Last summer I had the opportunity to interview Rev. Mitri Raheb for our movie on peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mitri is a pastor in Bethlehem and author of several important books. And he’s a new friend. He is a true peacemaker who as a pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church a few hundred yards from Manger Square, works tirelessly in the effort of making peace.
In our interview with Mitri he hit upon an important distinction that I’d like to share with you. He mentioned that many like to talk peace but do little or nothing in viable efforts to truly make peace. I immediately thought of an important article written by Thomas Friedman last summer in the midst of the many violent flareups in the Middle East. He typified the many conflicts being filled with “players” who are either arsonists or firefighters. The divide in Friedman’s article was NOT between Christians and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis (or other sectarian and nationalist interests par se), but rather between those who seem to provoke and operate out of “narrow and shortsighted political, economic and security objectives.” Click here to read the fascinating article [here]. Friedman was quoting Nader Mousavizadeh, a former senior United Nations official and the co-founder of Macro Advisory Partners.
Some of the interviews for our movie are admittedly people who were perhaps arsonists at some point in their own journey, but have now emerged as firefighters in Friedman’s paradigm. Truth be told, they’ve actually leap frogged over this bipolar paradigm, in an important way have gone even further and become peacemakers!
David Gushee, another friend in this journey quotes Sami Awad as one of these great examples. Sami is someone living by “the insanity of grace” in the work of peacemaking. As a Palestinian Christian, he has built a relationship with the Israeli captain who routinely orders his beatings during protests and speaks of “the real spiritual struggle as not between Israelis and Palestinians but between those willing to recognize the dignity of the other side and those unwilling to do so” (Evangelical Peacemakers:Gospel Engagement in a War-Torn World, p. 130). Its a bit like Mazen’s comments that will air in our movie: “All of us are human beings. The tear is the same. Pain is the same. Bereavement is the same…and revenge does not work.”
Peacemaking is serious work and not really fit for mere peaceniks.