Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hey Guys, Apparently I'm Going to Hell.

Life is insane right now. Seriously CRAZY. I'm busy preparing for the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference being put on next week by the Bethlehem Bible College, and the pushback we're getting is ridiculous. This is our second international conference, and we currently have around 500 people registered to attend. Our basic mission statement is that we aim "to provide an opportunity for Evangelical Christians to prayerfully seek a proper awareness of issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation in the context of the realities on the ground in the Palestinian Territories." 

Our goal is to begin a dialogue about the roll of the church in this conflict. We will have many different speakers, from well known Americans such as Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, to British Reverend Steven Sizer, to Messianic Jews, Palestinians, and many others. We have a range of people attending, from very conservative to very liberal. We have Zionists attending and speaking. We hope to have a full range of opinions and beliefs present, so that we can have a truly open discussion about the issues surrounding peace and justice in Palestine.

Unfortunately, for the last few months, we have been drowning in hate mail. While we have an incredible number of people excited and supportive of the conference, we also have people who have ignorantly believed the awful articles likening us to Nazis and terrorists. My heart breaks every time I read a new article saying that we are evil and that there's a special circle of hell dedicated to people like us. I'm going to hell? For believing in reconciliation? For loving people who are the "wrong" nationality? For working toward justice for all of God's people? I don't think so; I know my Lord better than that. Obviously someone important is getting nervous, because the Israeli authorities have pulled my Palestinian bosses into meetings with the Israeli military twice now.

The craziest thing I've read so far came from The Jerusalem Post. Not only were we slandered, but our ideology and beliefs were completely twisted into something hatefilled and evil, and completely misrepresented. My favorite quote from this article is "Also presenting is Porter Speakman, Jr., who produced the horridly biased and widely viewed film, With God On Our Side, that urges Christians not to assist the Israeli brutalizing of Palestinians through the support of Christian Zionism." Why yes. I WOULD agree that we urge Christians not to brutalize Palestinians. What is wrong with urging Christians to avoid the brutalization of a people? How could anyone possibly argue that brutalizing Palestinians is an okay thing for anyone, especially a follower of Jesus Christ, to do?

The conference begins next Monday, and life will be chaotic until then.

In an effort to relax this evening, I went out to dinner with a dear friend here in Palestine, a British journalist named Emily, to a little bar in Beit Sahour, a village neighboring Bethlehem. It was POURING rain (as it has been for the last few days), and so when we were finished, we decided to have the bartender (who coincidentally is a good friend of Emily's) call us a cab instead of walking.

As we're headed back to our homes - she lives in Aida Camp, the refugee camp near my host family's house - the driver turns on his CD player, and on comes this guy rapping about ending the occupation in Palestine. I immediately googled the lyrics upon returning home. Turns out, the song was "End the Occupation" by Abu Nurah. His bio says "The son of Mexican immigrants, Abu Nurah grew up in Los Angeles' notorious Pico-Union neighborhood and went on to graduate Cum Laude from Harvard." Sounds like a pretty cool guy.

I felt like the first two verses were so powerful, and so I decided to copy them for you all:

It's essential for a people to govern their own affairs
and return to the land of which they're rightful heirs;
Living in exile is like life suspended
for people back home the misery never ended;
Those who resist are accused of terrorism
for refusing to accept conditions worse than a prison;

To the world, much of the suffering is invisible
mountains of evidence held to be inadmissible;
Occupations dehumanize populations
their strongest supporters are the world's wealthy nations.

It's the women and children who suffer most from occupation
their stories should be broadcast on every U.S. station;
Maybe then the people would push the administration
to suspend the billions we give the Israeli nation;
And maybe one day mothers could breathe a sigh of relief
and their hearts begin to heal from the decades of grief;
Enough of roadmaps and Israel's iron fist
the immoral state of affairs must cease to exist;
How do you explain a 3-year-old shot in the head
or an 80-year-old being crushed to death in his bed;
Bishop Tutu has said that Palestine is a replica
of what Blacks had to endure in apartheid South Africa;
Many see the connection, others choose to ignore it

they say no to divestment but back then they were for it.

If I could ask for anything from you over this next week, it would be for prayer. Pray for this conference, that God would use it to help bring about peace and reconciliation in the region. Pray for all of those attending, that they would be able to make it through the border without being stopped or turned away. Pray for the Israeli government and those making important decisions. Pray for the Palestinian government in both the West Bank and Gaza, that they will stay strong and non-violent in their quest for freedom. Pray for me; sometimes I feel like my heart is just going to shatter from all of the tragedy here - pray for strength and stability.

I probably won't be writing until March 9th, when the conference is over (since I'll be there from 5am-10pm every day). So until then, dear ones, have lovely days!

1 comment:

  1. keep your head up... what you are doing is amazing. Sadly people in America could careless about other people...