In 1990, John & I traveled with a church group to the Middle East; in 1993, I returned with a seminary group. These journeys were for the purpose of gaining insights into biblical locations and customs in addition to acquiring a measure of understanding of the complexity that makes up the Middle Eastern milieu.
As you can see from the photos, the earliest beginnings of those who followed Jesus took place in Galilee/Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and nations not covered by my photos, such as Turkey and Italy. The Old Testament stories also span these nations in addition to Persia and Mesopotamia. Iraq now covers much of what was once known as Mesopotamia—the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. In fact, Mesopotamia was the center of cultural development that forms the foundation for our modern societies: writing, the domestication of animals & plants, literary developments, hymns & prayers, sculpture, bas-reliefs, monumental architecture, engraving, and fine textiles. (Harper’s Bible Dictionary)
We who follow the Prince of Peace must make the effort to know the truth behind conflicts … to meet and listen to the stories of all people … to see and communicate with every person within the knowledge that an omnipresent, loving God created all of us to love one another … to do unto others as you would have them do unto you … to be kind one to another.
May these photos assist all of us in comprehending a fragment of truth regarding the extremely complicated maze that is the Middle Eastern conflict. It is not my intent to simplify this conflict, but to stimulate you to do your own research, listen to (or read) the stories of all ethnic groups, seek out the truth for yourselves and cease to depend upon biased news media and governmental officials to explain the scenario accurately. It is time to seek truth on our own … to communicate person to person … to walk in the shoes of the groups involved, with the question in mind: “How would I respond were I in a similar situation?” Then ask: “What is the Way of Love & Peace?”
Sadly, the governments on this planet dictate the perceptions we have of their citizens. The truth is usually far from evident until we visit the people and hear their stories. I know that I have traveled to three continents and Central America and found that people everywhere possess the same desires: to live in a just peace … to feed and cloth their families … to educate their children … to enjoy work that is personally fulfilling and that pays a living wage.
The truth is: We are One Family of God. If one member of our family hurts, we all hurt. When we succeed in bettering the life of one individual, we better the life of all family members. We are One!
One major difference between Americans and Middle Easterners is the age of our nations. We are a new nation … the very oldest of our buildings are no more than 400 yrs. old. Few that old have avoided being torn down for the “new.” When Americans speak of our history, we mean several hundred years and most of us give little thought to it. We more often tend to discard the old and purchase the new. Our roots run shallow.
Compare this with people in the Middle East whose ancestors have lived in the same country—often on the same land—for hundreds of years … who can trace their family heritage back hundreds—if not thousands—of years … who are living where Jesus walked … who are descendants of the first followers of Jesus … some even speak the same dialect as Jesus did. Jews walk where the prophets and kings walked … Muslims walk where Mohammed walked. Christians, Jews, and Muslims walk where Abraham walked. The land is sacred to each religion. Middle Easterners live in the cradle of civilization. Traditional customs may be thousands of years old. Theirs is an in-depth connection to their history and land. Their roots run deep.