Peacemaking and practice: growing hope
By Doug Dicks
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Reflection: The Nassar family of Bethlehem has been struggling for years to hold on to their family land. Located southwest of Bethlehem, this area of about 100 acres is situated on a fertile hilltop, and is today surrounded by Israeli settlements and construction. From the crest of the hill, one can see settlement expansion in most every direction. The family land was purchased back in 1916, by the grandfather of the current generation, and they have legal documents as proof; yet they are continuing to fight a legal battle in Israeli courts over ownership of the land once known as Daher’s Vineyard. Daoud and his older brother, Daher, work the land, and over the years their plight has drawn international attention, so much so that today the land and the hilltop is known as the Tent of Nations. Visitors from all around the world come to hear Daoud speak. Many come to work the land and plant olive trees or grapevines, so that the land is continually worked. The land produces almonds, olives, grapes, figs, wheat, and other crops.
On the way up the hilltop, one encounters a stone with these words on it: “We refuse to be enemies.” Daoud speaks about how his Christian faith has sustained both him and his family, and how the visitors who come to hear their story provide them with hope.
Despite the continued threats, and sometimes the destruction of trees and plants by Israeli settlers, they continue to plant and to work the land. Summer camps are held for children from Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. All this activity has also encouraged other land owners to come back and work their own land.
Action: What could you “plant” today in the world that would bear fruit for the next generation? What could you do to encourage someone today?
Prayer: God of creation, your son Jesus reminded us that the meek will inherit the earth. Let those who love the land live long upon it, and may their labors not be in vain. Help us to care for our creation. Amen.
Doug Dicks has returned to his spiritual home as Presbyterian World Mission associate for ecumenical partnerships in the Middle East. He is serving as facilitator for education for justice and peacemaking at the invitation of St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem. His work enables the larger PC(USA) community to advocate for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.
This year’s A Season of Peace resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues like human trafficking and sustainable development, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the days of this year’s A Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect on:
- Peace that passes understanding: personal testimonies of faith and peace within self, within families, within communities
- Partners in peace: interfaith work for peace and justice, building peace between us while witnessing to peace in our wider world
- Go and see: reflections from travel study seminar participants
- The church and its witness: reflections on addressing trafficking in its varied forms
- Peacemaking and practice: stories and reflections on building bridges and crossing divides
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 2, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 7.