Father Chacour started a school in the Palestinian town of Ibillin in the Galilee region to educate disadvantaged Palestinians. There is now a kindergarten, elementary, and high school open to everyone. There are over 100 Jewish, Muslim, and Palestinian teachers in the high school alone. There is also a center that trains teachers. Ibillin has a college which is attended by over 600 students, and offers degrees in a variety of fields such as engineering, communications, and food processing. This college has a diverse faculty of about 50 professors, at least 40 of which hold doctoral degrees. Father Chacour is now working on getting an accredited university started. Today, there are about 4000 people on the Ibillin campus at any given time.

There are many Palestinians in Israel who do not desire war, but peace. They want to be able to live in a land that they have called home for hundreds of years without oppression and discrimination.

“The world does not need any more enemies, but common friends. It is much more difficult to move forward toward peace than to go to war.”