At the entry to the Nassar family farm outside Bethlehem is a large rough piece of the local limestone. Carved into its face, in Arabic, English and German, are the words, ‘We refuse to be enemies.’
It is for the active living-out of this philosophy in the face of almost intolerable pressure and difficulty that the Nassar family has received the 2017 World Methodist Peace Award. The four generations of the family who have lived on the farm have affirmed – and continue to affirm – that ‘Peace is not just the absence of conflicts. Peace is also a mentality. It’s the art of experiencing inner peace in the midst of conflict.’
As ‘the people called Methodist,’ we too are called to this way of life. John Wesley famously said that we are ‘the friends of all and the enemies of none’.
At a time when we are sometimes almost afraid to open a newspaper or turn on television or radio for fear of learning of a further outbreak of hostilities or yet another atrocity against innocent people, this is a considerable challenge.
During his earthly life-time also, the land of Jesus Christ, Palestine, the Holy Land, was an occupied territory. Luke the evangelist records Jesus giving clear instructions to ‘a large crowd of his disciples and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon’ as to how they should handle harassment (Luke 6:17, 27-33) and remain peace-full.
The message remains the same. Some of us are better at living out its demands than others of us; the Nassar family is among the former. May God continue to bless and strengthen them – and bless and strengthen us all as we strive to walk in the Way of Peace.