Upon my recent return from the Middle East (with The Global Immersion Project), I was struck more than ever before at our Western infatuation around military aggression, violence and division. Not only are these the primary narratives we are fed through our major media outlets, they are the narratives we subconsciously embrace through the latest bestseller, box office hit or video game. Violence, death and division have become normative. We are becoming numb to the very things that we – as ambassadors of hope and reconciliation – are to turn from as Resurrection People. It is as though there is a strangle hold on our on our ability to see and participate in the stories of healing and new life.
As surprising as this may be, embedded in the midst of these conflicts are endless stories of hope that never make the latest headline or sound bite. And in the times I’ve followed Jesus INTO these places of conflict, I continue to encounter stories of peace and hope that embody the gospel message, stories by real people, happening right now, in places usually known only for conflict, violence and death.
Meet Shaul, a Jewish Israeli who lives in a settlement in the West Bank. When a group of young men from his town threw a Molotov cocktail in a taxi filled with a Palestinian family from a neighboring Arab Village, he chose to go to the hospital where they were being cared for. He sat with the family, apologized for the incident and took responsibility for the terrible act because as a member of the community at fault, he considered himself complicit in the violence.
Meet Milad & Manar, a Christian Palestinian couple who live in a small Muslim town in the West Bank. Seeing a narrative of violence and division taking hold of many of the youth in their town, they started an organization that teaches peace and reconciliation through art and vocational training. They are now a bright beacon of hope among their neighbors who not only support and encourage their work, but do anything they can to get their kids into this program. These former hotel room cleaners are now not only running an organization that is radically changing the tide of their town, they are finishing their master’s degrees in reconciliation and non-violence.
Meet Roni & Moira, a Jewish Israeli and Muslim Palestinian who have both lost loved ones in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than demonizing a whole people group as a result of the loss they endured, they choose to sit and mourn with those who are supposed to be their “enemy” because it is in that space that they experience the most healing. It is in the midst of shared grieving that reconciliation is taking place and a movement towards a shared future is bursting forth.
We do grave harm to these regions and the people within them when we fail to highlight these gritty, subversive and everyday movements of hope in the midst of conflict. As followers of the great Reconciler, we are to be ambassadors of hope.
We have a responsibility to tell THESE stories.
In fact, when we don’t -- and instead spend the majority of our time fueling the escalation of fear and division -- we not only fail our heroic brothers and sisters working for peace in these regions, we fail to reflect the Christian hope we have been entrusted to advance.
Now back at home, I am again blanketed by news that only tells one fraction of reality, but thankfully I know there is much, much more to be told. I think of my friends, my role models, my teachers who are living out the most redeeming faith in the very places we often deem as irredeemable.
May we begin a new movement. A movement marked by hope. A movement that humanizes people rather than demonizes. A movement marked by God’s continued presence in and among the cosmos, rather than his removal from them. A movement that is rooted in reality, which sparks our divine imagination for what God desires for the world.