A three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Elias Chacour recently retired after serving since 2006 as the Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church for Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee. He is living again in Ibillin and looks forward to having time to read, write, pray, and continue meeting pilgrim groups to share his story of “Building Peace on Desktops.” He was born to a Palestinian Christian family in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee in 1939. Along with his whole village he experienced the tragedy of eviction by the Israeli authorities in 1948 and became a refugee in his own land. He and all his family members became citizens of Israel when the state was created.
In 1965, Father Chacour was ordained and appointed as priest of St. George Melkite Catholic Church in Ibillin. He remained there until 2006 when he was elevated to become Archbishop and moved to Haifa. Ibillin is a small Arab village in the Galilee region, near Nazareth, where Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for hundreds of years.
Father Chacour realized early on that his work in Ibillin would require more than routine priestly duties. His vision was, and is, that through education, children, youth, and young adults of different faith traditions will learn to live and work together in peace. That vision is a reality in the schools of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI). As Father Chacour’s dreams became reality, schools were established in Ibillin over 30 years. The cluster of schools now serve 2,750 students from preschool through high school.
Many international groups and educational institutions have honored Archbishop Chacour for his work on behalf of peace. In addition to his nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize (1986, 1989, 1994), he received the World Methodist Peace Prize in 1994, and in May 2001 he was awarded the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize by a Buddhist group in Japan. Also in 2001, Emory University and The University of Indianapolis recognized the work of Father Chacour with honorary doctorates.
Archbishop Chacour is the author of Blood Brothers (1984, updated in 2002 and again in 2013) and We Belong to the Land (1990). Blood Brothers has been translated into more than twenty different languages. A 2011 book, Blessed are the Peacemakers by Patricia Griggs, is written for middle-schoolers and tells Abuna’s story, in his voice.