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World News

'Church must speak out against violence' says Christian in Jerusalem

by Donna Birrell

A Palestinian Christian living in Jerusalem is urging Christians and the Church to speak out against the violence engulfing the region.

Dr Salim Munayer was speaking to Premier in a week that airstrikes and rocket attacks between Palestinians and Israelis left dozens of people dead and hundreds more injured. 

He says many civilians are afraid to go out:

"It's very tense, the streets are empty, there is quite a bit of fear. Every evening in my neighbourhood in the Old City of Jerusalem, there are clashes between the police and demonstrators. There is no law and order, the police have lost control of what's happening in the country. If you are a citizen in the wrong neighbourhood, you can experience violence and lynching."

Dr Munayer, who is director of Musalaha reconciliation ministry in Israel-Palestine and also a trustee of Church Mission Society, says he has lived through many conflicts in the region, but the nature of violence has changed recently:

"I think that is a fundamental difference in my memory - there is a loss of control by the police. Society has been fragmented and the police aren't controlling. I'm not only talking about the Palestinian side; I'm talking about the Jewish side also. In the last year, we are experiencing street violence arising more and more. And clearly, there is deliberate policy of the police, not to be engaged in certain type of clashes. The police are not there for them."

Dr Munayer says that while he and many others could leave the region to take up opportunities elsewhere, his Christian faith compels him to stay. And he is urging the Church to be more prominent in calling for peace:

"We never experienced racism to the level we have right now. And in many churches, we are silent. The church has to move out to the public sphere. The church has to speak up. The church needs to go where people are hurting. The church needs to be where people are angry. The church needs to be where the wounds are. I think the challenge of our life more than anything else, is to ask how I'm going to have a community relationship with people that hate me and the distinctiveness of being a follower of Jesus, is loving our enemy."

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