To both Israelis and Palestinians, the current conflict in Gaza has
brought nothing but pain and suffering. It has also caused friction
among some believers as they choose to pledge sole allegiance to their
own people group. Some are even expressing an unabashed hatred for the
other side through articles, e-mails and graphic content on Facebook.
>From the Israeli point of view they pulled out of the Gaza Strip in the
name of peace and an Islamic regime took over. Israel's justification
for going to war was to protect its citizens against Hamas launching
rockets on the communities in the Negev. Soldiers continue to mobilize
along the Gaza border as they prepare to defend their people and country
against terror. They claim that others would have acted more quickly and
aggressively. Their reasoning is that it is necessary to attack now
before Hamas has longer-range missiles.
The Palestinians claim that though Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2006,
the army is still controlling the borders making it the biggest open-air
prison in the world. In the last 18-months, 1.5 million Palestinians
have been under siege and were prevented from receiving sufficient
water, medical aid and food supply. For the Palestinians, Israel's
withdrawal from Gaza was just an excuse to expand their control in the
West Bank and build further settlements. The Palestinians also believe
they have a right to self-defense. For them, the Israeli reaction is
disproportionate. The number of Israelis killed cannot be compared to
the hundreds of Palestinians killed.
Each player in the conflict places the full responsibility of the cycle
of violence on the other side. There is a general unwillingness to enter
into peace talks on ideological or political grounds. For example,
Israel will say Hamas is an ideological religious organization that
doesn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians, on the other
hand, say the Palestinian Authority has entered into concessions and
nothing substantial has evolved; all that increased were settlements and
So, what is our role as believers in this situation? How can we be a
model of Messiah as we move forward in the reconciliation process? Are
we too busy challenging the moral and ethical position of the other side
that we are unwilling to take responsibility? Because our societies have
chosen war and violence, there is a great need for reconciliation. We
can accomplish this through taking on a priestly role of intercessor and
prophetic role of speaking the truth.
While the conflict has divided some believers, there are those taking a
stand and fulfilling their priestly role. I was greatly encouraged last
week to hear a Messianic pastor lead his congregation in a prayer of
repentance, especially emphasizing that in a time of war, repentance is
necessary from both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We must begin by
examining our own sins, failures and shortcomings and seek God's
forgiveness and direction.
Applying Joel 2, he read, "Return to me with all your heart, with
fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate, slow
to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity"
(Joel 2:12-13). God desires us to grieve from within and turn our hearts
back towards him. As we as believers intercede on behalf of the people
in our societies we need to invoke the nature of God and beg for his
mercy and compassion to fall upon us because we have sinned before him.
We must also cry out for God's mercy and compassion to fall upon the
In time of war we are also called to take on a prophetic role. The
prophet was a representative of God who brought a message primarily to
effect social change. The prophet spoke the truth and reminded us to
care for the widow, orphan and stranger. When speaking the prophetic
word, we need to be blunt without any hidden messages, and we need to
have the courage to speak out when our people are wrong. In the
prophetic role we are reminded that we must not only speak out against
the injustice which has been committed against our own people, but also
against others. We have a duty to speak out against the misuse of power
and the blood of the innocent shed whether it is Israeli or Palestinian.
The world views war as war. Some will say, "in war the innocent also die
and we cannot help it." My son was greatly distressed when his friend
told him exactly this. I shared with him that in war we need to speak up
for the innocent. We cannot justify the act of killing innocent people
and say it was in self-defense. Yet, we cannot justify killing someone
with a weapon just because they're holding a weapon. Even killing in war
for self-defense should be taken with caution and reverence. The enemy
carrying the weapon is also a person who has also been created in the
image of God. Especially in a time of war we need to speak louder and
clearer against the misuse of power by our governments and their
justification of power and violence. War doesn't mean giving a free hand
without any moral and ethical boundaries and limitations.
So, while we are in the midst of war, we need to honestly seek the will
of God and be discerning. We must become intercessors for our nation,
our leaders and the other side and ask God to pour out his mercy and
compassion. We must also become the prophet and convey that message of
injustice happening in our societies. We need to attempt to relieve the
pain of the innocent even if we feel our side's reasoning for war is
justified. Instead of pointing the finger, let us look within ourselves
and repent. Then let us look at the other side with compassion and love,
with a love that transcends societal boundaries, rocket fire and
Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D.
Director of Musalaha
Thursday, January 08, 2009
View from Gaza Christian on War
I received this from a family member, who received by email, written by Salim Munayer who is a Palestinian Christian living in Bethlehem. Dr. Munayer (PhD FullerTheological Seminary) is on the faculty of Bethlehem Bible College and is the Executive Director of Musalaha - a ministry committed to reconciling Jews and Palestinians.