The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

April 1, 2013
WORT Interview about Elias Chacour Play

“A Public Affair”
WORT 89.9 FM
12 noon

“A Public Affair” will be previewing the performance this Thursday, April 4th, of a one man play — We Belong to the Land — based on the life of world-renowned Palestinian peacemaker Elias Chacour. The Archbishop of Galilee of the Malkite Greek Catholic Church, Chacour is also a founder of the nonprofit “Pilgrims of Ibillin,” which works to advance understandings about persons of all faiths living in Israel. Its projects include the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, where Christians, Jews, Muslims and Druze are educated without regard to religion or ethnic background. Much of the work of the program is made possible by support from American churches and other institutions and individuals, several of them in greater Madison.

John Quinlan’s guests on “A Public Affair” will include the Rev. Joan Deming, the Madison-based executive director of Pilgrims of Ibillin, and George Shalabi of Sauk City, a retired business person, native of Haifa, Ibillin board member, and lifelong friend of Father Chacour. Also joining us will be actor Bruce Bradley, who will be portraying Chacour, and answering questions about the man whose life he’s bringing to the stage. The show streams live at, where it is also podcast.

We Belong to the the Land tells a remarkable story of peace and reconciliation in the face of a life that began shortly before the traumatic disruption of Palestinian lives during the birth of Israel. Born in the village of Kafr Bir’im in Upper Galilee to a Palestinian Christian family, Elias Chacour’s family was forced to leave their home and take refuge in the neighboring village of Jish after Bir’im was taken over by occupying forces for Israeli independence. Chacour and his family became Israeli citizens in 1948, shortly after the establishment of the Israeli state.

Chacour came to the village of Ibillin in Galilee as a young priest in 1965. This village was the birthplace of the most recent saint of the Melkite Catholic Church. Chacour, seeing the lack of educational opportunities for Arab youth beyond the 8th grade, set about creating a school open to all local children, regardless of religious affiliation.

An advocate of non-violence, Chacour travels often between the Middle East and other countries around the world. In addition, many visitors, fact-finding missions, and pilgrims have come to Ibillin. In recognition of his humanitarian efforts he has received honors including the World Methodist Peace Award, the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, and the Niwano Peace Prize (Japan), as well as honorary doctorates from five universities including Duke and Emory. In 2001 Chacour was named “Man of the Year” in Israel.

Chacour is the author of two best selling books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land. Blood Brothers covers his childhood growing up in the town of Biram, his development into a young man, and his early years as a priest in Ibillin. This book has been translated into more than twenty languages. His second book, We Belong to the Land, recounts his work in the development of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, from humble beginnings to major schools for educating Palestinian young people and for helping to bring about reconciliation in a land of strife. This book has been translated into 11 languages.

With stunning accuracy, the actor “becomes” Archbishop Chacour as he tells about working for peace in Israel/Palestine over the past 45 years. Audiences hear how Abuna (“Father” in Arabic) Elias Chacour, against all odds, established the multi-cultural Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin.

We Belong to the Land will be performed from 7-8:30 pm on Thursday, April 4th at The Crossing, 1127 University Ave. (University at Charter Street) on the UW-Madison campus. Some limited parking is available onsite, with other spaces available beneath the UW School of Business two blocks east. The play will be followed by a question and answer session with actor Bruce Bradley. The event is free; a free-will offering will be taken.

For more information, go to Pilgrims of Ibillin. This event is co-sponsored by The Crossing and Pilgrims of Ibillin.

Other local organizations will be present with tables and information about their programs:

John L Quinlan
QuinlanJohnL at
cell: 608-213-8409