Friday, 9 January 2009

on gaza

where does one draw the line in the recent Gaza fighting? does one side with the Palestinians because they are out-numbered and out-gunned by the Israelis? or does one side with the Israelis because they are trying to defned themselves from the Hamas' rocket attacks? is the issue also tied with the divisive issue of the land? 

where does religion come into this situation? does it mean that because one is a Christian, one must support Israel? This is the stand of many american and western christians because they understood Israel as having an important part to play in God's plan for the end times. but does one's support for Israel means turning a blind-eye to the atrocities committed by modern-day Israel like now where more civilians die at the hands of the Israelis? should one's support for Israel be unequivocal?

in Malaysia where the ruling political party is islamic, naturally their support is for the Palestinians. where do Christians in malaysia stand? if they support Israel, they seem to be going against their government. on the other hand, if they support the Palestinians, they feel they are going aganist God! (because somehow they think modern Israel is the same as ancient Israel in the Bible and Israel is supposed to play an important role in the end times before Jesus returns...) 

where does the reb stand? the reb's two cents worth ----

1] modern Israel is not equivalent to ancient Israel.
2] modern Israel does not have a significant role to play in God's plan. the Church is God's instrument, not modern-day Israel.
3] modern-day Israel is not exempted from moral demands like any other nation. in the recent gaza intrusion, the disproportionate number of deaths is unacceptable.
4] Hamas has to bear responsibility too for their part in the violence, for deliberately using high density civilian areas and drawing in civilians into their armed struggle.

here is reproduced a response from an arab christian who graduated from OCMS PhD program.

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Conflict in Gaza: thoughtful sharing from Salim, a PhD graduate from OCMS.


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 checkpoints.


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 other side.

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 airstrikes.

from
Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D.
Director of Musalaha
Tel: 02-6720376
Fax: 02-6719616
Musalaha@netvision.net.il 

(Musalaha's website, http://www.musalaha.org/ [http://www.musalaha.org/] ,
is under construction, but you can find more details about them on the
following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musalaha

2 comments:

Bob K said...

Musalaha's statement resonated with me as well. Its rare to see a statement from a Christian that's neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Palestinean.

anthony said...

yes bob,

salim is known to be fair and level-headed.