For several years, Musalaha has endeavored to build bridges between Palestinian Muslim and Christian leaders from the Bethlehem area through facilitating desert encounters, conducting training, and many other activities. It was with great success that these leaders not only formed relationships, but they also continued to work together in resolving local conflicts and implementing joint projects. From these achievements, we wanted to move forward to see how these leaders could have a greater impact in other areas of their society.
As we reflect on 2015, we see that many new things happened in the political arena, as well as continued outbreaks of violence in our land. If we only read the headlines it would be easy to find this very depressing, but if we dig a little deeper we can see the hopeful and inspiring events taking place among people here.
As we are in the Advent season, I would like to reflect on Matthew’s Gospel message about the birth of the King Messiah. Many of us often skip the first portion of Matthew as the genealogy is tedious to wade through, yet it has an important and gripping message for us.
This summer a group of young Israelis and Palestinians went on a trip to Ireland in order to learn about and reflect on the Northern Irish conflict and our own. Sometimes, when we are absorbed in our conflict, it helps to step out of this context and gain insights from someone else’s experience. One of the things I learned on this trip is that it is not about the quantity of people involved, but rather the quality of efforts for reconciliation.
On Saturday, November 7, 32 of our women in the north braved the heavy rains and strong winds to come to a meeting to learn about one another’s culture. While some called to see if the meeting would be canceled due to the weather and the external circumstances, we insisted the meeting would still take place. These ladies believe it is important to meet, fellowship, learn and pray together, and they did so.
We often see that many acts of violence and provocation are carried out by youth. Youth experience many physical and emotional changes in this period of their lives, and they seek to express themselves, be independent, and make their voices heard. In the violence we have witnessed in Israel and Palestine over the past few weeks, we have seen this demographic (Israeli and Palestinian) express themselves with knives, flags, racial slurs, marches, riots, and demonstrations.
In our last prayer letter, we encouraged our communities to be a light during this difficult, dark time. We saw many people respond to this and join alongside us in our call to prayer and action. Even with the current challenges, we are continuing with our programs, meetings, teachings, and more. As we have often noted during times of crisis, some choose to retreat to their own national group and toe the party line. Others seek to meet all the more eagerly in order to pray for and support one another.
When we are faced with a difficult situation, like the one we are in now, we have two choices with regards to reconciliation. We can choose to step back, retreating to our own national and ethnic group, along with the zero-sum mentality and “victim” arguments of our leaders. Or, we can choose to find ways to demonstrate our commitment to peace, fellowship and one another.