Carrying the conflict…in us

“I realized, I carried the conflict in me,” Dr. Salim Munayer

Dr. Salim Munayer, Bethlehem Bible College

Dr. Salim Munayer, Bethlehem Bible College

One weekend, a dozen years ago,Christian theology professor Dr. Sallim Munayer, a Jewish friend, and a dozen other Jews and Christians trekked to the desert. They went with tension, conflict and distrust. The second intifada had just ended leaving more dead, distrust and hatred from Palestinians and Jewish Israelis.  While the group harbored a desire for common ground they were realistic enough to realize that they may have reached an impasse.

Up to now, grievance had been met with grievance; both sides felt attacked, vulnerable and angry. There was fear and disgust on both sides. Yet Christians and Jews traveled to the quiet of this common space of sand – they fixed a meal together that night and when the groups retired – the Palestinian Christians to one side, the Israeli Jews to the other – Salim and his Jewish counterpart slept in the center courtyard, (“with one eye open”).

“The quietness of the desert reveals the hatred in our own hearts,” Salim told us this afternoon, as our group gathered in the offices of Holy Land Trust in central Bethlehem. In the desert each person was able to see how much animosity they carried for the other – and importantly, that they only way forward was to forge some sort of future together.

“The future of the Jewish people is how they treat their enemies (the Palestinian) and the future of the Palestinians is how they treat their enemies (the Jews).” 

That comment pulled me up short. How would I do on the “enemy treatment measurement”?   I can dismiss others for things as lowly as an indifferent remark or a lack of respect, and I wouldn’t even call them my enemy. 

Again I realize that peace making is a completely different animal than peace keeping. One suggests a kind of bland boundary setting, a cessation of violence and a vague tolerance of the other whereas peace making means the willingness to do the things that make for peace.

That has to involve serious vulnerability, risk and an openness to see “the conflict we carry in our own hearts.”  Perhaps that’s why Jesus forces this point so strongly, even implying that we will be forgiven in the same way we extend forgiveness to others. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

Yikes. I’ve got some work to do. Maybe you do too.

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