The following article is part of our ongoing effort to provide a variety of Christian perspectives on the Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Christian Arabs in Israel have mixed loyalties. As non-Muslim Arabs and citizens of Israel, many of us have adopted a cynical, seen-it-all spectator pose.
We imagined we would have the same attitude in this round of reprisals between Israel and Hezbollah. We had no dog in this fight, so we lacked total sympathy toward either.
On the one hand, Israelthe spoiled boy of the region supported by the great superpowerwas provoked this time by a Muslim fundamentalist Lebanese militia that killed Israeli soldiers near the border and kidnapped others. Israel was furious and reacted with raids from air, land, and sea. Great destruction and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese became refugees. Israel overreacted.
On the other hand Hezbollahled by the charismatic leader Hassan Nasrallah (ironically his name meaning "the victory of God")has allegiance to lunatic Iranian leaders and had no right to attack and kidnap Israeli soldiers when, six years ago, Israel withdrew from Lebanon behind the international border.
Hezbollah (meaning "the party of God") reacted to Israel's sophisticated attacks by bombarding civilians in the northern parts of Israel using simple missiles.
The people of Nazareth thought they were immune. First, it is an Arab town in the lower Galilee region of Israel where one-half of its 70,000 residents are Muslim. Secondly it is a town located 30 miles away from the Israeli-Lebanese bordera distance that Hezbollah missiles have not been able to reach in the past.
It's raining missiles
We got the first warning on Monday night around 11:30. I was sitting in front of the TV trying to catch the latest news about the war from four different stations (two Israeli and two Arab). Suddenly I heard a boom. Then my mom called. She has never called during the hours when my children are asleep. Within a few seconds, Israeli TV reported that missiles fell in Nazareth Illit (a Jewish town east of Nazareth), and in Givat Ela (a small Jewish settlement on the western side of Nazareth). My home is located approximately halfway between both locations. No casualties were reported.
It seems that the Hezbollah fighters are not accurate in where they aim their missiles. We naively reckoned that they would not hit an Arab town. These missiles launched at the neighboring settlements were not going to transform our apathy and cynical perspective as people caught in the middle of crossfire.
On Wednesday afternoon I was working on my laptop in my office on the ground floor of our home. Three more missiles hit Nazareth. One landed on an empty garage in the middle of Nazareth, miraculously not causing deaths, only damaging the building and causing minor injuries to pedestrians.
The second fell in a poor neighborhood and killed 3- and 8-year-old brothers who were playing near their home. They were Muslim.
The third fell about half a mile from my home on undeveloped land. I heard the explosion and rushed to see my family. They were anxious. The TV was on high volume. Land lines as well as mobile phones were ringing and my 3-year-old daughter was restless. Obviously she wondered what was happening and why she was deprived for a moment the attention she was used to.
We hold a Bible study in the Baptist church on Wednesday evenings. Should we cancel it because of the shock and dismay in Nazareth? No way. We decided to convert the Bible study to a prayer meeting. We had prayed the day before for peace, too.
Called as peacemakers
Such terrifying experiences like missiles raining on your neighborhood have a tendency to raise "purpose-driven" questions: Did Jesus put us here in his hometown without a purpose?
To the Christians in Nazareth, the answer was obvious. We had simply neglected it. Our calling as the remnant of Christians in the birthplace of our faith is to pray for the people of this broken land.
As followers of Christ, we have an obligation to become intercessors for the lost. We should also share with courage the prophetic message of the truth. Leaders in the Middle East have failed in bringing us into an era of peace. It is merely a chronicle of continuing violence pockmarked with ceasefires. The voice of the peacemaker urging reconciliation in the midst of enmity and hostility should be heard clearly.
Less than a mile from where a Hezbollah missile hit the empty garage in Nazareth, the Prince of Peace declared: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
It was realized 2,000 years ago when God sent his son to give hope. He was the anointed who said:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
Will his followers rise to the challenge of reflecting this message of compassion, love, care, justice, and mercy to the nations in this troubled area?
Botrus Mansour is a lawyer and general director of Nazareth Baptist School. As with all "Speaking Out" articles, the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of Christianity Today.
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More coverage since the breakout of hostilities in southern Lebanon includes:
Another Point of View: Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon | The academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary is angry at evangelical Christians, Israel, Hezbollah, the U.S., and the international community. (July 20, 2006)
Weblog: Secrets of the Lebanon-Israel War | Beyond the headlines in the Lebanon-Israel War (July 20, 2006)
When the Bombs Fell on Beirut | This week's fighting between Israel and Lebanon seems too familiar. (July 17, 2006)
The Middle East's Death Wishand Ours | We say "everyone wants peace," but we also want to see our enemies destroyed. (July 14, 2006)