Student Blog Posts

Searching for Heavenly Peace in the Midst of Earthly War Zones? by Marvis A. Hardy

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine commemorating the death of Palestinians in the last year. About 100,000 people attended the All Souls Procession in Tucson, celebrating the life of lost friends and family. (photo: Activestills.org)

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine commemorating the death of Palestinians in the last year. (Photo: Activestills.org)

A few days ago as I drove through the seemingly unblemished streets of Skokie and Wilmette, two wealthy Chicago suburbs, my heart began to break. I was saddened because as I looked around these golden streets, it became clear that black Americans and white Americans, like Shite Muslims and Sunni Kurds, live in two different worlds. The Bible verse in Luke 19:41-42 came to mind: When Jesus came near the city, He cried as He saw it. He said, If you had only known on this great day the things to do for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (NLV) In 2016, the world seems engulfed in constant conflict, from urban America, to Palestine, to Turkey, to Syria. Yet peace is critical to human survival as the number of lives lost rises to thousands each month. For followers of Jesus, peacemaking is not an option; it’s a directive. Peacemaking is an orchestrated move towards the Kingdom of God. For God’s Kingdom is a place of shalom. Yet, in today’s climate of conflict followed by violence, where in the world does one find heavenly peace?

Along a mountainous region tucked deep within southwest Asia lies the land of a people called the Kurds; in a region called Kurdistan. An estimated 15 to 20 million Kurds live in this mountainous area straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia and Syria, with 8 million living in southeastern Turkey. The Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims with their own language and culture. After WWI, (around 1920), the territories of the Ottoman Empire, were divvied up by surrounding nations. The Treaty of Sevres promised Kurds independence, however since its failure, the Kurds have been subjugated by their neighbors for most of their modern history. All attempts at establishing independent states have been crushed. Fast forward to 2016 and the struggle for Independence in Turkey has created war zones in Kurdish cities across the region. Most recently the Turkish city of Cizre, with a high Kurdish population, was bombed by Turkish Military in an effort to quell Kurdish demands for independence. As the conflict rages, hundreds have been killed and thousands forced to flee as their homeland is turned into a war zone.

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Many parts of Cizre, a Kurdish city, were leveled by Turkish military forces.

Kurdistan independence would mean bordering states would have to give up land and resources, albeit land and resources illegally taken from the Kurds. Kurdistan is but one of many earthly war zones.

Another war zone lies in the Middle East at the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, tucked between Lebanon and Jordan. A nation suffering generations of violent war, over land. Yet in the war torn country of Palestine, Arab Palestine Christians, living under great oppression, are determined to have their voices heard. The Palestinian Christian community has chosen a path of nonviolent resistance…the way of Jesus. Yet as if daily bombings and illegal occupation of Palestinian land were not enough, Israel continues to heighten the conflict. In January, 2015, Israel froze tax revenues due to Palestine in retaliation for the Palestinian governments (the Palestinian Authority or PA) formal application to join the International Criminal Court. Since then, Israel has withheld $130 million a month in revenue from Palestinian tax payments which represents approximately two thirds of the PA’s budget and used to pay thousands of public employees. So, as the conflicts continue to rage, how does one find heavenly peace in the midst of earthly war zones?

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An Israeli soldier walks past Palestinians in the West Bank village of Tafoh, near Hebron, searching for dissidents. The Israeli military practically shut down movement in this war devastated West Bank city of Hebron. (Photo credit: HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images)

The sentiments of Arab Palestinian Christians are being mirrored by Christians around the world. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a group of worldwide Christians, is reaching out to the global Christian community to find nonviolent alternatives to war and violence. By partnering with nonviolent movements around the world, CPT seeks to transform war and occupation through 1) the nonviolent power of God’s truth; 2) partnership with local peacemakers; and 3) bold action. Acknowledging that violence is rooted in oppression, CPT places teams in global locations like Palestine, Kurdistan, Colombia, and Europe to address situations of lethal conflict. These teams seek to follow God’s Spirit as they work through local peacemakers, waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression. On Monday, October 24, 2016, CPT organizer Rezhiar Fakhir made a passionate presentation during McCormick’s Global Conversations at the Language Resource & Writing Center (LRWC). Rezhiar shared his life story living as an Iraqi-Kurd in a war weary region. As a Christian, he joined CPT as a peaceful alternative to the violence overwhelming his homeland.

For faithful Christians, the way of Jesus leads to reconciliation, restoration and peace. Dr. King reminds us that each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the ‘Beloved Community.’ 2 Corinthians 5:18 also tells us; “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (NIV) Reconciliation means restoration, It means justice restored to the oppressed, the marginalized and the forgotten. It’s about loving all of humanity, the co-creations of our God. Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that all of humanity might be saved from an unjust earthly world to find salvation in a heavenly eternity. But today, the good is hidden from our eyes, as Humanity is blinded by its own selfish desires.

However, faith in God compels us to look past the external discord that creates conflict and reunite our hearts with our own humanity. This is Restorative Justice. This is the Kingdom of God, a place where all humanity is reconciled to God through Christ Jesus. The road to peace must be paved with restorative justice; an unconditional love for all humanity, as God has taught us to love, and as God has loved us. Philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich bears witness to this truth, when writes: “Justice is the form in which, and through which, love performs its work. For love is the ultimate principle of justice.” Love is where the work begins. Only love can restore peace!

The Christian Peacemaker Teams are currently seeking peacemakers willing to travel to conflict areas around the world. For more information on forming a joint McCormick/LSTC delegation, contact Rob Worley in LRWC. Or, for info on joining a US delegation of Christian Peacemaker Teams, visit their website at: cpt.org