I received the great blessing of traveling to Turkey and Israel in May. During that trip I gained a broader perspective on Jewish/Christian/Muslim relations in that incredibly unsettled region of the world. Turkey is 95% or more Muslim and the government (so far, anyway) is secular. There are many different sects of the Muslim faith who live in that country peacefully. For a Westerner, the cultural invasion, so to speak, is the interruption from the widely scattered mosques announcing the call to prayer. That happens four times a day (sometimes way before dawn). But when you learn what the words mean it seems so welcome somehow. The words declare God as sovereign and holy and reminds people that their faith and future depends on their regular worship and prayer to God. The landscape is dotted with mosques the way our landscape is dotted with churches, cathedrals, synagogues and mosques in this country.
But in Israel the undercurrent of social tension runs high. Israel maintains security such that tourists like myself feel secure. But the division between Jews and Palestinians can be seen and the tension can be sensed. The military controls the destructive tendencies of the extremist Palestinians but in the process it contains to the point of benign neglect the peaceful Palestinians, of whom there are many. I believe they refer to the Christian and Legal Palestinians as Arabs. But those who claim their rights were violated in the '47 Un/England grant of the land of Israel to Jews continue to feel displaced and persecuted.
Surely there is a better way.
While we were there in May, Pope Francis was there, too. He invited the heads of both the Palestinian and Israeli groups to the Vatican for prayer. The world makes light of that offer. But honestly, I think it is a brilliant move that may ultimately be the only way to achieve peace. Both Jews and Palestinian Muslims claim strong faith. While politics inherently divides because it sets people one against the other, even in democracy, prayer and worship transcend that nonsense and offer wholeness in the way that politicians never can.
I am hoping the leaders are invited to prayer at least twice this year and at least quarterly the next until it results in a monthly meeting together for peace.