BibleLands’ Chief Executive, Nigel Edward-Few, shared some of his thoughts on the situation in the Holy Land and the part we can all play to help.
CT: BibleLands’ slogan is ‘Healing and Hope’. Yet it would be easy not to have hope in the Holy Land. Where do you draw that hope from?
NEF: The hope comes from our partners. They are the people doing the work and delivering the Christian hope in the countries where they are working. Our job is to help them do that by providing the resources, the encouragement through partnership and prayer, and the gifts of generous people.
We provide the physical resources and the prayers to support them and the people on the ground are the ones who actually deliver hope to those who may not have any hope. Particularly those who are disabled or who have special needs or are on the breadline, or those like Suhaila (the executive director of the Christian Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza), who are really struggling in the midst of such difficult circumstances.
Gaza is such a terrible place at the moment because of all that is happening to it and within it, with the factions and the struggles between Hamas and the Israelis. It is just an awful place to live if you don’t have resources and you don’t have hope. But the hospital that she is director of provides that hope.
CT: What would you say to Christians within the UK who feel perhaps a little detached from the situation? Do you think more Christians should visit the Holy Land?
NEF: Well there are three things that Christians can do. One is to get themselves informed. There is still, I believe, a remarkable lack of knowledge and understanding among Christians in Britain about the fact that there are even Christians in the Holy Land. Many see it as purely an Arab-Jew conflict but there is a Christian community there – a diminishing Christian community.
So I would encourage people to go on pilgrimage. And not only pilgrimage to see the sights but also pilgrimage to meet the people and see those who are working to provide the hope and the reconciliation.
The church leaders - particularly the three indigenous Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops of Jerusalem - they are working together to provide hope, encouragement and reconciliation.
So one is to visit, second is to pray, and third is to support organisations like us trying to make a difference in the interim. Because until the problem is resolved, these difficulties and suffering are going to continue. And BibleLands is dedicated to minimising that and trying to change lives.
CT: What would you say to people who feel a bit daunted to go because of the unpredictable security situation?
NEF: I would suggest that you go with a reputable organisation. If you come on a BibleLands pilgrimage you will be ok. In other countries where we work like Egypt and Lebanon you could be more vulnerable. In Lebanon, none of our senior staff have been able to go there for three years. But in Israel or Palestine if you go with the right people you will be ok.
CT: There was a report issued recently by aid agencies accusing the Middle East Quartet of failing on its promises to build peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. Do you think the international community is doing enough?
NEF: I don’t think the international community or Christians are doing enough. I think everybody could do a lot more than they are doing. I don’t want to point fingers at any individuals or groups of individuals but I would say there is no shortage of work needing to be done and all of us can play our part, whether that is practical agencies like us supporting.
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