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Thursday, 02 November 2023 13:01

Fr Junjun: Encounter in the Holy Land

Fr Junjun Amaya, Parish Priest of Wodonga, had just completed a six-week Sabbatical Program at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in East Jerusalem when Palestinian-based militant group Hamas launched attacks on civilians in southern Israel, starting the current war in Gaza.

Fr Junjun chose to join the Sabbatical Programme at Tantur Ecumenical Institute because it provided experience and encounter with ‘the rich sacredness of others’. His time there included studies in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, followed by excursions to places which are spiritually and historically significant to these faiths, and the opportunity to meet people with different religious backgrounds.

Fr Junjun recounts his experience in the Holy Land at this time.

By Fr Junjun Amaya

There were fourteen people in my Sabbatical Programme at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, nine Catholic priests, one Anglican Archdeacon, two Franciscan nuns and two lay women. We had just completed the six-week sabbatical programme. At 5:45 a.m. on 7 October, four of us left the Institute to celebrate the 7.00 a.m. Mass in Calvary (the Crucifixion Chapel) that day.

Fr Bob (USA) presided at the Mass solemnly, praying especially for peace in the Holy Land.
I served as Lector in that Mass. It was an amazing experience to celebrate Mass there where Christ was crucified for our salvation.

Unbeknown to us, while we were in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre offering Mass and saying prayers for peace in the Holy Land, Hamas had launched their attack to Israel.

After the Mass had been offered, we went up to the Mount of Olives to be at the place where Jesus taught the “Our Father” to his disciples (Pater Noster Church). We could hear sirens blaring, but we just ignored them. We did not know what it was about. Nobody there told us what was going on.
People went on with things they needed to do – locals dropped their kids at school, pilgrims arrived in tourist buses at Shrines and Sacred Sites.

We then walked down to the Old City of Jerusalem, retracing the steps of Jesus Christ where he walked towards Jerusalem on the first Palm “Sunday”. I then left my companions in the Old City and went home to the Institute.

When I arrived back at the Institute, sirens were blaring and I found that all of the people in the Institute were in the air raid shelter. It was only then that I learned ‘there’s a war waging.’ It was an extraordinary experience for me.

Thank you, my friends, for all your assurances of prayers, messages of care and concern, encouragement and support. I am now back safe in the parish.

Let us continue praying that the state of war in the Holy Land will end now, for the sake of many who have been affected.

Let us pray that:

motives of dialogue,
peaceful resolutions and
proposals that are just and right
may prevail over exchanges of
guns and bullets,
rockets and missiles and
hate-filled words and language.


Return to Sandpiper e-News 66.