A New Conversation in the Holy Land

By Lynne Hybels 02-13-2009

A year ago I became haunted by the notion that Christians, Muslims, and Jews are going to blow up the world unless we learn to get along. I wished -- well, actually, I prayed -- that I might become part of a new kind of conversation that seeks peace and understanding between these diverse cultural and faith communities. I had no idea how to enter that conversation, but within months I was in Amman, Jordan, learning from Arab Christians -- and a few Americans and Europeans -- who were already engaged in the conversation.

The gathering in Amman was convened by Leonard Rodgers, who has been a recent contributor to God's Politics because of his transport of medical supplies into Gaza and his plea for the release of his friend, Philip Rizk, who had been kidnapped by Egyptian police for demonstrating on behalf of the Gazans. Leonard became my newest hero when at the height of the war in Gaza, he e-mailed 87 "friends of his ministry," saying he could not just sit and wring his hands about the plight of the Gazans; he had to do something. He asked for financial support and prayer as he attempted to move needed supplies into Gaza. Leonard Rodgers is not a young man. The six-day trip took its toll on him -- physically, of course, but emotionally and spiritually, too. While Len has brought help and hope to suffering people in the Middle East for decades, part of the price he pays is the ever-increasing weight of the acts of violence he has seen.

Last week I spent two days in Washington, D.C., in meetings with Len and his friends from the Middle East. I talked with a former high-level jihadist, now a devout "Muslim follower of Jesus." I met with a wealthy Saudi businessman, whose drug-addicted son was "rescued" by a Christian from Colorado who pointed him to Jesus. I sat in a gathering of Palestinians who expressed guarded hope that President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and envoy George Mitchell may take steps toward a more just relationship between Israel and Palestine. I talked at length with Sami Awad, founder of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian nonprofit committed to nonviolent resistance and peace. Sami's closest circles of friends and co-workers include Palestinian Christians and Muslims, as well as Israeli Jews. With Sami, a passionate follower of Jesus, I found the conversation I was looking for, a conversation grounded in humility, respect, compassion, and inner strength.

Weeks ago I e-mailed hundreds of friends requesting prayer for Leonard Rodgers as he traveled to Gaza. Today I broaden that prayer request on behalf of Len, Sami Awad, and all those who speak and work and sacrifice for peace in Palestine and Israel. Would you join me in praying daily for that peace?

Lynne Hybels is the advocate for global engagement at Willow Creek Community Church and author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World.

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