Tell the story

My post on May 2, "Some stories from the city of David," and this entry spring from the same set of experiences. I'd just heard Bishara Awad speak about how the worldwide church needs to stand with Palestinian Christians and I felt convicted to use my platform to speak to the MB church in Canada. Is it overly grandiose, I asked myself, feeling the answer was likely yes -- and no -- to believe that I might be on the study tour, one last application slipped in after the closing date, "for such a time as this"? How can I not do my part in showing concern and solidarity with Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ by taking their struggle to my captive audience?

In the time that has passed, I have actually done so, with much procrastination, trepidation, and early morning writing (you'll find my "Viewpoint" in the July Herald). But Awad's presentation raised other questions that weren't so inspiring. To what degree should the West take responsibility for luring the best and brightest from the rest of the world to strengthen our own endeavours? The top universities, major companies, and Western-headed NGOs attract the brightest minds and greatest talents from all over the world, mostly to the benefit of ourselves in North America and Europe -- then we turn around and tsk-tsk the "poor African countries" for their poor leadership and their failed or struggling institutions. Is this all just "the way the cookie crumbles" or does the West have something to answer to? The positive side of the equation is the training schools that have sprung up to provide training locally, so those eager and inquiring minds don't have to leave, risking permanent exile, whether self-imposed or otherwise. To the extent that some of the latter would not be accomplished without the former, the pressure is good.

Awad, of course, has done exactly that. He started Bethlehem Bible College to stem the tide of Palestinian Christians who were leaving the West Bank to study, and never returning. He spoke with evangelistic fervour and a heart to dialogue with Muslims. As with everyone we had met so far on the tour, I was humbled by the lack of rancour or bitterness these gracious and positive people displayed, despite very intractable opinions against their very existence in their ancestral home.

As long as I naively believed that Israelis didn't want to see Palestinians eradicated, only prevented from threatening their (Israeli) safety, I had sympathy (and some cautious reservations) about the erection of the wall and other such "defensive" actions. But when every story I heard and every sight I saw pointed to an intentional program of humiliation, demoralization, and apathy -- even malice -- toward Palestinian lives, that willingness to offer the state government the benefit of the doubt became illusive.

With that growing sympathy, it was a blessing to share communion with the Lutheran congregation in Bethlehem. Communion is a ritual for which I have developed an inexplicable dread, so I initially greeted with a sinking heart the realization that the Lord's supper would most certainly be celebrated at this 150th anniversary service at a liturgical church. I quickly realized, however, that this was a way to show solidarity with the Christians in Bethlehem, and found joy and a spirit of worship to celebrate the sacred ordinance with them.

That's gotten quite far from the intellectual sheep-stealing with which this post began, but it does all converge in the sharing of common humanity. Surprising, isn't it, that a brief glimpse of such a tragically conflict-ridden area of the world and the heartache and human suffering on all sides of the story within should leave me such an optimist!


Amy said…
You make some interesting points. I would like to know, why does communion fill you up with dread? (i suppose your description of it as 'inexplicable' should deter me from expecting and explanation, but I'll ignore that and ask it anyway).


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