Archbishop Suheil Dawani, primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, has been appointed *Canon of St. James of Jerusalem for Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.
Diocese of Ottawa Bishop John Chapman and Cathedral Dean Shane Parker made the surprise announcement October 16 following Dawani’s talk in the cathedral’s Great Hall as part of the Cathedral Arts Lecture Series.
The appointment was meant to honour his “important ministry to the church” and express gratitude “for the years of partnership shared between the diocese of Ottawa and diocese of Jerusalem,” said the appointment document presented to Dawani.
Chapman said that by reputation, Dawani is “the reconciling presence” at gatherings of the leadership of religious communities. The archbishop and his wife, Shafeeqa, “touch the souls of the people they encounter” in their own different ways through the model of their ministry, he said.
During his visit to Ottawa, Dawani also met with senior government officials about the the peace situation in the Middle East, in particular, the diminishing number of Christians who are leaving or who have become victims of violence and persecution in the region.
The archbishop emphasized the significant role that Christians play as bridges for peace through the health, education and hospitality institutions that they operate, said the Rev. Laurette Glasgow, a former ambassador who is now the Anglican Church of Canada’s special advisor for government relations. Glasgow arranged Dawani’s meetings with government officials, including Peter Boehm, senior associate deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and personal representative of the prime minister, and Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Foreign Affairs.
Dawani was assured of the Canadian government’s willingness “to keep the communication lines open,” said Glasgow. She added that government interlocutors were “also interested in the tangible ways” in which the diocese of Ottawa works in partnership with the diocese of Jerusalem.
In his talk about the ministry of the Anglican church in the Middle East, Dawani said that although the diocese has only about 7,000 Anglicans, it operates hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centres, and schools in Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.
“We have to spend millions of dollars to support the institutions, but for us it is a witness and presence,” he said.
The work of reconciliation is done through the institutions, but the situation in the Middle East is very complex, Dawani said. The diocese works with Muslims, Jews and other Christians on the Council of Religious Institutions, but in general, he said, governments “do not support interfaith [efforts] very much.”
As well, said Dawani, what complicates the situation is the fact that instead of being part of the solution, religion has, in some cases, been part of the problem. “It provokes violence,” and there are many groups that “fight in the name of God.”
Shafeeqa Dawani also spoke briefly, saying her work involves trying to empower women in the diocese “because women make [up] half of the society and the other half is being raised by women.” Through various methods including conferences, workshops and leadership training, she hopes to equip women to be active in their church and societies, she said.
Last November, Shafeeqa Dawani hosted a visit by 30 women from the diocese of Ottawa after she and the bishop’s wife, Catherine Chapman, agreed there was a need for women from the two dioceses to get together to share one another’s stories.
“These visits are very important to our church and our ministry in the Holy Land,” said Dawani in an interview with the Journal. “We had a good visit.”
He also said he is thankful for the diocese of Ottawa and its partnership with his diocese.
The devotion of the Christians in the Middle East to serving everyone through the Jerusalem diocese’s more than 30 health and education institutions “is a godsend,” said Glasgow. “And that warrants our awareness and our support.
Dawani will preach at the October 22 service at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Deep River, Ont., about 200 kms west of Ottawa.
*Canon is an honorary title conferred on clergy members and occasionally lay people for faithful and valuable service to the church. The title, Canon of St. James of Jerusalem, is in honour of St. James, who was a Christian leader in Jerusalem for several years and is believed to be the author of the Epistle of St. James.