Qalqilya – or how to meet with the Muslim World
I knew Qalqilya as a little spot on the map, which is surrounded by walls. Whenever I spoke in Germany about the situation in Israel/Palestine, this little spot said to me. „Come and see! Visit Qalqilya!“ So, I made up my mind to go there, but how can I go to Qalqilya without knowing anybody there?
Earlier in life I slept outside on the road, just the Lord being my shelter and protection. I was willing to do the same thing also in Qalqilya. But a few days before I left, I had the gorgeous idea to ask for a peace contact through our community here. You, Moha, invited me generously. So I left for Qalqilya on Wednesday mornig the 15th of July. My German friend Christiane went with me in spirit. We keep contact over phone, SMS or if possible talk over Skype. (Skype is a programm which allows you to phone via computer.)
How to meet with the Muslim world?
Let me draw a big circle. After the fall of the Soviet Union a new configuration of political power in our world developed. The West, first of all the US but also Europe emerged as the world leading powers. After September 2001 George W. Bush led the western world into a „war against terror“. Now Obama changed the political tone, on the one hand he tries to avoid confrontation and to solve problems by dialoque and diplomacy, but on the other hand he intensifies the war in Afghanistan. Until now Iran is not willing to give up its nuclear program.
If we look back in history the relationship between the Christian and the Arab-muslim world is complex. The period of Arab glory passed a long time ago. The Arab countries in the Middle East have been colonized by European powers. The Muslim world feels humiliated and exploited by Western „Christian“ countries. After the fall of communism Muslims grew in self confidence. Oil revenues have given them a new political strength. Western wars are not an expression of Christian religion, they are rather motivated by self-interest: oil, strategic and economic influence, security. Just as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories does not express the humanist spirit of the Jewish religion. In this general atmosphere I practise a different approach: I go to Qalqilya as a messenger of a Christian Spirit. I want to meet „the other side“ in peace.
Qalqilya is a Muslim town. It lies right eastwards of the so called „green line“ (The armistice line of 1949.). In the war of 1947-49 the town lost all of its land westward of the green line, more over many refugees fled to Qalqilya, so that 35.000 of the 45.000 inhabitants are refugees, registered with the UN. Qalqilya is a Hamas stronghold, in the elections of 2006 a Hamas major was elected. Israel put him into prison. Now Fatah is ruling, and Hamas has gone underground. Recently there has been a deadly shoot out between Fatah and Hamas forces int the city.
Before I went there I was a bit anxious. I shall not take my laptop with me. Should I take my credit card? I divided my money and hid part of it. So that in case I would „loose“ something, there is still a rest, which I can access. Leaving at 7 o'clock in the morning I arrived in Qalqilya at 11:15. First I went to a Knaffe-Cafe. Knaffe is a delicious kind of sweets. The shop keeper invited me afterwards for a coffee. He saw my wooden cross striking out from the white T-shirt. Then we sat there for two hours and discussed about the Quran and the Bible. During the coming days many Muslims tried to convince me to become a Muslim. I hope that I could react to them in a Christian spirit, leaving in word and deed a testimony for my Lord Jesus Christ.
On Wednesday afternoon I went to see the separation barrier. Starting from the southern corner, where the fence becomes a solid concret wall, I walked and prayed that this wall may fall! My prayer walk lasted three quarters of an hour until I reached the gate Qalqilya north. Here day by day thousands of Palestinian workers go to Israel. They come at night already around two o'clock and wait until the gates are opened at 4 o'clock. They all need a permit. Since work is available on the Israli side and the families need to be fed, the workers suffer the humiliation.One of them said to me: „I prefer to get 90 NIS per day (17 Euro) on the Palestinian side rather than to get 200 NIS (38 Euro) on the Israeli side.“ Who can imagine what suffering these workers are going through day by day?
On Friday morning I joint a peaceful demonstration against the wall in Azzun Atme, which is close to Qalqilya. The organizers put two little children each one into a self-made cage of wire, thus symbolyzing the situation of a getto. The leader of the demonstration addressed the Israeli soldiers: „Why are you doing to us, what Hitler has done to you!!!“ I took the chance and told him that I do not agree so easily with this comparison. I gave him a copy of my booklet. He promised to read it and we exchanged emails for further contact.
I believe that my way of meeting the Muslim world has many, many advantages compared with the way our Western powers deal with Muslim countries. I am coming with open ears and hands, ready to receive and to give. I listened to many stories, stories of faith and stories of every day life. I join the struggle against the occupation, but I also bring my own message: my Christian faith is my source of peace and I inform about the history of the Jewish suffering during the Holocaust/Shoah. At the end of my visit I am happy to say:
Peace is possible !!!
For Jesus gives peace into my heart, He says: „Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.“ (Gospel of John 14:27)
I was a bit fearful when I came to Qalqilya, but it was wonderful, to be hosted as a guest and friend.
Dear friends, who read this newsletter and who feel like doing so, please pray that the Kingdom of God may grow on earth, please pray that my life here in the area will be fruitful. Please pray that the occupation ends and the wall will fall!
Greetings and blessings, Martin