(more pics here)
Marhaba Salam Shoukran
This will probably be my last blog before I leave. This week has mainly involved practical work including gardening, painting and building walls (for sitting on!) in Bethlehem and in a refugee camp. We have visited a home for people with special needs and an orphanage
We have also met some of the most inspirational Christians I have ever come into contact with. Here are two-
This is the guy who brought us to different places to work. He was brought up as a Muslim but converted to Christianity. As a result he was disowned by his family and his wife. He is now back with his wife and praying for her. His brothers have tried to kill him. He devotes his life to serving.
He works in the house with people with special needs. He devotes all his spare time into going into Muslim homes and serving them, painting and doing manual labour. Even at weekends and days off he is serving. Through this witness and relationships he hopes to bring these people to Christ.
Philip came to speak to us on his way home from Gaza. He has been living there for two years and has a heart-breaking story of the suffering of the people there. I thought the West Bank was bad but this truly seems a place of misery.
The situation there has been on the news a lot. Basically they had elections that were the most democratic the Middle East have ever seen. Hamas won them as people wanted an alternative to the corruption and lack of results from Fatah. Because Hamas are fundamentalist Islam who want to wipe Israel off the map the results were not recognised by the international community.
Hamas have now seized control of Gaza by force and as a result the world has cut off all relations with the people there. Israel does not allow trade in or out of Gaza. The people are imprisoned. 1.2 out of the 1.5 million people living in Gaza are receiving food aid. 75% of the bread winners have no job.
The western perception is that Gaza is under Palestinain control since Israel removed all the Jewish settlements from the area. This is not true. Israel controls the air, the sea and the borders of Gaza. They are not allowed an airport, fishing is rationed, and the people are not allowed to move. All of the borders around Gaza are closed. It is a prison to 1.5 million people. Philip also described it as a zoo. People are fed and watered by aid agencies, they are kept alive but not allowed to leave. Foriegners come in, take pictures of those who are suffering and then leave. There is not a single western journalist living in Gaza.
Philip's best friend in Gaza recently lost 17 of his family when the Israeli army shelled his house. They called it a technical error. People don't get a trial or imprisonment there. They get shelled.
The place is at complete deadlock and all anyone wants to do there is to get out. With the division between Hamas and Fatah and the oppression from Israel this is a place without hope.
Philip is an amazing Christian. He admits there is no hope for the area except for the church. For Christ-like people to achieve a central role. To be salt and light.
This place is a timebomb and when it explodes it will affect the world. I have been thinking loads about the situation here and in the world. It has become Fundamentalist Islam v Western Society (standing for Israel and America). I think as Christians we have to take a third way. A road less travelled. The kingdom way. Following the teachings of Jesus to love our enemies, speak out against oppression and stand against injustice.
I am now more educated than ever about other religions. All my life I've struggled with that whole question- how do we know that we're right and they're wrong? I'm now convinced that hope for our world cannot be found through Islam, Judaism or patriotism. I've never been more sure that Jesus is the truth and the only way.