As Jerusalem makes headline news across the world today, as so often is the case, my mind turned to a letter written by a friend a couple of years ago. At the time, with his permission, I posted it on the Mentone Baptist Church blog. Again with his permission I’m publishing the letter here, because it brings to the fore an often forgotten group of people who are living in that most beautiful yet tumultuous land. His letter doesn’t concern Jerusalem per se, but it does bring a nuance, and timely theological reflection, to a context which is too often misunderstood in binary ways. It was written in 2014.
Editor’s note: due to the sensitivity of the issues I have withheld the author’s name. It is written by a Christian friend from Palestine who now lives in Melbourne. I am publishing, with their consent, part of an email correspondence from last week that came about after I learnt that members of their family have been killed in Gaza in recent days.
“It is a sad reality…our loss is for my dad’s cousin, and 2 of my second cousins. My dad is somewhat bitter about the events dominating the land since 1948 and the gradual ethnic cleansing since, and his family (and my mothers) experienced much sorrow seeing Christians flee – taking with them the true heritage of the land.
Over the years, we have experienced losses that are hard to understand. Another of my first cousins was shot in the hip, though is alive, and cannot walk around properly. He has 2 daughters that he struggles to feed because he cannot work. Therefore my dad and I have supported him somewhat – including his extended family. This particular incident happened a few years ago in the previous incursion. He’s a believer and knows that the Lord has a plan – but he struggles. They live day by day. His daughter, my niece, did not really know that bananas were yellow, because she had never seen one in real life. Another of my cousins died late last year because he was unable to obtain medical treatment, and he was my age, and had 3 children. The family is in great pain knowing that he may have been saved, but was not.
In Australia and much of the west it is very easy to take essential provisions for granted. Food, water, warmth, basic amenities, and the freedom to worship as a Church or body of Christian believers. Such rights as voting, police protection, medical and health cover, or a simple roof over your head do not exist to many in Palestine. Freedom to move around from suburb to suburb within the nation do not exist. There is no right to external travel, and no right of return.
We pray for Christians to be strengthened during this time. We pray that they will not lose hope, and that they will not blame God, or Christ for the suffering and anguish they endure at the hand of politics, greed and selfishness – the inherent heart of man! I know they have not got the answers they so desperately seek and they yearn for understanding and adequate explanation. It is most undoubtedly a difficult time for them (and us being somewhat helpless here), and it seems like there is no real end in sight. Every day passes by without offering a hint of improvement. Another day of this life passes by and it cannot ever be reversed. I know that this eats away at them because they feel they cannot even enjoy the simplest of lives with their children and families. Uncertainty and persecution is everywhere. Many fall in despair and suggest God is only a God of the Jews, and hater of the Palestinians. They consider God hated Ishmael – whereas instead God saved him in the wilderness, and blessed him bringing into his line 12 princes. The pain distorts their view on God’s true love and equitable justice. God is not the racist they often time feel He is portrayed as.
So we do sincerely appreciate your prayer, and love in action. Nothing else helps. Earnest and fervent petition to our Lord to hear the voice of His people (Christians), whom He loves. To incline His ear and see their affliction, and turn and answer them and heal their pain – bringing them closer to Himself. And while doing so, to bring many more others to His Name that were once lost that they too may worship the One True God. Selah. Amen.
As believers, we know that Jews can’t bring true peace. Muslims can’t bring true peace. But the Lord of the Bible can.
I pray this is the Lord’s will for that land. But I fear more trouble comes first.”