BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (May 18, 2018) – The violence that has erupted between Israel and Palestinians in recent weeks underscores the importance for the ECC to establish and strengthen partnerships with organizations committed to peacemaking, said Jeff Anderson, coordinator for the Middle East North Africa region (MENA) of Serve Globally.
“I believe that part of our role is to invite our ECC community to move away from the ‘us and them,’ winners and losers approach to see the call to Romans 12:15 living where we rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn,” Anderson said.
“I think it starts with our belief that we are called to partner with local ministries in the MENA region to see the love of Christ transform individuals and communities,” Anderson added. “Part of partnering is not merely coming alongside each other financially but also coming alongside in prayer. Each person on our team has reached out to folks that we have a relationship with—usually through ministry—to let them know that they are remembered, and we are praying for them and the situation on the ground.”
The situation on the ground has included clashes between small groups of Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces. MENA team member Andrew Larsen observed and photographed some of the conflict over several days. At one point, a rubber bullet fired by Israel Defense Force troops snapped past his head.
Mercy Aiken, a member of Quest Covenant Church in Seattle, has been volunteering for several months at Bethlehem Bible College as she has done over the past several years. She said that at one point, tear gas wafted through the window of her apartment at the school. “Our college is situated on the road where most of the clashes happen and thus I’m given a front row seat on the events,” she said.
She has been angered by what she calls heavy-handed responses to small gatherings that then turn contentious and violent. “I’ve seen tear gas rain down on old people and children as they marched with music and flowers and red PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine)
Several representatives from the Covenant as well as students from North Park Theological Seminary are scheduled to attend the Christ at the Checkpoint conference to be held May 28 – June 1.
Despite the confrontations, Larsen said life has generally been calm in the West Bank, and he echoes news reports that tourism and other activities continue as normal. “I feel safer on the streets of any city in Israel and Palestine than any standard US city,” Larsen wrote on Facebook. “(My wife) Cari and I walk the streets all the time, and at all hours and are only greeted with kind hospitality.”
Aiken asked that Christians remember to pray for peace in the region. “Most of all, please pray for everyone here in this land, whether Muslim, Christian, or Jew,” she wrote.