Peace in the Middle East: Is It Possible?

I have always maintained that peace with muslims is impossible. To be fair, Christians face dangerous times from a variety of groups, sometimes it is faith based and sometimes it is all about power. No matter who, or what faces them, they still go. Despite my belief, there are people that risk everything to try. As foolish as I think they are, I respect them. Here is another small sample of what they face.

By Jeff Adams, 25 June, 2011.
DUHOK, KURDISTAN, NORTHERN IRAQ (ANS) — A group of his own people beat a young Yezede man. It was an attempted honor killing. The victim survived because he appeared to be dead. His offense? Someone baptized him in water because the young man professed his faith in Jesus Christ.
-Keep in mind the young man knew the risk but still decided it is better to die a Christian. Also, do not be confused by the article; Assyrian Christians are not the only group in Iraq opposed to and threatening Christian based aid agencies.

A pastor of a local group of evangelical churches learned of the attempted murder when the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Erbil, Kurdistan, called him to a meeting. Officials suspected his church was responsible for the baptism. It wasn’t, but it could have been.

In another possibly related incident an angry mob from Feshkhabour joined people from Quarawilla. They attacked an evangelical pastor and a family that he visited in Quarawilla. The crowd came to the family’s home—accompanied by two priests, one from each village. They forced their way into the house and threatened the visiting pastor. Some spat on him, calling him “Satan” and “the devil.” The Mukhtar of Feshkhabour threatened that if the pastor didn’t leave the village immediately he would break one of the pastor’s legs.

One of the priests accused the evangelicals of being “Zionists.” That language stems from the old Baath regime that held power during Saddam Hussein’s rule. Baathists are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel; the Kurds are not. Referring to the pastor and family as Zionists was a racial slur. But worse than that, the accusers implied that they deserved to be killed. That, however, is not the sentiment of the Kurds or the Kurdistan government.

The next day the Department of Religious Affairs, controlled and staffed with officials who are Assyrian Christians, scolded by the visiting pastor. They also threatened another pastor with possible revocation of his legal standing in Kurdistan. Despite discovering later that the Department has no such power, the officials’ threats worried both pastors.

While the danger of legal action proved to be without substance, the threat of violence and persecution remained real. The family whose home and rights were violated received warnings of the consequences of their faith. “We will kick you out of our village. We will refuse to bury your dead,” said the village leaders. “We will put a guard at the entrance of our village who will not allow you or these evangelicals in.”
-Not surprising, power is everything in these cultures and any group that has even a small chance of pulling people away is a threat. The sad truth here is Northern Iraq is considered tolerant.

In nearby Al Kosh, a village not under Kurdish authority, the bishop who supervises the Assyrian Christian church told a local evangelical pastor that he could not lead Bible studies in the house that he owns. Furthermore, he was told that if he didn’t stop teaching, someone would break his back. That’s tantamount to a death threat. “This is the second time we’ve received threats of this kind,” said Jack Harris, founder of the Hands of Hope Foundation International (HOHFI), in cooperation with Mission Global Harvest of Praise Chapel International.

“We harbor no animosity toward the Assyrian Church or anyone else here; nor would we purposely do anything to stir an already volatile pot,” Harris said. Nevertheless, in the Middle East there are those who seek to exploit fear to incite hatred and violence among various groups.

Those who provoked the beating of the young Yezede man after he’d been baptized were most likely terrorists. Photos of the baptism were distributed on more than 200 CDs among the Yezede community. Although people within that society attempted to execute the young man, forces from the outside initiated the distribution of the images. Their strategy might have worked, but they failed to calculate the power of friendship.

Outraged over the gross violation of the civil rights of the pastor and the church members, Harris, the missionary leader of the evangelical churches in that region, sought help from the Kurdish government. “My understanding of Kurdistan’s constitution is that it protects its citizens’ human rights and guarantees religious freedom,” he said. “We made the decision that this could no longer be ignored but must be dealt with legally.”

Both he and one of the senior Kurdish pastors that Harris works with wrote strong letters to several high government officials and the Parliament of Kurdistan. They prayed. They waited. They trusted that somehow their voices would be heard.

Two other evangelical pastors were called to Erbil to meet with the Assyrian controlled Ministry of Religious Affairs. Harris went to Zakho “to meet with the mayor of that city who has authority over the area in question.” He also took the family whose rights had been violated.

“Two days before I had gone to Erbil for an interview with a Kurdish woman who is both advisor to and representative for the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. On the same day my letter was delivered to the head of the Parliament I was able to tell this representative about our problem.”

Another friend of Harris, a colonel with the Kurdish military, in charge of security over the area, became involved. “He assured me that he would take care of the problem firmly but diplomatically,” Harris said. “He knows the people who were involved in the attack.”

Referring to the terrorists, the colonel told Harris, “We are aware that there are elements trying to stir up trouble between the Christian groups to destabilize the Kurdish region.”

At the same time that Harris spoke with the Colonel, one of the two pastors called him from the meeting in Erbil at the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He reported a dramatic reversal in the attitude of the Assyrian officials.

“Another friend, a lawyer in the Parliament, also made important calls on our behalf,” Harris said.

“Once more my faith in this Kurdistan Regional Government is more than justified, Harris wrote. “It seems that this whole thing is working for our good. Our rights have been assured, the issues… have become clear to the government here. We’ve been assured that we are citizens of Kurdistan with all rights including protection from this kind of abuse. Our religious freedom was assured, including the right of propagation of our faith…. We have the right to share our faith [and] we’ve been told how to go about establishing our own committee to represent our rights before the Kurdistan Regional Government and to have direct access to the President’s office.”

The peace between various factions is being mediated by Kurdish Muslims who are moderates and truly believe in democratic rights for all. No one is being hurt or punished. It would seem that at least on some ways regional peace is possible.

Is peace in the Middle East possible?

According to many ancient Jewish texts and prophetic Christian writings, the answer is no, at least not yet. Evidence from correspondence by John, a follower of Jesus and leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem, indicates that peace between Jews and Arabs will not happen without the help of one person.

According to the Book of Revelation, the last book among the biblical writings, there can be no peace until a person often referred to as the Anti-Christ brokers a peace treaty between Israel and its enemies. Even then, according to John and other sources, that treaty will be broken midway through its seven-year term. In light of such authoritative writings, it seems impossible that peace will prevail throughout the Middle East. Even if a Palestinian state were to be created, the option of peace with Israel appears to be more of a wish than a hope on the horizon. And yet, there are places in the world today where an inexplicable peace exists.

In the midst of terrorist threats, attempted honor killings, and mob rage fueled by terrorists driven by generations of hatred, a peace that is hard to understand seems to thrive.

“As I rode back from Zakho to Duhok, I told my friend Mohammed, ‘I feel… that this is what God is doing in the Middle East right now! That which is impossible for men is achievable by God. Dare we believe and hope after centuries of brutalizing each other [that] Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews may come together, not in unity of theological agreement but in an arena of mutual democratic respect? I believe it’s possible,’” Harris wrote.

He may be right. At least for now. In some areas.

Throughout Egypt painted on walls are the symbols of the Christian cross and the crescent of Islam—together. Is this combination the symbol of a new religion? Maybe. It certainly appears to be evidence that two weary peoples are tired of radicalism and heavy-handed oppression on both sides. Both Christians and Muslims seem to be reaching out toward a brave new world. Both groups seem to desire and are willing to stand on equal ground as human beings with mutual respect to work together for peace and the betterment of both their peoples.

Is peace in our time possible? In Kurdistan, Muslims defend and protected evangelical Christian pastors. They ask nothing in return except respect for their culture, their friends and families. They wish only that the evangelicals would stand with them to build a strong future for everyone. In a society where freedom is real, where dialogue is possible, where laws for human rights and mutual respect exist, there is an atmosphere in which the Gospel may be shared.

Hate is not a new commodity imported to the Middle East or Iraq or Kurdistan. The roots of animosity are entangled with thousands of years of history. Still in a region enslaved by hostility, there is hope.

Honor killings are not confined to this territory. Neither are terrorist acts or persecution. The incidents related in this article are only a few of those known to have occurred in a region not far from the border with Turkey. Still, unlike some territories in southern Iraq, Kurdistan is relatively stable. Calm prevails most of the time between Muslims and Jews as well as the Assyrian Christians and Protestant evangelicals. Nevertheless, tensions remain high and distrust, even hatred, continues to run deep, down through the centuries from the time of the Crusades to this day. That’s why almost no one in the Middle East is immune to violence, even vengeance.

The people of Kurdistan live amid turmoil, but desire peace. Muslims and Christians in Egypt are at least weary of war. And yet at least sometimes people react to rumor rather than reason.

Is peace on Earth possible?

Jack Harris thinks it is. At least in his part of the world. And with good reason.

One of the pastors that Harris works with showed him a request from the Assyrian Christians. They asked if the evangelical pastor would be willing to visit them on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham’s organization, to bring gifts for the children of their village.

Harris rejoiced and quoted part of Matthew 19:26. “With God all things are possible.”
The Seeds of Hope

Jack Harris founded Hands of Hope Foundation International (HOHFI) in 2006 in cooperation with Praise Chapel Missions of Praise Chapel International. To learn more about how Harris is rebuilding Kurdistan go to http://mideastoutreach.wordpress.com/category/jack-harris/ and click on http://www.praisechapel.com/PCI/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyWjkWc1NP8 to learn more about the work of Praise Chapel International and Praise Chapel Missions.

During the past five years Harris has enlisted other pastors, missionaries, teachers, medical personnel, and others who travel at their own expense to help people who can’t help themselves.

During the past five years Harris has enlisted other pastors, missionaries, teachers, medical personnel, and others who travel at their own expense to help people who can’t help themselves.

The results continue to amaze those who sacrifice their time and risk their lives, as well as though who pray for and partner with Harris. Several small evangelical Christian congregations now meet in various villages throughout the region of Kurdistan where Harris has built numerous homes for widows and orphans of the genocide committed at the direction of Saddam Hussein.

To contribute, donate or partner with Harris go to http://www.iragirelief.com and discover how you can make a difference. Donations may be sent to Jack Harris Ministries, Praise Chapel Missions (Iraq), PO Box 1769, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730, USA.

Explore posts in the same categories: Abuse of Power, Christians under attack, Fighting Back, Religiocide

5 Comments on “Peace in the Middle East: Is It Possible?”

  1. Jeff Adams Says:

    I wrote the original article, available through Assist News Service (ANS). Click on or cut and paste this URL http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2011/s11060121.htm to read it there and see the photos provided by Jack Harris.

    Yes, he and many others risk their lives every day. And, yes, the point of my article is that peace between Israel and Muslims is not possible on a global scale, but we can win the peace with people if we care enough to demonstrate genuine love.

    I’ve known Jack for many years and been involved with his work in Kurdistan since his initial trip there, when he knew no one. Now, the people who once might have killed him protect him at the risk of their lives.

    Thanks for posting my article.

    • Ronin Says:

      Mr. Adams,

      When I read the article, it touched a nerve with me. Having served as a peacekeeper and seen first hand the work being done by men and women like Mr. Harris, I wanted to help. As you already know, they do not normally ask for or receive recognition for their efforts.

      It is easy to find articles about the problems with the world and not so easy to find positive stories about the men and women attempting to better it. I have never met your friend “Jack” but I have been privileged to meet people like him. I wanted to do what I could to help get their story out. Please do consider updates on your friends’ important work.

      You did a great job describing the complexities it takes to go from untrusted and unwanted outsider to a valuable ally and friend.

      Through hard work, kindness and dedicated people showing others a better way, periods of peaceful co-existence are possible. Thank you for writing the article and I sincerely hope that the efforts of Mr., Harris are successful and that is some measurable way, they help to bring peace and security to a region that has missed it for far to long.

      Ronin

  2. Leatherneck Says:

    Genuine love will not cut it, although I admire your desire for it to work.

    Those of the world will hate those not of this world. Christ was hated first. Are we greater than Christ.

    BZO, or Die! Unless your Amish.

  3. steve Says:

    No, the area from North Africa through the mid East and into SW Asia will never know “peace”…at least anything that we would enjoy living in.

  4. Big Frank Says:

    Even the most dedicated and determined, IMHO would not be able to change thousands of years of tribal, religious, ethnic,and nationalistic attitudes. Especially when a people are brainwashed from birth to think only one way. Many folks in the ME and Africa are locked in the past, and it will take a long time and much patience to bring them to a modern level of a civil society. Take a look at what the diplomats and the neo cons thought that they would march troops into most ME countries and ‘shazam’ democracy would magically appear. They were proven wrong but still insist we need just a little more time and a few more billions of dollars that we can’t spare. I’m sick of the whole thing our youth are getting killed and maimed for no good reason in wars with no stated goals or objectives, following Politically Correct asinine and even ludicrous ‘rules of engagement’ , which results in too many of them coming home via Dover AFB in metal boxes. We have the finest, best trained, and most professional military in the world but the spineless political class and the armchair Generals refuse to turn them loose and get it over with, instead they would have us fart around for decades.


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