Milad is my friend and a modern day hero. He loves Jesus, his family and kids who are broken and in need of healing. He works two jobs to support a non-profit he and his wife run, which promotes peacemaking and reconciliation among the youth in the West Bank. Milad’s family is from Jerusalem, but because of their genes, they were forced to move from their home and into Bethany in the West Bank (Palestine) where the average wage is $1/hour.
I stood with Milad while overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, and often speaking with tears streaming down his cheeks, he shared his story (some are paraphrased):
- “I don’t want to change your mind, I am only one man. I just want you to hear our story.”
- “I am a Christian, I love Jesus, but I am treated like a terrorist.”
- “You can’t oppress a whole nation over the terrorist acts of a few.”
- “The Berlin Wall was 3 meters high, this wall is 8 meters. Our oppression only builds hatred and terror.”
- “I will never leave, but I don’t see how there will ever be peace.”
- “Don’t feel sorry for me. With my wife and child, I am very happy.”
Just days before this conversation, I sat in a street side café in Jerusalem with a friend who moved from California to Israel to study to be a rabbi. I was inspired by his story of devotion and conviction as he has given up everything to pursue a faith and way of life that he believes to be God’s call on his life. We laughed, drank good coffee and shared a hug as we departed.
After these two conversations I found myself thinking, “so these two people are enemies? This is the Israel vs. Palestine conflict I have heard so much about?
These two interactions describe well the tension and fractured state of the Middle East. On each side there are beautiful people who share similar hopes and convictions as many of us from the West, yet their failure to communicate has brought about fatal ends.
There are brilliant pictures and experiences of God’s Kingdom breaking through a long history of violence and hatred, but the relationship is still terribly fractured. The pieces are all there, but they are groaning to be rightly put back together. And while we know that they won’t be completely reassembled until God’s final restoration, there is hope in the here and now. The steps are tangible and progress is a present reality.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is the key to peace among Middle Eastern nations. For the roughly 50 Arab nations, Israel represents the colonialism of the West and Palestine the oppressed natives. As long as Palestinians are reduced to second-class citizens behind the Separation Wall, the Arab nations will view the West as their enemy. Similarly, as long as Israel experiences the random acts of violence from Palestinians, the West will view the Arabs as their enemy. While this is WAY oversimplified, it is clear that we are ALL watching these two people groups struggle to find common ground. This tension is the heartbeat of future international relations between the West and the Middle East.
There is great hope. Leading Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East have agreed to explore and begin to employ the Just Peacemaking Theory in Israel and Palestine. It is unprecedented for all three religions to agree upon the doctrine of a single theory. Just peacemaking is a middle ground between modern pacifism and modern just war theory and was developed by 23 scholars under the leadership of one of my professors at Fuller Theological Seminary, Glen Stassen. Rooted in example of Jesus, the theory offers tangible steps towards dialog and common action.
I feel called to tell this story, tell it well and be an active participant in informing others of the tensions and potential healing. Having been able to study in Israel/Palestine last summer and have everyday interactions with God’s children on both sides of the conflict, I desire to go back as an advocate for God’s Kingdom. Living as a missionary everyday, I see this as an extension of what God has already called me into…this just happens to be in a region half way across the globe.
Glen Stassen, along with other leading Christian/Jewish/Muslim peacemakers, are leading a Just Peacemaking mission this summer in Israel/Palestine. Focused on learning both the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, it will involve everything from lectures to dialog with high-ranking Israeli officials to a visit to the PLO headquarters in the West Bank to everyday interactions with both Israeli’s and Palestinians. Not only will I receive credit towards my current master’s degree program, I will be part of the team that has the potential to bridge the vast divide of discourse between Israel and Palestine.
While this does fall within my current seminary study, I need financial partners that believe in this mission and believe in me as a future voice in this tension. If I am able to go, I plan to offer on the ground reports of our time in Israel/Palestine and create a platform for dialog. If you or someone you know (individuals, churches, publications etc…) would be interested in partnering with me in this mission, please click HERE. Also, if you are aware of any grants that may be directed towards a mission like this, please let me know.
May God’s Kingdom come in the Middle East (and all the earth) as it is in heaven. Shalom/Salaam.