Palestinians, Covenanters Join in Leadership Project

Post a Comment » Written on September 30th, 2008     
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WEST BANK, ISRAEL (September 30, 2008) –Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) representatives hope to continue developing relationships with Palestinian Christians after recently participating together in a leadership development project.

The pilot project was sponsored by World Vision. The Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada contributed $10,000 that was used to sponsor the event.

Covenanters from Canada at the conference were Superintendent Jeff and Darlene Anderson, and Lavern and Deb Arndt of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Karen Hallberg and Andy Larsen represented the ECC Department of World Mission.

ChristiansAfter listening to a speaker, the Covenanters and Palestinians divided into small groups to discuss how the leadership issues would relate to local situations. “It was a remarkable time to listen and to learn for all who came,” Hallberg said. “Stories heard throughout the weekend intersected at points of pain, isolation, fear, and ultimately hope in Jesus Christ, hope in the Church.”

Less than two percent of Palestinians in the Holy Land are Christians, says Jeff Anderson. They are comprised of four main traditions: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Evangelical, although the latter more closely resembles Lutherans and similar denominations.

Participants said they were moved by the hope expressed among the Palestinians, even as they lamented the current poverty, regional instability, and lack of their own homeland.

Hallberg described the questions faced by the Palestinians as difficult: “How does one deal with the tragedy of seeing a parent shot? A neighbor abused at a checkpoint? A home that is bulldozed? Daily life is filled with constant uncertainty – how long will it actually take to get from point A to point B when a checkpoint must be passed? Will the water be turned on in one, two, or five more days? Will my undocumented spouse make it home safely from the grocery store? Will the money I earned today be enough? Will there be more sections added to the new wall separating me from the rest of my family or my job?”

Anderson expressed his amazement at the Palestinians’ resilience, saying, “As I look at what they have to go through, I wonder if I could do that.”

He was especially moved by the story of a man who was six years of age when his father was shot to death, leaving his mother with six children.

The man said that years later, the Israeli government offered to buy his mother’s house, but she rejected several offers. He says the government took it instead.

When the Intifada began, the man (at a young age) threw rocks at soldiers. As a result, he was sentenced to several years in jail. Over the years, he reconnected with his faith and now seeks a non-violent solution to conflicts.

“Every day, all of us are probably angry,” the man told the group. “The point of the Christian life is what you do with it. Do you succumb to it? Do you let it control you? Or do you cry out to God?”

Another of the Palestinians said he lived in fear that his wife and children would be deported and not allowed back in the country. He was born in Israel, but his wife was not, so she does not have citizenship papers.

Two years ago, in response to the Intifada, Israel limited the movement of Palestinians. The man’s wife, who works in the medical profession, has a day pass that allows her to be in the country between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The couple’s home is in an Israeli city, however, so the wife cannot be outside after 5 p.m. or at any time on the weekends, he said. If soldiers stopped her and discovered she did not have papers, she and their children would be forced to leave, he told the group.

The Palestinian Christians separate the actions of the government from the people, Hallberg said. “They never said they hate the Israelis. They don’t hate the soldiers. They realize the soldiers are just doing their jobs.”

She says the Palestinians say they understand Israel’s need for security and are committed to a peaceful solution to the tensions. “The Christians kept saying, ‘We have to do this in a non-violent way.’ ”

Anderson added that the Palestinian Christians were adamant, “What we don’t want you to hear is that we are anti-Jewish or Anti-Israel.” Instead, he said, the they want the world to protest cetain policies.

They kept referring to the work of Desmond Tutu in South Africa as a model they would like to follow, Anderson says. However, the Palestinians say they are unsure if the problems will be solved in their lifetime. “It’s absurdly complex,” Anderson adds.

The Canada Conference connections with the Palestinians began when World Vision invited Anderson and other Canadian denominational leaders to the West Bank last November. They were encouraged to consider how they might continue to help Palestinian Christians.

Anderson said that because leadership development is a priority in the Canada Conference, it was natural to participate in the initiative. He insisted that the assistance doesn’t have to flow one way.

“We have no understanding of what the Palestinian Christian community has to offer us in the West,” Anderson said. “They have literally hundreds of years of living side by side with Muslims.”

Anderson hopes that Christians traveling to the region will find opportunities to talk with people in the region. Anderson said he will make sure that to happens when the Canada Conference sponsors a trip next year.

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