Who Is My Neighbor?

I just took a class about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I’ll be sorting through those ideas and perspective for a long time. Partly, because the class was taught by a Palestinian-Muslim woman and so I’m learning to take what she has told us about her experience as truth and also listen to the perspective and stories of my Israeli-Jewish neighbors (and dear friends) as truth. It’s not that they are calling the other side wrong or untruthful. But there are definitely sides.

51lRXUeov4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In the midst of all of this, I read Mending the Divides: Creating Love in a Conflicted World by Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart. Co-founders of the Global Immersion Project, Huckins and Swigart have devoted their lives and careers to building peace in conflicted areas.

What they’ve learned is that talking and summits are not going to mend the divides of conflict. A radical shift in response the the question, Who is my neighbor? is needed. Or, perhaps it’s not a radical shift. After all, Jesus answered this question through his parable of the Good Samaritan thousands of years ago. It’s a story we’re still learning.

I appreciate the story-driven but practical approach Huckins & Swigart take in Mending the Divides. Each chapter starts with a real-life story, links a Biblical lesson, connects some practical next-steps, and ends with a few questions for reflection. The book is built around four steps to peacemaking: See, Immerse, Contend, and Restore.

As I look for ways to bring peace to this world through my own daily actions, I appreciated the gracious and helpful tone in Mending the Divides. I was reminded that, while international trips are important learning experiences, the real sustaining work of peacemaking happens during school pickup and in our family’s values and actions.

My biggest takeaway, especially in light of walking humbly with God is that peacemaking starts with listening. The more stories I listen to, the more complex a conflict seems. Everyone has a valid point of view and it’s hard to pick a “right side” when you hear stories from all sides. So, I’m listening and learning. I’m remembering that everyone’s experience is true. And, I hope that if more of us stop and form relationships, those divides will be mended.

Have you ever immersed yourself in a global conflict through relationships? How has that changed your perspective? Have you ever intentionally immersed yourself in a local conflict through relationships?

BackyardThis post is Day 28 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

6 thoughts on “Who Is My Neighbor?

  1. Annie, one of the things I appreciate about you is how intentional you are to engage the world around you and to reflect Jesus. Thank you for sharing about the Global Immersion Project. It sounds like they are doing some amazing work. You are a wise woman to seek the truth and hear all the sides in a conflict. And, that’s what God tells us to do. Thank you for sharing how you are living this out.

    1. Thank you, Jeanne! Their use of the Good Samaritan to frame their work was so interesting. They talked about the importance of seeing ourselves in every character in the story…

  2. I do try my best to listen to folks. Having lived in The SF Bay Area, lots of middle eastern folks to interact with. Like many other immigrant groups they tended to settle in pockets and keep to themselves and we to ourselves. I did have a few opportunities to hear their stories. Same of Central Americans and Mexicans. True that truth lies inside each persons story. I like to hear stories of interaction that lead to better understanding. We do not have to give up our beliefs to engage thoughtfully. I will have to look this book up. Thank you again. Monday is a catch up day for me. I was traveling for work all last week. This blog of yours has been good for me.

    1. We have friends who recently moved to a rural area, closer to nature and hiking. While I love the idea of a slower pace, I’m not ready to give up the diversity an urban setting offers. I’m thankful that our kids will learn about other cultures just by going to school; that we have opportunities to grow and interact in daily life.

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