A few weeks ago our young adults met to discuss the ways that social media can contribute to activism and reconciliation. It was an interesting subject to tackle as many have attributed the past year’s wave of violence to social media and inflammatory rhetoric posted there, and social media is often credited with many actions during the Arab Spring. Social media is not static, and there are advantages and disadvantages to using it.
Do you like having fun with kids? I do. I love seeing the wonder on children’s faces when they encounter something for the first time. One of my favorite recollections of wonder as a child was when I first saw oil poured into water. I kept trying to stir the solution faster and faster to see if the oil would dissolve, yet every time, the little bubbles of oil would push through the water to remerge in its previous state, a layer of oil. You just can’t mix oil and water.
I know you must wonder, after reading so many reports from Musalaha, “Don’t people get tired of talking about reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians?” How many times can we bring up our different perspectives and discuss them? Well, maybe this report will help give you some insight. We don’t always have discussions at our meetings. Sometimes, you can learn an enormous amount about someone by just sitting beside them and watching them work. Reconciliation is not just between Israelis and Palestinians; it’s also between every individual and their neighbor and between them and God.
At the beginning of April our young adults resumed their curriculum teachings, this time on “The Impact of Religious Extremism.” A mixed group of 20 Israelis and Palestinians joined us for this charged topic. After a short time of introduction and some games, we delved into the topic at hand. Many of the young adults do not have an opportunity to deal with radicalism in the way we dealt with it at this meeting. While we all have our own opinions and reflections on the radicalism we see in our societies, we rarely if ever have the chance to sit down with people from another national group to discuss these opinions and reflect on them together.
During the first week of the New Year, I was invited to speak at the conference “Evangelical Responses to Islamic Revival” held by Manchester University’s Nazarene Theological College in Great Britain, which explored theological issues; the context of Islam; and the role of Christians with a Muslim background. Many leaders from the surrounding area and scholars attended the conference to discuss these contemporary issues facing Christian and Muslim relations hoping it would provide a good resource to engage in beneficial relationships. I was asked to come speak on Musalaha’s work, particularly how we facilitate relationships between Muslims and Christians.
This past February we started a new women’s group. Since we have so many women’s groups, we ask each group of women to give us a name to describe themselves. Ahlan is the name the group chose. Ahlan, you may know, means “welcome” in Arabic . They chose this name to also describe them in an acronym – an Attitude of Hope, Love and Non-Violence. It is our genuine hope to guide these wonderful ladies to just that goal!
In our February 9 prayer letter, we shared about the challenges Palestinian Christian youth leaders encounter during this intense and violent time in the Holy Land. The first part addressed our youth’s reaction to the cycle of violence. This part presents the youth leaders’ own experiences and responses to the influence of violence and media on their youth.
We are not people of despair. We are hostages of hope.
-Dr. Evelyne Reisacher
The first day of 2016 brought thirty women from the Bethlehem and Jerusalem areas together for a weekend at the Dead Sea. This was a brand new journey with Musalaha, one of discomfort, new obstacles, and the serious self-examination that comes with the work of reconciling oneself with her “other.” For Musalaha, this was a time of groundbreaking as we led the Zait group on beginning the work.  Descending to the lowest point on earth, the sun broke over the Dead Sea and three rainbows emerged as we drove along the shoreline
“Our conversations in church youth group revolve around fear and anxiety. Youth are afraid to go about their daily lives because the streets they walk everyday have had casualties and they are afraid to be mistaken as a perpetrator and to become a casualty themselves.”
In December, we gathered our Young Mothers’ Group for their final meeting. This two-year chapter where we participated in frequent meetings to develop friendships and learn about lasting reconciliation has come to a close. It is time for a new chapter. Instead of getting together every four to six weeks as we have done until now, the responsibility to maintain the relationships we made falls on our shoulders. Musalaha will assist in maintaining these relationships through inviting us to participate in our national women’s programs and activities; in between these events, it is up to us what will happen.