Musalaha-A Ministry of Reconciliation
Dear Friends and Partners,
As part of youth leadership training, we conducted a follow-up for our Israeli and Palestinian summer camp counselors at the beginning of last month. We had a great turn-out despite it being the holidays here. Maintaining relationships among these young leaders is vital as we aim to see reconciliation in this land. We are also excited to announce that we will begin working with the Israeli youth ministry of Katsir beginning in November, where we will be training 30 Israeli youth leaders.
Our new women's group that was formed last spring will be meeting to study together the stages of reconciliation, an integral topic as they venture out on this long journey of reconciliation. Pray that God would use this time to strengthen the relationships they’ve established and guide them together as they continue in the reconciliation process. On November 25-26, our national women's conference will be taking place at Talitha Kumi where these women will be delving into the serious topic of forgiveness. Pray that they would come with open hearts and open minds and that healing would take place. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our ministry of reconciliation, we have discovered the centrality of historical narrative in the conflict. The stories of our people, who we are and what we have been through, define us, and many times fuel the conflict between us as well. We constantly appeal to our narrative and rely on it for legitimization while sometimes wielding it as a weapon against those who have an opposing narrative. We recently saw this element of our conflict displayed before the leaders of the world at the end of September when Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas presented their cases at the United Nations and talked past each other, consciously excluding the other in their self-representation and recounting of their respective hope for peace. We encounter this same sort of rhetoric in our work, and participants in our reconciliation encounters echo the same sentiments when discussing history and narrative, particularly in the context of identity. Usually in the second stage of reconciliation, the “Opening Up” stage, participants find their identity challenged as they begin to share about their lives and the conflict, and all of a sudden realize that the other side also claims the title of hero and victim, making themselves the default antagonist and aggressor. Hearing this challenges one’s own narrative and begins a process of soul searching and reflection. Identity plays an important role in subsequent stages three and four, the “Withdrawal” and “Reclaiming Identity” stages.
While narrative includes accurate information, it is internally focused, often contains half-truths, and when the other side is addressed, it is morally excluded and devalued. Narrative itself is not negative; it provides identity and legitimacy to people and helps bring groups of people together. However, it is also selective and resistant to new information. Because historical narrative is so important and fuels the conflict, people who work in reconciliation have made suggestions regarding what to do in light of a narrative’s shortcomings. Some scholars suggest trying to bridge conflicting narratives by focusing on social and interdisciplinary history as opposed to political and military history, thus forming a third, joint narrative which can serve as a basis for reconciliation. Others say that this is impossible and argue that we should accept that the narratives cannot be bridged and instead learn to critique our own narrative and learn its weaknesses.
In our encounters, we encourage participants to learn each other’s narrative, and then bridge the narratives as much as possible by focusing on shared social and cultural history and challenging our own narrative. Finally, it is imperative that we learn to accept and respect the other narrative, particularly when there are elements about which we disagree. We are not asking participants to agree on everything, but we are asking participants to understand each other, to listen to each other, and to have sympathy for each other. In order for us, both Israelis and Palestinians, to make progress toward reconciliation, we need to learn to truly listen to each other’s needs and be willing to recognize our own shortcomings. We do not expect agreement or an easy fix but as a result of experience, we do know that two opposing sides can come together with clashing opinions, learn to hear each other, respect each other, make room for each other (even when disagreeing), and walk away committed to each other and to continued fellowship.
As believers we share a common faith, and we are all called to repent of our sins and shortcomings and seek peace. But this does not preclude us from reading the Bible in light of our own historical narratives. When we are suffering, we often identify with biblical figures that suffered or turn to specific psalms recounting suffering. When we are successful, we often identify with the successes of certain biblical figures and repeat their words of joy. We can also read the Bible as an ethnic group, taking certain passages and using them for various purposes. We should apply biblical passages to our own lives, but we have to be careful that we do not do this in isolation. We also have to be careful not to read the Bible selectively, overlooking passages that may be uncomfortable to us. Above all, we are called to peace, love, and fellowship. We work for this every day, and we hope you will continue to walk alongside us as we pursue peace, encourage love of our neighbors, and journey toward reconciliation.
Announcements and Prayer Requests
We are excited to announce a soon to be released new book, edited by Lisa Loden and Musalaha Director Salim J. Munayer, entitled The Land Cries Out. The scheduled release date is for some time next month. Please stay updated for more details.
Please keep Chairman of the Board Evan Thomas and me in your prayers. We will be heading to the U.S. to speak at the Christianity and the Middle East conference November 18-19 in Livermore, CA. I will be speaking in Boston, Houston and San Francisco November 13-21 and in Detroit and Chicago from January 19-26, 2012. If you would like to attend, please email us at: email@example.com.
Salim J. Munayer, PhD