Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Psalm 122:6
I love Jerusalem, but what a week it has been in the 'City of Shalom.' I can envision Jesus weeping over the city all over again. Four rabbis and a police officer were killed as they prayed in a synagogue by two young Palestinian zealots crying out, "God is great!"
I happen to agree that God is great, but their despicable murderous act completely negates their testimony. They obviously knew nothing of the God who weeps over the brokenness of our world, nor that true greatness lies in the service of others and the love of one's neighbour and even one's enemies.
While the story in the Jerusalem synagogue went viral, and I am glad it did, many similar brutalities against Christians in Iraq and Syria have gone unreported. Either the media simply has no access to the horror, or it assumes falsely that Christians in the middle-east are part of western colonialism and are therefore not relevant. In fact the Christians of Iraq and Syria and so many middle-eastern countries are members of ancient Christian communities that have been peacefully following Christ since the first century, but all of that now seems forever changed by forces of evil.
Earlier today in an article in The New Yorker, Bernard Avishai quoted his wife, Sidra, an Israeli, as saying regarding the Palestinian attacks, "I know why they do it, and I know why we do it, and I don't know what to do." http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/escalation-jerusalem
There has been endless analysis of all sides of the problems in the middle-east and there is so much history it seems almost impossible to unravel it all, but there is something we can and must all do. The Psalmist said it best, "pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
As Christians we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem but also pray and work for peace throughout the middle-east. In these days we need to especially pray and advocate for our Christian brothers and sisters as few others seem willing to take on their cause. Yet as we do we will discover there are many Jews and Muslims praying and working with us for the peace of Jerusalem and the middle-east.
I was encouraged this week by the voice of an Imam who became the first Muslim to ever address the General Synod of the Church of England on Tuesday of this week. In his speech he condemned violence and expressed a strong commitment to work for peace. He said, "We must be convinced the issue is not too much religion, but too little good religion."
Fuad Nahdi also issued a warning to Muslims from Mohammad's own words, "Beware whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Muhammad) will complain against the person on the day of judgment." http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/nov/18/christians-muslims-co-existed-general-synod-religions-allies
Karen Armstrong has also now lent her remarkable voice to the debate on religion and violence. In an interview this morning on Canada AM she was asked if the removal of violence wouldn't make the world a more peaceful place. She responded by pin-pointing the escalation of violence in the west to the time when religion was removed from the centre of the state. "Let's not make the mistake of thinking religion is a primary cause of violence in our world."
We need to hear these voices this week, because when there has been an attack on a sacred place of worship by zealots giving God the glory, we can't help but wonder about religion ourselves. But the other voice that needs to be raised is the voice of prayer.
A Prayer for Jerusalem
Gracious and merciful God we give you thanks for the beauty and wonder of this world and for sacred places where through the ages women and men have been drawn close to you. We thank you for Jerusalem where Jesus was drawn to the Temple from the time of his birth until the the time of his death and where he taught and healed and proclaimed the good news of your Kingdom. We thank you too for communities throughout the middle-east where the good news has been embraced and upheld from that day until now. May a new day of peace dawn upon the middle-east even as the sun rises tomorrow.
Yet O God if Jesus wept over the city that had destroyed the prophets before him you must surely be weeping over the violence in those same streets in this day. You must weep too over the suffering and persecution of so many who call you Father and embrace Jesus as your Son. O God may the gospel take root in this world in new ways that people might not fear religion, but fear life without your mercy and grace. Give us ears to hear afresh the command of Jesus to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute, and so we pray for this world and even for those who persecute and hate in your name. We pray especially for those who cling to their faith in the One who died for them even when it means dying for him. O God grant us the grace to live for Christ and to be instruments of his peace from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Grace and Peace,