Israel-Palestine: Rays of Hope in the Dark Divide Part 2
by Rick Love
Sami Awad, a good friend and well-known Palestinian Christian peacemaker, met with Tim and me for breakfast at the Orient Palace hotel in Bethlehem. Near the end of our time together he asked if we wanted to participate in a non-violent demonstration. He said, “Don’t worry. You won’t be shot by any rubber bullets, and there won’t be any tear gas. And both Israelis and Palestinians march together.”
We said, “Yes!” So off we went to participate in on our first non-violent demonstration in Palestine, organized by Combatants for Peace. Combatants for Peace are former violent Palestinians and Israelis who have banded together to end the occupation and work for peace. One of the other groups marching was Bereaved Families for Peace. Members of this group have had their children killed by snipers or as unintended consequences of the violence. The grief over their loss has knit them together and given them a peace mission.
Cadres of Israeli soldiers lined the streets at various places where we marched. There were news outlets and TV cameras covering the march as well. It wasn’t a big demonstration, but it was a big deal for Tim and me!
Next on our agenda: The Christ at the Checkpoint Conference
The theme of the conference was ‘The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism.’ So I spoke about 'Jesus, Muslims, Violent Extremism, and Five Commands for the Road to Peace.'
Over 400 people attended this dynamic gathering. The speakers were great, but the Palestinian Christians stole the show. There were four highlights for me:
- Palestinian Christians freely shared their pain about the occupation but also repeatedly and forcefully spoke about the need to love Israelis. They also spoke highly of their Muslim neighbors. Jesus was at the center of the conference, and there was little sense of victimhood.
- Bethlehem Bible College (BBC), who sponsored the event, is doing a great job of training Christian pastors and leaders. Bishara Awad the founder and Jack Sara the President deserve special recogniztion. BBC has just started an MA program in Peace Studies (yes I would like to teach there in the future!).
- I was profoundly encouraged by the Palestinian youth. The graduates of BBC were impressive and gave me much hope for the future.
- Sami Awad and his organization, Holy Land Trust, provides leadership and training in non-violent resistance. They can also help organize trips for you or your group.
So don’t believe all the negative press about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Seeds of peace are being sown by both Israelis and Palestinians in this entrenched conflict. Pray for the Holy Land. And consider visiting for yourself.
There ARE rays of light in the dark divide!