By John Howard
Mission Partner, Methodist Liaison Office Jerusalem
Lying in bed at night, I frequently hear the sounds of stun grenades, tear gas or even live fire. The Aida Refugee Camp, where more tear gas is used than anywhere else in the world, is half a mile from my apartment. My walk from home to the office takes me along the ‘wall’ past the famous Banksy graffiti and through Checkpoint 300: almost the only way for Palestinians now to get to Jerusalem.
Ministering in this highly divided situation, the Jerusalem Methodist Liaison Office spans the divides. I meet with Jewish rabbis, with Orthodox priests and with Muslim clerics. While many of my daily encounters are with the Christians of Bethlehem, I have the chance to talk to visitors about what it is to live here today. I preach in churches in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Tiberias. I travel between communities: into Gaza and across checkpoints, into settlements and returning to the Beit Jala community of Bethlehem, where I live.
One initiative the Liaison Office supports perhaps encapsulates much of the diversity in one monthly event. ‘Praying Together’ brings Muslims, Jews and Christians into the same space and enables us to pray alongside each other. Every last Thursday of the month, we meet at the Jaffa Gate and walk together to a location in the Old City of Jerusalem. As we walk, we talk; as we pray, we long for a land of peace and justice; as we leave, we return to very different worlds. It is at the same time both a privilege to live here in the land where Jesus walked, daily walking past places many in the world can only dream of ever visiting, and an experience that breaks my heart daily as I see the injustices of life in this place.
This story originally appeared in World Church News Bulletin May 2018