Hope for the Holy Land

By Lynne Hybels 09-02-2010

100902-hopeforholylandTwo years ago, as I listened to the escalating rhetoric of hate in the international media, I became haunted by the thought that Christians, Muslims, and Jews are going to blow up the world. I was passionately engaged in AIDS-related ministry in sub-Saharan Africa, yet I couldn't shake a growing concern about the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that ripples in waves of hostility throughout the world.

After six trips in eighteen months to the Middle East my concern has become personal, connected to individual names and faces, to specific places and heartbreaking stories. My heart has been broken by the pain suffered by both Jews and Arabs. I've been overwhelmed by the complex politics of the region, and disheartened to see theology used to fuel the conflict. I've read and studied and pondered. I've spent sleepless nights praying for peace.

And I have wondered: After decades marked by cycles of brutal violence, is peace between Israelis and Palestinians possible? Is there any hope that Christians, Muslims, and Jews can work together for peace?

A new film called Little Town of Bethlehem tells the true stories of three young men -- a Palestinian Christian, a Palestinian Muslim, and an Israeli Jew -- who have committed their lives to pursuing a nonviolent solution to this conflict. The film isn't about taking sides or assessing blame; at premiere screenings, Israeli and Palestinian audiences expressed appreciation for its lack of bias. Filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, the film is about equality, courage, and hope.

During my recent travels I've been blessed to become friends with one of the men featured in the film, Palestinian Christian Sami Awad. A committed follower of Jesus, Sami has been a leader in the growing nonviolent movement in the Middle East. Though the movement rarely, if ever, makes international headlines, I am convinced that it pleases the heart of God. I think every American -- certainly every Christian -- should watch this film!

Little Town of Bethlehem will be screened on major college campuses this fall. The three men featured in the film -- Sami, Ahmad, and Yonatan -- along with the film producer and director, will tour with the film, interacting with audiences after each showing.

For anyone who seeks a greater understanding of the Middle East conflict, for anyone who appreciates true stories of living heroes, or for anyone who cares about peace, this is a "don't miss" film!

Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, is author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World. In the Chicago area, the film will be shown on Monday, September 27, 6-9 p.m., at DePaul University, Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont St., Chicago Lincoln Park Campus. The evening is open to the public at no charge. Check for additional information, the film trailer, and a complete list of screenings in the U.S. and U.K.

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