The one thing that was impossible to ignore was the animosity between the different religious and cultural groups in Israel. The Israeli population is approximately 77% Jewish, 18% Muslim, and 2% Christian. The remaining 3% are Druze and other religious groups. While we traveled and listened to the "ordinary" people of the country we heard lots of hatred from all of the groups toward the others. I have long devoted some of my prayer time to praying for peace in Israel. Unfortunately, my visit there nearly sapped all of the hope for peace out of me.
So what do we do? How are we supposed to involve ourselves in all of this hatred, violence and unrest? I read an article in Relevant Magazine recently that addressed this very issue. The author, after interviewing those working for peace in the area, concluded that there are two things we in the west can do.
- Pray and work for peace. Continue to pray that through the power of faith, hope and love a new era of peace can descend on Israel. Although the possibility of this seems remote, if we are believers in God's providence we know our prayers can be effective.
- Don't take sides. Those interviewed in the article asked us (especially Americans) to avoid supporting either side in the conflicts. In this way we are open to praying for all sides and all persons involved and intercede for everyone instead of our 'favorite'.
The article is long but it is worth reading. Click here to find it.
The United States typically supports the Israeli government in any and all conflicts. While our government officials may have their own political motives for this, we as individuals can choose to work for peace for all. We are still a Christian country (by majority) and almost every Christian in Israel is a Palestinian. They need our prayers and support, too.
Remember, Jesus Christ brought the issue of nonviolence and peacemaking to a pinnacle in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7). He shows by the example of His life, and especially by the example of His passion and death, that nonviolence and peace are the path of the Christian disciple.
As you listen to the news and read the papers keep Jesus' words in mind from the Beatitudes: Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be called children of God.