The word “Lent” comes from a root word meaning “lengthening,” like the lengthening hours of sunlight which will bring the long, warm days of summer. Normally during Lent we think of giving something up for 40 days as we approach Easter, so as to prepare spiritually before we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection.
This year, perhaps more than any other Lent before it, I am finding myself being lengthened – stretched – just like the days that are rolling out before me. And what I’m giving up, is mostly what I thought I knew.
What is lengthening and stretching me? Well, at the beginning of this year’s Lenten season I found myself in Jerusalem. Now there’s a place that could stretch anybody in any number of ways. It’s true. I was there on something of a peace-seeking mission. (Go ahead, laugh, I’ll wait). This trip was the final capstone of a course, or Learning Lab, that I took part in on the topic of Peace and Reconciliation, with The Global Immersion Project. So, in looking at the concept of ‘how to be an everyday peace-maker’ we went for the jugular. We dove right into seeking to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through several months of study, and then we went to see how the brave people we had learned about are waging peace there today.
So there I was in Jerusalem, like so many before me, beginning a pilgrimage of sorts. Far outside my “comfort zone” in the middle of a modern-day “war zone”, seeking to learn about peace and reconciliation from real everyday peacemakers – both Palestinians and Israelis – who are pouring their lives out for others. These are the ones taking the road less traveled, risking their own security and even acceptance by their communities, all for the high calling of waging peace. These, my new and largely unsung heroes of deep compassion and understanding, would share their lives, homes and stories with us. Stories of brokenness, and put-back-together-ness, stories of pain and suffering, of radical forgiveness and overcoming all kinds of barriers to reach out and understand the “other” in their lives. All stories, ultimately, of conspiring for good in courageous, clever and creative ways.
Stay tuned for stories of radical reconciliation and peacemaking from Eliyahou and Ibrahim of Jerusalem Peace, Daoud from Tent of Nations, Yahouda from Breaking the Silence, Milat and Minar from House of Hope, Benyamin and Moira from Bereaved Parents Circle and many more that I’m sure also appreciate your work and your voice. We spent time in Nablus in Balata Refugee Camp with Mahmoud and listened to scholar Salim Muniyar give us a sweep of relevant history.