I’m not really a Facebook person. I accept all friend requests and my tweets show up on my Facebook page, but that’s about it. A few weeks ago, I tweeted a link to an article about interfaith relationships. In a comment on my Facebook page, an unknown friend demonized all members of a particular faith and described me as a heretic who is leading good Christians astray by refusing to denounce the people he felt Jesus would surely denounce. I was traveling and didn’t have time to respond to his comments, and I eventually unfriended him. I felt a little guilty doing that without engaging in dialogue, but I didn’t have time for it and I didn’t like seeing hateful comments on my Facebook page.
The day after I hit the unfriend button, I attended a conference at Georgetown University called Evangelicals for Peace (EFP). Immediately, I found myself among friends, united not by Facebook but by calling. Rick Love, president of Peace Catalyst, convened the gathering which was attended by scholars, pastors, missionaries, development workers, activists, one politician, and a few people like me, who, after meandering through various forms of ministry have found ourselves at work among people trapped in the tragedy of ongoing violence.
The timing of the conference fell midpoint between a heart-breaking trip I’d taken to the Democratic Republic of Congo—where nearly 6 million people have died in the deadliest conflict since World War 2—and an extended trip to the Holy Land, where Jews and Arabs have suffered on opposite sides of conflict for over six decades.
I’m currently at the very beginning of that extended trip to the Holy Land. I’m writing this blog from Bethlehem where I’m visiting with old friends and meeting new ones. They’re all people committed to dialogue, empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation. And they’re all people working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Sadly, people like these are often attacked by those on both sides who’d rather nurse anger and division than commit to the hard work of love. One reason I keep coming back here is to encourage these peacemakers, sometimes by telling their stories publically, sometimes simply by listening in one-on-one conversations. Either way, I am inspired, humbled and transformed as I am invited into their heartaches and their hopes.
During the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about my encounters with people in the Holy Land as I move from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Haifa to Nazareth and back again. If you join me for the journey, I guarantee you’ll meet some amazing people.
And, if you followed my Congo trip, you’ll be happy to know that this very week some of my colleagues are sharing our stories and our hope for Congo with people in very high places—people who could advocate powerfully for our dear Congolese friends. Please pray that the right people will hear the right stories and take the right actions!