Fleeing Fear: Hope in the Resurrection

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Dear Friends,

Since it is the time of Easter is upon us, I wanted to take this opportunity to greet you all in the name of Jesus, our risen Messiah! We here at Musalaha have much to be thankful for, and much cause for praise. God has continued to bless us greatly. We want to remind you that you’re prayer and support is what makes Musalaha’s reconciliation work possible, and thank you for all the support you have given us. We pray that you will be blessed as you partner with us, for blessed are the peace-makers.

I also wanted to give you a quick update on upcoming Musalaha events. At the end of this month, March 27th- 31st we have a very big women’s conference in Aqaba, Jordan. It is bringing together all of Musalaha’s women groups for a time of fellowship, and reconciliation training. Please keep these women and their families in your prayers as they prepare for this trip. Ask that God will give them safety in travel, and put their minds at ease when crossing borders, check-points, and cultural divides. Ask that God will give them the courage to speak their minds, and to speak the truth in love, and that he will bless their time together.

In April 23rd- 26th Musalaha is taking a group of Israeli and Palestinian youth to the desert for the annual Desert trip. They will have lots of fun, but also have time to worship together, and to engage in reconciliation training and discussion. Please keep these young people in your prayers as they travel to the desert together. Ask that God will keep them safe, and bring them together as a group of young people, rather than as two separate groups of Israelis and Palestinians. Ask God to open their minds so that they will be able to hear each other, and truly understand each other, and for friendships to form.

Thank you again for your encouragement and support. We will be remembering you in our prayers as well. I have also included a short report below. May it find you well and encourage you. Happy Easter!

Yours in Christ,

Salim J. Munayer, Musalaha Director

Fleeting Fear: Hope in the Resurrection

In his work Living with the Conflict: Socio-Psychological Analysis of the Jewish Society in Israel, Daniel Bar-Tal offers an in-depth study of the Jewish-Israeli society, and the way it is influenced socially and psychologically by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He argues that these factors are very influential in determining the character and direction of the conflict, and to a large degree will affect the ultimate resolution of the conflict as well. Although he deals with the Jewish Israeli society, many of his conclusions are applicable to the Palestinian society as well, for Bar-Tal himself comments on the remarkable similarity between the two warring sides. The Israeli and Palestinian societies are mirror images of each other, especially in the way they function collectively.

Bar-Tal highlights fear, particularly collective fear, as one of the most powerful factors of and driving force behind the conflict. Any society living in conflict is fertile ground for fear, because of the threat it feels. Even when the perceived threat is to some extent real, once it becomes the central topic of daily discussion, from the schools to the workplace, always on the news and on the tip of everyone’s tongue, true collective fear sets in. It is strengthened by a deliberately selective reading of history, and a collective memory that is self-referential. The fear we feel leads us to justify our treatment of the ‘Other’, that has become an untrustworthy and unbelievably cruel entity, an image that is daily reinforced by the media’s focus on their misdeeds. We see in their actions raw evil that is played out before our eyes on television, on a loop, over and over again. We are literally force-fed this message: “You have no partner for peace. They are not interested in peace, only in destroying you”. This fear is also nourished by politicians to further their political ambitions, and to justify their actions. Fear is a great motivator.

In many ways, fear is what fuels and perpetuates the conflict. The more fearful people are, and the more they feel they are being threatened, the less open they are to resolving the conflict. People and societies that have lived for a long time in conflict actually become comfortable with this feeling of fear. They feel threatened by any talk of peace that might disrupt the status quo, and they are unable to even entertain possible suggested solutions. When you have lived with something for so long, even something bad, sometimes you get used to it, but it is bondage. Until you can release it, you can never be free.

Bar-Tal’s conclusion is interesting for he claims that in order to end the conflict, we need to change the atmosphere of fear. In Bar-Tal’s view, since the year 2000, collective fear and the social function it performs has presented the single biggest obstacle to peace and reconciliation in this conflict. This is a difficult task. On the individual and societal levels, overcoming fear, especially fear that you have learned to live with, is not easy. Bar-Tal suggests that humans have the will power to defeat this fear in spite of the difficulty, and is optimistic about ending this collective and cultural fear. But he has no real solution to offer, nothing beyond increasing awareness of this fear and working to look past it.

In order to overcome this fear, we must work towards building a new framework of values. We must make sacred the sanctity of life, respect for each other, love for each other and peace. Not peace in some grand metaphysical sense, but in a real practical one. We must weigh what it will require, and count the cost of realistically achieving peace. However, perhaps the most important value that we need to develop is hope. People paralyzed and controlled by fear lack all hope. Hope is one of the most vital ingredients of human existence and keeps our naturally human tendencies in check. Without hope, we tend to compromise on values of life, and settle for violence and hatred because we have nothing to look forward to, no hope for the future.

This is where the message of Easter resonates. This is where we, as believers in Christ the Messiah, have something to offer that social psychologists do not. We can offer hope. We are called to be ‘peace-makers’, and in 2 Corinthians 5:18 it says that we are reconciled with God through Jesus. We already have peace with God as His children, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. And with this peace we can rest on Him, trust in Him, and spread this peace to others. With God’s love we can overcome fear because “perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:17. We can relate to people without the bondage of fear, but rather freely in hope. The power of the resurrection can overcome all.

It is no coincidence that even secular observers realize that fear paralyzes. They are searching for hope, a hope that we have. We must do our best to share it with others. We need not live in fear, because of God’s love; we are able to relate to others, even our ‘enemies’ with hope and with love. This we are commanded to do by God Himself. It is the only path towards reconciliation and peace.

Written by Salim J. Munayer, Musalaha Director

Edited by Joshua Korn, Musalaha Publishing Manager