Update from the 2016 Mosaic of Peace Conference
(These blog entries provide brief reports and insights from our conference in Israel and Palestine. They are written by our participants Anne French and Emily Oshinskie and are neither comprehensive nor in depth reports, but simply glimpses into the amazing experiences we are having together.)
Shireen Awwad Hilal is Academic Director at Bethlehem Bible College (BBC), the only Arabic-speaking evangelical college in the West Bank and Gaza. The institution, which had its beginning in 1979 with a handful of international missionaries and 9 students, seeks to empower Palestinian Christians—only 1.5% of the total population—to take pride in their own culture. Students can pursue their BA in Biblical Studies, Diploma in Media Studies or Diploma in Tour Guiding or their Master’s in Christian Leadership and Ministry or Peace Studies. Tour Guiding and Peace Studies are the only two tracks taught in English. All others are instructed in Arabic.
The mission of the college is to “train people to serve Christ in the world, advocate a Palestinian evangelical perspective and model Christ through community development.” The student body is made up primarily of Palestinians, however there is one student studying at the college from Canada, Walter Brynjolfson, who shared his struggle between his evangelical upbringing in a church that refuses to acknowledge the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the realities of life in the Holy Land. Finding old tear gas canisters along the separation wall, Brynjolfson reshapes, paints and transforms them into Christmas ornaments he calls “peace parcels.”
He works through his anxiety, confusion and hope for peace through his art. These tear gas canisters have been thrown by Israeli Defense Soldiers into College windows, disturbing classes in session. Brynjolfson explains in the AJ+ video that has just been released online, that “international pressure…will be the only way to restore justice here.”
Hilal described the “Christ at the Checkpoint” Conference and told about the delegation of students who participate. They will examine the spiritual implications of the Wall, the checkpoints, the settlements and other facets of the intractable conflict. It is a real challenge to get young Palestinian men and women to participate in this conference according to Hilal, because of the risk they face to themselves and their future. Nonetheless, many do participate, witnessing against the injustices faced on a daily basis as Palestinians.