Jerusalem literally means “City of Peace”, but down through the centuries, it has been anything but that. Although we continually “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” (Psalm 122:6), the answer seems long delayed. Holy Land violence, like a simmering pot, threatens to boil over at any moment.
Touring the Old City a few years ago, our group witnessed a riot at the Wailing Wall. A woman rabbi from Manhattan decided to pray at the men’s section of the wall. The Orthodox rabbis went ballistic. Authorities locked down the gates and it took a whole platoon of soldiers to quell the uprising. Needless to say, I was glad to get out of there.
My dear Palestinian friend, Hanna Massad, has chosen not to get out of there. Exiled in Jordan after the last persecution, Hanna, a Baptist pastor, keeps coming back home to Gaza, one of the darkest places on earth.
Amidst raging conflict and deep poverty, he ministers between two fires: militant Islamic aggression, and harsh Israeli occupation.
Their Bible Society was bombed twice. The church was caught in the crossfire of a Hamas – Fatah shootout, critically injuring an employee. Arsonists torched the church’s public library on three separate occasions.
Extremists kidnapped Hanna’s friend and co-worker, Rami Ayyad, and executed him, simply because of his bold Christian testimony. He left behind two precious children, and grieving wife, Pauline, who was pregnant at the time, giving birth to a daughter a few months later.
Despite the persecution, Dr. Massad and his wife, Suhad, chose to remain in the Middle East to serve their suffering friends, rather than seek asylum in America. Standing with the vulnerable and poor, they stand with Jesus as they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for orphans, proclaim the Gospel, encourage the saints, and train leaders.
There is not a hint of bitterness in this godly pastor. His tender spirit reminds me of Jesus, who approaching Jerusalem, wept, and said, “If you, only you had known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).
The Palestinians and Israelis don’t see it yet, but Hanna and Suhad offer the illusive key to ending the Middle East conflict: Christ’s peace.
Just as the Nativity brought poor Jewish shepherds and rich Arabic wise men together in one humble place, so the gracious work of Jesus ripples forth from the Massad’s and other sincere Middle Eastern believers, as they sow seeds of righteousness, expecting a harvest of peace.
Click Here to learn more about Hanna Massad's Mission to Gaza