Category: Prayers

Fourth Sunday of Lent: Jesus Was No Stranger to the Cry for Justice

Jesus Was No Stranger to the Cry for Justice

Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8)

Jesus was no stranger to the cry for justice. Through the Gospels, we see Jesus engaging with people in a calm and gentle manner. However, injustice against the vulnerable made him very angry. He acted upon this concern for the oppressed by taking a public stand and protesting in Jerusalem: “Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts” (Mark 11:15-16).  Jesus’ concern was not just because the house of God had been turned into a place of business. He was also protesting the exorbitant fees people were being charged for required sacrifices—fees that would have likely been burdensome to both the local poor and the people who had traveled a long way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This corruption of the sacrificial system prioritized money over the ability of people to worship.

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

Often, Western Christians do not realize that Christians have been living in the Holy Land since the time of Jesus. Many of these faithful followers can trace their family histories all the way back to the birth of Christian community after Pentecost. But, for Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank, the daily pressures and hardships of living under military occupation for almost 50 years have contributed to a great migration of the native Christians from the land. In addition to the occupation, lower birthrates for Palestinian Christians than their Muslim counterparts, and the lack of economic opportunity within Palestinian society also contribute to the decreasing Christian population. It is estimated today less than 2% of all Palestinians living in the occupied territories self-identify as Christians. Today, these Christians are called the “living stones.”

One of these living stones is the Palestinian Christian writer, Jean Zaru. In her book, “Occupied with Nonviolence”, she describes the pressures on Palestinian Christians this way: “Although we are the modern heirs of the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem and despite our rich contribution to the Middle East, Palestinian Christians have become unknown, unacknowledged, and forgotten by much of the world. We are a highly educated community with deep historical roots, a community that is, unfortunately, diminishing every day as a result of political and economic pressures. Our future is uncertain; the pressures are enormous.” Jean, a Quaker and a pacifist, also describes being misunderstood as one who accepts the injustice Palestinian Christians experience, while in reality she is active in nonviolent action against injustice.

I think Jesus would have a strong message to us, as Christians. He would remind us of the need to speak out, to take a physical stand, and to be steadfast in our prayers and petitions for justice in the Holy Land. He would remind us of the requirement from the Lord in Micah 6:8, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8b). Jesus might remind us of the parable of the persistent widow who would not give up in her plea for justice. In this parable, even the judge who did not fear God eventually gave in to the widow’s constant pleas.  “Will God not bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:4-8). We, too, should advocate for justice on behalf of our Palestinian Christian siblings in their times of suffering.

Dear God,

You know that it is not easy to suffer under the injustices of this world. As your followers, we are not promised to have an easy path through life. But, you did promise to walk beside us along the journey, and for that we give you thanks. Strengthen our Palestinian Christian siblings in their daily struggles. Comfort them with the peace of your presence. Help us all to continue to speak out and to pray without ceasing as our hearts cry out for justice. May we trust in you to bring justice to the world in your way and your time. May our hope always be in you.

In your holy name we pray, Amen

Join us by responding with your prayers in the comments section.

For more in this series, visit our website.

Third Sunday of Lent: Jesus Was No Stranger to Death and Sorrow

Jesus Was No Stranger to Death and Sorrow

Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden

“When the righteous cry out the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

(Psalm 34:17-18)

Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum.    Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

Jesus was no stranger to death and sorrow. Jesus lost loved ones during his time on earth.  He knows that the death of someone we love creates a hole in the heart, which is seemingly impossible to fill.  Pain and suffering are evident in our day-to-day lives, and in our world. Many Israelis and Palestinians have lost loved ones due to the conflict. There is great trauma and grief experienced on all sides, in deep and diverse ways. Many Israelis carry the trauma and history of Holocaust in their collective memory. They fear growing global anti-Semitism, as well as acts of violence and terror in more recent years. Many Palestinians have experienced the loss of family homes and land, and are continually struggling for self-determination. They fear the violence of a militarized society and the realities of  living under occupation. All of the communities in the region have experienced loss, pain, and suffering.

It is thought Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, passed away before his ministry began. As a young man, Jesus would have grieved the death of his earthly father. He would have walked through that grief with his mother Mary and his siblings. Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist, was unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered by Herod Antipas. Jesus, being fully human, sought solitude and prayer to deal with the pain of this tragic loss (Matt 14:10,13). Jesus also loved a dear friend named Lazarus who became sick and died. Jesus was so deeply moved by the pain of this loss, that he wept openly with Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha (John 11: 33,35).

Having experienced suffering of his own, Jesus entered into the suffering of others who were also experiencing the messy emotions of grief. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus spent time in solitude, in which I imagine he wept and prayed. He then came to the crowd who had been following him: “He had compassion for them and cured their sick” (Matt. 14: 14). This response of compassion comes as a direct result of his grief. How are we, as his followers, called to love one another by bearing one another’s burdens? We weep with one another. We cry out to God with one another. We begin the process of healing with one another. We fervently cling to the hope that, “When the righteous cry out the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

As Christians, we desire to love people the way he did; this includes our Israeli and Palestinian neighbors. Part of loving people means grieving alongside those who have experienced devastating loss. It also means having compassion on those who are suffering, and entering into the healing process with them.

Dear God,

Thank you for being the great Comforter to your people. We often experience things in this world which leave us feeling alone, devastated, and angry. Thank you for desiring us to express these emotions to you, so that we might experience the healing which can only come from you. Teach us to weep with Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones due to the conflict. Comfort them in their insurmountable grief.

In your holy name, Amen.

For more in this series, visit our website.

Second Sunday of Lent: Jesus Was No Stranger to a Life of Poverty

Jesus Was No Stranger to a Life of Poverty

Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:20-21

Born in a cave to poor parents in the shepherding community of Bethlehem, Jesus was no stranger to a life of poverty. As an infant, his family fled to Egypt as refugees, trying to escape a genocide of the maniacal ruler, King Herod. Throughout his adult ministry, he had no home of his own. In a conversation with a would be follower, Jesus made his humble lifestyle clear: ​“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). ​All his life, Jesus was reliant upon God to provide.

With Jesus’ background, how would he encounter people living in Gaza today?​ If Jesus walked through the streets, it would be apparent much of the territory still lies in rubble from the 2014 war. Controlled borders limit access to supplies desperately needed to rebuild. Many families are still displaced, living in crowded shelters like refugees in their own cities. Simple necessities like electricity and water are limited and largely unavailable. Feelings of isolation, sadness, and abandonment are abundant in the hearts of these impoverished people.

Little girl in Gaza

Children have few safe places to go and end up playing in the streets. I imagine Jesus pausing in his walk, sitting down in the dirt, and playing a game with these kids (Matt. 19:14). Perhaps the family of one of the children would invite him into their home for tea, as an expression of hospitality deeply rooted in their culture. As Jesus enters their humble home, he might see the extended family who lives there. He might sit next to a young, widowed mother, who has had to move in with her brother and his family.

I imagine Jesus beginning a conversation with this woman, encouraging her to share her story with him. She might hesitantly share about the daily struggles to provide for her children since her husband was killed. But, something about the kindness in Jesus’ eyes would show her that he really cared. And somehow, simply talking about her burdens with this gentle man would make them seem less heavy in her heart (Matt. 11:28).

The conversation might turn to the outside world. She shares her dream of taking her children and leaving the “prison” that Gaza has become. The woman would express her feelings of isolation and ask, “Does the world even care?”

I think Jesus would thoughtfully remind her of how precious she is to God. He would lovingly tell her that God does not forget even one sparrow, and she is worth so much more to God than they are (Luke 12:6).  If God provides food for birds, how much more will God provide for her? ​“Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12: 22-23). Jesus would reassure her that God has counted every hair on her head and knows every detail of her life (Luke 12:7).

I think Jesus would show her that even though her beautiful family might be poor in eyes of the world, they are rich in God’s eyes. Their earthly poverty requires a daily dependence on God that the wealthy people of the world think they do not need. Blessed are they who are poor, hungry, sad and rejected now; their reward will be in heaven (Luke 6:20-23). After sitting with this family, hearing their stories, and probably sharing a meal, Jesus would quietly depart from their home with a blessing of peace. While their physical, social and economic situations may not have been altered, they feel a sense of peace. They know that the God who provides, the God who liberates, this God made flesh, loves and cares for them, and is in some way working all things together for their good (Romans 8:28).

Dear God,

You see the world in a different way. Those who are needy for you are actually rich in the blessing of your presence.  Be with the suffering people of Gaza. They feel forgotten by the world. Show your love by providing for all of their needs, day by day. And help the outside world to remember their plight and to show your kindness through acts of charity and love. Remind us that we are called to the task of caring for “the least of these,” in real and practical ways here and now.

In your holy name, Amen

For more in this series, visit our website.

If you are interested in learning more and responding practically to the current situation in Gaza, check out our Lights for Gaza campaign.

First Sunday of Lent: Jesus Was No Stranger To Obedience

Jesus Was No Stranger To Obedience


Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden

“Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then, love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark:12:29

Jesus was no stranger to obedience. The King of Kings came quietly at his Father’s request.  He lived among his broken and desperate people.  He loved them and served them, literally to his death… upon on a Roman cross. But through his resurrection, he left us with hope and faith to carry on in this troubled world. We know that evil will never have the final say. Ultimately, God’s goodness will conquer all.

Jesus desires obedience in the lives of his people. “If you love me you will obey my commands.” (John:14:15). And his commands can be summed up in two straightforward steps:  “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark:12:29)

Though Jesus lived his life under occupation, he sought not to reclaim the promised land from the Romans, but to forgive and bring forth the Kingdom of God. He did this in humble obedience- an obedience which yields compassion, forgiveness and humility.

IDF Ceremony in front of the Western Wall. Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

Today, I’d like to imagine what Jesus would say to a young, conscripted IDF soldier working at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem?  Maybe she just turned 18 and would rather be in college with her friends. But, she knows that this is part of the service required of her by law. She wants to serve her country, but may feel conflicted about the role the army plays in oppressing the Palestinian people. To refuse might bring public embarrassment to her family, time in jail for herself, and a future of restricted employment opportunities as an ongoing punishment for refusing to obey. She feels stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This young Israeli soldier might possibly be in the West Bank for the first time in her life.  There, she sees large, ominous red signs posted at the entrances to the Palestinian controlled territories, warning Israelis to keep out of this “dangerous” place. Because of horrible persecutions like the Holocaust and the rhetoric of surrounding Arab nations against the State of Israel, she has been taught all through her schooling that there is a need to defend her nation. She is told to fear the Arab nations surrounding them and the Palestinians who live among them. And above all, she is reminded to “never forget, and never again” let the atrocities of history happen against her people.

What would Jesus say to this young woman? I think Jesus would deeply admire her obedient heart; he would admire her for sacrificing her personal desires to do what is “right” for her country. But, he also would look beyond the tough exterior of her uniform and weapon. His penetrating and sympathetic gaze would see the honest fear deep within her soul.

I think Jesus would encourage the young girl to be a humble servant, first to her God and then to her government. He would remind her of God’s requirement of God’s people, written in the Torah, to  “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). He would model the kindness, respect, and dignity that should be extended to the Palestinians she meets each day during her work at the checkpoint. Ultimately, he would encourage her not to fear anyone because they can only harm her body, but not her soul. Her greater fear should be that of God who has eternal power over both. (Matt. 10:28)

What would Jesus say to us, as Christians? I believe that Jesus would urge us not only to look upon others with understanding, but to treat others with the same kindness and respect that he did. May we find humble obedience in our hearts and may that be the reflection we see in others.

Dear God,

We are all responsible for how we live our lives and how we treat others. Young soldiers serving in Israel are in positions of great authority. Please help them to serve God first, with obedient hearts and humble spirits.  Help them to use their positions to glorify God. May they treat the Palestinians they meet each day with kindness and give them the dignity they deserve.  We know they are all your children. May they prove that your goodness is still alive in the ugly and hard places of this occupation.

In your holy name we pray, Amen

For more in this series, visit our website.

Elli Atchison is the Ambassador of Donor Engagement at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Molly Lorden is the Church Engagement & Millennial Voices for Peace Intern at CMEP, and is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Ash Wednesday: Jesus Was No Stranger To Life Under Occupation

Jesus Was No Stranger

Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

The season of Lent is a time for solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance, leading up to Holy Week, when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried and resurrected. During this season, it is appropriate for us to reflect on places in today’s time where there is loss, poverty, and pain. Throughout his life, Jesus was closest to people who had succumbed to illnesses, were marginalized by society, and who were experiencing rejection and suffering. Throughout this Lenten season, we will be reprising our series, “Jesus Was No Stranger,” which seeks to look at some of those places in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. We will ask ourselves, “How would Jesus respond to some of the experiences of both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians today?”

Over the coming weeks we will offer reflections and prayers on the themes of:

Jesus was no stranger to . . .

. . . . life under occupation
. . . . obedience
. . . . a life of poverty
. . . . death and sorrow
. . . . the cry for justice
. . . . waiting
. . . . being misunderstood
. . . . humble service
. . . . persecution and pain
. . . . persistent hope

We will wrap up the series with “Thy Kingdom Come” on Pentecost Sunday.

Jesus was no stranger to Life Under Occupation

Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden

Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

Jesus was no stranger to life under occupation, and from the examples of his life, death and resurrection, we, as Christians, are called to respond to the political turmoil in the Holy Land. The historic Holy Land, Judea, had been under the occupation of the Roman Empire before Jesus was even born. In the time of Jesus, the Roman soldiers were everywhere in the land he lived and traveled. The Israelites were second class citizens in their own land, and forced to show respect to a Roman Emperor, in addition to their God. They were miserable in their lives and some were so moved to anger, the Zealots, that they violently fought for their freedom. Under this occupation, Jesus brought a visionary revolution. He came for a single purpose and he announced it publicly at the beginning of his ministry. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, his self proclaimed mission was to:

“proclaim good news to the poor,
proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
give sight to the blind,
set the oppressed free,
and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 
(Luke 4:35)

Jesus’ priority was not to reclaim the promised land from the fists of the Romans, but to forgive as he did not seek to redeem the temporal kingdom on Earth, but sought to reclaim the hearts of all people and establish the Kingdom of God. With this premise in mind,  I’d like to imagine what he would say to the people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories today, both of whom are suffering under unjust political policies that currently stifle the peace process.

As Christians, we seek to respond to political and societal turmoil the way Jesus did- with forgiveness, open hearts and goodness in our intent as we are called to be the voices for those who have been affected. This week, let’s take a walk with Jesus through the land and imagine some of the conversations that might take place with the people he would encounter today.  

Dear God,

As we enter into this season of Lent, remind us to spend time reflecting on those areas in our world where there is still loss, poverty, and pain. Help us to see the people on all sides of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict through your eyes, and to respond how you would respond. Break our hearts for what breaks yours. We pray the Holy Spirit will empower us to understand your Scripture, and to share your love with all people.   

In your holy name we pray, Amen

For more in this series visit our website.

Elli Atchison is the Ambassador of Donor Engagement at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Molly Lorden is the Church Engagement & Millennial Voices for Peace Intern at CMEP, and is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Loving The Other

By Molly Lorden

“Hatred stirs up strife,
 but love covers all offenses.”
 Proverbs 10:12

January 20, 2017 was an immense day of change for our country. For me, it carried additional significance, as it was also the day I returned from my first trip to the Holy Land. While experiencing the change of administration in our country, I am also processing a trip that changed my life. As I traveled in the land that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim holy, I had incredible opportunities. I visited various holy sites and learned more about the complexities of the conflict. My fellow seminarians and I also met with NGO’s and leaders committed to seeking peace.

As we sat on buses and listened to our guides share their wisdom, a common theme ran throughout the course of the trip. We heard about it as we met with peace organizations in Israel and the West Bank. We were reminded of this theme as we talked with each other about the things we had seen and encountered. The thread bringing Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims and Jews, and everyone else engaged in the peace movement together is the consistent desire to know “the other.” “The Other,” being the person from the other community, the other religion, or the other culture. Due to complex factors, the situation in Israel/Palestine creates insular communities who often do not interact with one another. The outcome is an “othering” of people outside of one’s community, causing fear and misunderstanding that can result in violence.

One organization, Parents’ Circle, a Forum of Bereaved Palestinian and Israeli Families for Peace and Reconciliation, does incredible work resisting this phenomenon of “othering.” Parents’ Circle consists of both Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones due to the conflict. Their grief, while heartbreaking and seemingly unbearable, has brought them together in an unexpected way. On our last morning in Israel, our group of tired and overwhelmed seminary students gathered in a room overlooking Bethlehem to hear the personal stories of Rami, and Israeli man, and Bassem, a Palestinian man, both of whom lost their daughters as a result of violence due to the conflict. These men have every reason to villainize each other, yet through their shared grief, they discovered their shared humanity. Rami said in the beginning of our time together, that Bassem was one of his closest friends, and that he loves him dearly because he understands his grief in a way that no other can.

Proverbs 10:12 reminds us that “hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” We cannot love each other without knowing each other, and loving each other paves the way to reconciliation and peace. While the wounds of losing a loved one never seem to fully heal, the shared love between these two men created a kind of soothing balm and allows them to work together for peace in their land.

Dear God,

We thank you for Parents Circle and the work they do. Thank you for the ways they bring people who have every reason to hate each other, together in love. Throughout Scripture, you tell us to love “the other.” Yet,how often do we even know “the other?” Lord, help us not to perpetuate the “othering” of people in our communities, both locally and globally. Instead, bring us together, just as Parents Circle does, so that we might be reconciled to one another in love.

In the name of Christ Jesus,

Amen

Later this month Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) will be hosting members of the Parents Circle and filming a webinar about their stories. The webinar will be available at a later date. If you are interested in hearing more about their incredible work, please contact us at info@cmep.org.

Just Vision: Films to Help Us See

What happens when local role models lead unarmed movements and demonstrate to the world what is possible when grassroots  leaders choose to act? This is the story that Just Vision seeks to share with audiences across the globe.

Through award-winning films, digital media, and public education campaigns, the team at Just Vision – led by internationally recognized filmmakers Julia Bacha and Suhad Babaa – brings attention to the under-documented stories of Israeli and Palestinian unarmed activists who are inspiring their communities to work together to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, and equality for all.

Over the last decade Just Vision has built a powerful platform and reached hundreds of thousands of people with their message. Their 5 films challenge the way many perceive protests and activism in the Holy Land, from the story of the unarmed movement in the village of Budrus to the Israeli and Palestinian activists in My Neighborhood and the nonviolent resistance during the First Intifada (The Wanted 18). The Boston Globe said of Budrus, “[This film] will single-handedly change how many people view the conflict.”

Beyond films, Just Vision’s website (http://www.justvision.org) contains interviews with grassroots leaders, the Budrus graphic novel, a list of organizations in the field, discussion guides, maps, event listings and more resources that provide numerous opportunities to learn about unarmed movements in the Holy Land.

“Nonviolent resistance is a more effective and constructive way of waging conflict,” Bacha told her audience at the 2016 TEDSummit. Thanks to the work of Just Vision, more and more people are coming to see this truth and gaining eyes to see the Palestinian and Israeli men, women, and children who are showing the way.

You can watch Just Vision’s films, find a screening near you, and much more at justvision.org.  

Dear God,

We thank you for the gifts of film and resources that serve to tell stories and increase awareness of the work you are doing in Israeli and Palestinian communities to foster nonviolent movements for peace. We thank you for the way that Just Vision’s team has used these gifts to share this message and change perspectives. But most of all, we thank you for the men, women, and children who are living lives of nonviolent resistance to the occupation. We ask that you would strengthen them and give them hope. May the work of Just Vision provide encouragement where it is needed and lift up those who seek to do Your will.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Musalaha

by Claire Stewart

“Reconciliation is something bigger than just people who hate each other and making them friends. It represents the heart of God.” – Yoel

At  the annual Musalaha Summer Camp, this statement rings true. Children play tag, paint pictures, compete in water games, and worship together. You would never guess that these children are breaking down cultural stereotypes and social barriers as they share meals and laugh with their cabin-mates. Each year, the camp brings together Israeli and Palestinian children to build friendships with the “other” as they  learn to build relationships founded on peace.  

Over 20 years ago, Salim J. Munayer founded the nonprofit Musalaha (which means reconciliation in Arabic). Out of a vision to see true peace between Palestinian and Israelis, he built an organization whose mission is to promote, advocate, and facilitate reconciliation based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Musalaha’s Philosophy of Reconciliation makes this clear: “It is our belief that Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundation of reconciliation, and that forgiveness and healing can only come through following His example and obeying His word.”

Today, an executive board of an equal number of Israelis and Palestinians leads Musalaha in the realization of Salim Munayer’s vision for peace through retreats, camps, conferences, training, and publications.

Efrat captures Musalaha’s mission well with these words:“I have made the decision to meet with [the other] and go on this path because it’s what Yeshua calls us to do. To be his disciples and take up our cross even though it’s not always easy.”

Musalaha’s reconciliation process begins with building relationships. They believe that it is only through face-to-face contact that believers in the Holy Land will begin to view one another as something more than a faceless adversary. Efrat explains: “I have learned through Musalaha to put myself in [the other’s] place … I realize that there is something more important than our differences.”

From Desert Encounter trips to interfaith Bridge Building programs with Jews, Christians, and Muslims to monthly women’s meetings, Musalaha brings Israeli and Palestinian men, women, and youth together to begin the process of breaking down biases, living at peace with each other (Romans 12:18), and using their new relationships as a foundation upon which to deal with issues of the conflict.  

Beyond building relationships, Musalaha trains participants in reconciliation and leadership. Scripture says, “God, who reconciled himself through Christ … gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Musalaha’s goal is not only to foster reconciliation between program participants, but also to create impact in communities across the Holy Land by training believers to be peacemakers and to spread the message of hope and love throughout the land. “However long the conflict continues, we need to carry on meeting,” said Zaire* in his testimony, “We need to influence the next generation.”

As an outside observer of the Holy Land, it can at times seem like there is no hope. It can appear that there are no Palestinians or Israelis working towards peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. Musalaha is a pillar of peace-building strength, spreading Christ’s love and showing the world that peace is possible.

You can learn more about Musalaha by signing up for their newsletter or by reading their Curriculum of Reconciliation and multiple books on reconciliation and the Holy Land.

*Zaire’s name has been changed for confidentiality.

 

Dear Jesus,

We thank you for Musalaha and praise you for the work they are doing in the Holy Land. We pray for the safety of participants who are involved in Musalaha’s programs—that they would find open hearts instead of resistance in their neighbors and family. We pray also for the Munayer family and the Musalaha staff as they seek to continue the ministry of reconciliation you have given them. Give the staff the strength to work in hard circumstances and the wisdom to look to you for guidance. We thank you for their desire to show your heart to the Holy Land.

In your holy name we pray,

Amen

 

Another Voice

by Elli Atchison

The summer of 2014 was an ugly one in Israel and Palestine.  The media was filled with reports of a war that devastated Gaza and filled Israel and the West Bank with anxiety and fear.  But, out of this tragedy something beautiful began.  Like a desert flower that blooms in the harshest conditions of nature, a brave group of  Israeli and Palestinian women united to raise their voices and share their perspectives about daily life in the region.  

another voiceAnother Voice is a powerful blog written by eight Palestinian Christian and Messianic Jewish women.  To protect themselves and their families, they write anonymously.  But, despite a political structure that would have them be enemies, these “sisters in Christ” choose to pursue peace together.  They share a common belief in Jesus, as well as the struggle to live amidst conflict on a daily basis.

Both sets of women felt a need to challenge the negative attitudes surrounding them.  The Israeli women were tired of hearing about their government’s excuses for violence and lack of mercy.  The Palestinian women were also weary of the hopelessness and despair that overwhelmed their people.  Together they united to write about their lives, detailing the common struggles and joys of life on both sides of the conflict.

Followers of Another Voice find a new post in their inbox almost weekly.  The topics covered range from serious thoughts on the latest current events to lighthearted posts about food and cultural traditions.  The women don’t always agree on politics or theology, but they do share a deep mutual respect that encourages their comradery and efforts to speak out.  

Reading the blog is a delight.  It is like being welcomed into the homes of these insightful women.   Followers feel as though they are  sitting down to a warm cup of coffee and catching up on life with a good friend.   These writings bring heart and soul to the often sterile and negative,  traditional media reports from the region.  

And these eight women are being blessed through their efforts as well.  One contributor, “Bee”, beautifully describes how this successful project is changing them,

“Once we establish even one relationship with one of our enemies, then we learn to love who they are- as human beings with their own life story.  Once we have had this experience, it becomes hard to ignore the responsibility of caring for them.”

You can join in their journey to peace by subscribing to Another Voice here: http://www.anothervoice.info

 

Dear Jesus,

Your word reminds us that peacekeepers will be blessed.  Thank you for the ways Another Voice is unified in You.  We pray that You will bless the lives and efforts of these women.  Keep hope alive in their hearts, despite the obstacles in their daily lives.  Help them to continue to speak bravely in love for You and each other.  And, may their united voices inspire the world to   to pursue the paths of friendship and peace as well.  

In your holy name we pray,

Amen

 

Consider It All Joy

by Elli Atchison

Peter and Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, March 2016

Peter and Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, March 2016

Peter is special…. and it shows. This young man from Bethlehem has a twinkle in his eyes and a magnetic smile that draws a stranger in close.  Life has been challenging for him as Peter was born with hearing impairments that made learning difficult. This would ordinarily put him in a segment of Palestinian society that is marginalized and cast aside.

However, despite his inability to communicate with words, Peter is outgoing and makes friends easily.  He is a talented artist and an accomplished olive wood carver. Peter thanks the Joy School for giving him the opportunity to learn and develop these skills.

The Joy School in Shepherd’s Field enrolls about fifty students. It is a ministry of the Catholic diocese in Bethlehem and run by a priest named Father Mamdouh. Its mission is to serve the community’s special needs youth by providing a variety of learning experiences. Students are taught basic academics as well as traditional skills like olive wood carving and embroidery techniques. According to Father Mamdouh, there is a long waiting list of children that would also like to attend the school. Many Palestinians feel that a serious stigma applies to having a child with disability and that, as a result, children with disabilities, especially girls, are hidden at home. These children often feel isolated and do not have the opportunity to receive an education. The Joy School would love to accept many more children with special needs, but are limited at this point due to funding.

At the Joy School, students are growing in knowledge, ability, and confidence. They create beautiful crafts that generate needed income for their families. But, more importantly, their efforts help to build their own self-worth.  And, that is a quality that is far more precious than any amount of money!  In Peter’s words, “I am happy in this school. I learned a profession. I am earning money, helping my mother and also taking some money for me.” He smiled, “I want to stay in the school!”

The Joy School would love to host a summer camp for children with disabilities. They need resources, money, and volunteers who can help. Does your church or organization have a heard for children with special needs? Can you help with financial gifts, prayers, or volunteers?  Contact Mae Elise Cannon for more information on how you can be involved in bringing Joy to children with disabilities in Palestine.

Dear Jesus,

You see the inherent value of each individual.  In Your eyes, we are all unique and gifted, born with a special purpose and something to share (Jer. 29:11).  Thank You for places like the Joy School that are Your hands and feet in this world today.  Thank You for the teachers and staff that model Your love through helping others improve their lives.  May we too be sources of joy in the lives of those around us by walking along side of them in their personal challenges and giving them hope for a brighter future (1 Thes. 5:11).   And finally, thank You for the inspiration we receive from Peter.  Help us to find contentment in our circumstances, whatever they may be (Phil. 4:11).  Remind us to live with a smile and positive spirit that expresses gratitude for the many blessings You provide.

Amen

Editor’s Note: A version of this prayer was originally published here February 2015

 

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