The editors of Relevant Magazine asked to write a response to this question during the recent violence in Israel & Gaza. I was especially encouraged by two things: 1. Relevant is inviting its readers to critically engage the Middle East conflict through the lens of Jesus. 2. The overwhelming response and engagement of readers on this specific piece. For most, the conflict is easier to simply ignore, but these readers want to wrestle, think and live into a new reality.
Here is an excerpt. You can read the full article on Relevant Magazine’s website.
“As the conflict and many human lives hang in the balance, my heart is heavy.
Through my work with The Global Immersion Project, I have spent a significant amount of time over the years cultivating relationships among both Israelis and Palestinians as we partner together in cultivating a narrative of reconciliation. As is often the case when we approach a people or place with the hopes of being/bringing the needed change, I have been the one most changed by my friends and colleagues who reside in the Middle East. Behind so many of the subconscious stereotypes and prejudices I had acquired earlier in my life I began to experience the richness of friendship and brotherhood among people I had previously “known” only through the latest sound bite.
From Orthodox Jewish Rabbis to Christian Palestinian scholars to Muslim Palestinian leaders teaching the way of nonviolence, these are my friends, brothers, sisters and partners.
When my social media outlets began filling up with messages of fear, bloodshed and mourning my heart broke not only for a war half way across the globe, but for my friends. My teachers. My partners.
A Jewish Israeli friend wrote, “Siren in Tel Aviv. Just spoke to my father from the shelter.”
My Christian Palestinian brother shared multiple laments, “My friends in Gaza’s latest status update: “My Lord! This is enough! What is this?” “Lord protect us. What is this? Terror terror.” “The land is shaking.”
While many of these individuals are currently in immediate physical threat, a greater pain for them is seeing the seeds of violence being sown in the soil that they have tireless turned over for the sake of reconciliation.
Was all their work worth it or does this mean it was all-pointless and that there really is no hope?
My heart not only breaks for my friends in Israel and Palestine, but it breaks because of the hateful stereotyping, racism and violent response being disseminated by Christians as they watch the news unfold and enter the discussion.
As followers of the pro-people Jesus, is this best we can do? Is that a reflection of the Christian hope that was brought about by and through the acts of the Suffering Servant? Have we lost our imagination that leads to the participating in the restorative mission of God for the cosmos?
Friends, we can do better. We must do better.
How then shall we respond?“
Go HERE to read in its entirety.
Violence has dominated the past 24 in Israel and Palestine (Specifically in Gaza). I have both Israeli and Palestinian friends who are intimately impacted by this reality. A massive number of both Israeli’s and Palestinians condemn the current military actions and remain committed to choosing the way of peace. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we offer a prayer of Shalom/Salaam (peace in Hebrew & Arabic) in this tense time of conflict.
Reconciler and Ruler of heaven and earth, hear our prayer.
We celebrate the work of your hands and your heart for all people.
Be with those who are currently mourning the loss of loved ones and give them a community to stand with in the pain. Holy Spirit, protect their hearts from an inner violence that manifests itself in resentment, bitterness and hatred, which fosters further loss of life and broken relationship.
Be with those who are paralyzed in the fear of an uncertain future. May they instead be fueled with hope amid conflict that mobilizes a movement of reconciliation and understanding. Bring about a divine wave of humility among the leaders to pursue the way of negotiation rather than a posture of power.
May followers of Jesus in both Israel and Palestine live as salt and light in the center of it all.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Below is a timely and profound song from the Jewish artist Matisyahu who dreams of a reconciled future among Israel and Palestine.
Over the past four years I have had the opportunity to spend a significant amount time in the Middle East. I no longer approach the time as a tourist, but instead seek out relationships and experiences as a listener who has much to learn about the way God is at work in contexts much different than my own. In that posture, it has been remarkable how much I have learned and begun to integrate into the way I live, love and lead back in my neighborhood. Theologian Paul Knitter describes it well when he refers to ones inherited worldview as a telescope. No matter how objective we may think we are or desire to be, we all see the world through a specific telescope/worldview. When we choose to look through the telescope of people who are “different” than us, we begin to get a more comprehensive picture of the world and the way God is at work within it.
1. Stories Over Facts -- No matter how many stats we present or information disseminate, there is nothing more powerful than being invited into and experiencing ones story. Especially a story that shatters our stereotypes, prejudices and understanding of justice.
7. Art of Peacemaking Requires Living in Radical Tension -- To be a peacemaker requires holding conflicting narratives in tension so we can be a presence of reconciliation in the middle of it all. We compromise our ability to be peacemakers in the way of Jesus when we lose our ability to stand with people despite our differences.