Abarbed-wire-topped barrier erected by the Israeli government snakes across the West Bank to separate Israelis from Palestinians. In some places it’s merely a fence; in others it’s a wall complete with guard towers. In still other places it separates the homes of Palestinians from the farms or businesses where they once worked.
When Micah Schuurman, a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, first encountered the wall on a recent trip to the West Bank, he was deeply troubled. It left him with a startling image.
“I felt as if my bloody fingerprints were all over it—both from being from the U.S., which supports Israel, and coming from a German heritage,” which reminded him of what the Nazis did to Jews during the Holocaust, Schuurman says.
Today, as a participant in Hope Equals, a new program instituted by Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM), Schuurman says he would like to help bridge the wall and bring Israelis and Palestinians together.
Hope Equals is a campaign for peace geared to attract young Christians interested in learning about and having an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Younger people are often suspicious of traditional missions’ ability to truly impact cultures, says Jacob Speelman, a Calvin College student. “Hope Equals is an interesting direction to see World Missions go.”
Hope Equals resulted from focus groups CRWM held to ask young people how they would like to be involved in mission work. The resounding answer: by impacting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hope Equals is beginning by establishing groups of young people on college campuses across North America. It has connected groups at Calvin College, Calvin Theological Seminary, and Cornerstone College in the United States and Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada. Other colleges, such as Hope College in Holland, Mich., have also shown interest.
“The model that Hope Equals uses for working with young adults is empowerment; we lead by following,” says Mariano Avila, coordinator of the project. “The young adults have a passion for this issue, and we come beside them and ask them what they need to be more effective advocates.”
Partnering with CRWM are the CRC’s Office of Social Justice and, unofficially, the Reformed Church in America through Marlin and Sally Vis, who have worked in Jerusalem and helped to advise CRWM as it developed the program. Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem, on the West Bank, has expressed interest in being part of the project; peace groups in Israel and Palestine also have shown interest.
Part of the project will involve taking young people to the Middle East to see firsthand the troubles between Israelis and Palestinians, says Albert Hamstra, coordinator of special projects for CRWM.
“Historically, the CRC has had almost no involvement in this issue, so the most honest thing is to find Israelis and Palestinians who are already experienced in peace and reconciliation work, then support their work,” says Avila.
For more information, see the Hope Equals website at www.hopeequals.org.