Positive Peace

“Life is unbearable here for the average person.. The church is doing what it can to assist those in need but it’s not enough.  We need peace.”

-Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, pastor of National Evangelical Church in Beirut, Lebanon

Rev. Prestemon & Dr. Makari with Rev. Dr. Badr (center)

There is an overwhelming sense of uncertainty and instability here in Lebanon.  You hear it as people venture predictions about whether there will be war again in the very near future. It’s obvious as people talk about upcoming travel they’ll be doing out of the country and they plan what they will do if war breaks out while they’re away, whether they’ll be able to get home, how their work will get tended to. At midday Thursday, Israeli aircraft flew beneath the sound barrier over Lebanon air space, causing a sonic boom that rattled windows and nerves, a familiar tactic to the Lebanese that is meant to remind them of Israel’s military might. The stress of this chronic uncertainty is also clear as people we’ve spoken with worry openly about the future of Lebanon and the future of the church here.

“We need peace.” They were strikingly simple words from Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, a man who is a published author, brilliant theologian & historian, and beloved pastor of 39 years at National Evangelical Church in Beirut. He said them softly, his eyes cast downward. A poignant, painful moment.

Forum for Development, Culture, & Dialogue partners from southern Lebanon describe the dire conditions in that area as conflict heightens

The day after meeting Dr. Badr, we spent the morning with staff of the Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue (FDCD) in Beirut.  The enthusiasm and camaraderie of this staff was infectious, their laughter a welcoming balm, but their work is deeply serious. They do conflict-resolution and peace-building in the Middle East, creating spaces for encounter & dialogue where people can acknowledge each other’s grievances and reconcile. 

FDCD also provides humanitarian relief and emergency response. They’ve been engaged with that work in Syria, for example, for the last 12 years, as that country has been devastated by war and an earthquake.  And now they are also providing relief in southern Lebanon, where nearly 100,000 people have been displaced by the skirmishes there between Hezbollah and Israel and are living in dire conditions.

The staff of FDCD and the General Secretary of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches with Prestemon & Makari

Mireille Hamouche, the Deputy Director at FDCD, told us they’re interested in building a peace that is wider than most people think about. It’s a peace that happens over time as space is granted for those who have been harmed to tell their stories and be heard, their mutual losses to be acknowledged.  It’s a “positive peace”, she said, “not just the absence of violence but also the presence of healthy and sound relationships, the creation of community.”

The prospect of war and the hope for peace have been steady refrains in this beautiful country of Lebanon. We also heard from nearly every partner we visited in these few days a solemn request.  Please pray for us, they’ve said. So I conclude this post with this prayer for them all:

Holy God, Prince of Peace, your people in Lebanon are weary from the stress and uncertainty and violence of long decades. Grant them a peace that passes all understanding, a peace where each one’s dignity is honored and where life can be lived with security, joy, and hope. Strengthen the peacemakers. Lend courage and perseverance to our partners. Give aid to the suffering. Let the words of your prophet Micah be fulfilled,  that all may sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees and no one shall make them afraid.  Amen.

(Global Ministries (United Church of Christ & Christian Church/Disciples of Christ) identifies “peace” as one of its core values for our work: “living out God’s radical love by confronting powers that deny the fullness of life and the integrity of creation.” Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing and to special appeals allow us to support partners like those mentioned above. Thank you.)

The Reverend Shari Prestemon began her service with the national ministries of the United Church of Christ in January 2024. As the Acting Associate General Minister & Co-Executive for Global Ministries she has the privilege of supporting several teams: Global MinistriesGlobal H.O.P.E.Public Policy & Advocacy Team (Washington, D.C.), our staff liaison at the United Nations, and our Gender & Sexuality Justice Team. She previously served as a local church pastor in Illinois and Wisconsin, the Executive Director at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi, and the Minnesota Conference Minister. Her call to ministry grew, in part, from early Global Ministries experiences, especially service as a Peace & Justice Intern in Dumaguete City, the Philippines.

Categories: Voices of the Journey

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