Thursday, May 15, 2008

Israel, Palestine Will Give Peace a Chance

AP--Israelis and Palestinians have achieved a momentous breakthrough in their decades-long struggle for peace. After years of conflict, yesterday’s signing of a peace treaty came as a shock. The biggest surprise, however, was that both parties give credit to the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) for providing the impetus for the historic events.

Earlier this spring, the NCC passed the resolution “A Call for Peace in Palestine.” The statement declared that “since both Israelis and Palestinians are human beings of sacred worth in the eyes of their Creator, both parties should immediately cease all violence and other acts that demean or injure God’s children in the region.”

The resolution also asked for an immediate meeting between the Israeli government, and representatives of Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in order to hammer out an agreement that would allow Palestinian civilians free passage into and out of Israeli-occupied territories. It would also immediately restore services such as electricity and water to those areas. Israeli troops would agree to withdraw fully from Gaza and the West Bank within 6 weeks. In return, the Palestinian organizations would cease all attacks against Israel and would recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Since every other effort at peace thus far has ended in miserable failure, no one had any expectations that the NCC’s call for peace would succeed. Yet, against all odds, that is exactly what happened.

Khaled Haniyeh, a Hamas negotiator, said the NCC resolution provided a moment of stunning clarity for the leadership of Hamas. “We had all been sitting around waiting eagerly for the latest NCC resolution to hit the web site. When it did, and we read the phrase that said people on both sides are of sacred worth, well, it was like a lamp had suddenly been lit in a dark room revealing a truth that had been there all along.”

Benjamin Harel, a senior member of the Cabinet of Israel, says the Israelis had a similar reaction. “The National Council of Churches hit the nail on the head,” said Harel. “It was so clear. Why were we still fighting one another when God just wanted us all to live in peace?”

Within hours, both sides had agreed to meet, and a short time later, the framework for a new treaty was in place. Israelis and Palestinians will from now on “respect one another’s full personhood,” will share an open border, and will keep radio volume to a “tolerable” level after 10:00pm.

NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnamon has only been on the job since last November, and he is humble about this historic accomplishment. “I can see the Spirit of God involved in this process,” he said in a telephone interview. “All we did was write the resolution, debate it, and then vote. God did the rest.”

Even the most skeptical Middle East experts think this peace has a chance to last for a very long time. “There’s something different about the process this time,” said Francis Moody, a director at the Middle East Peace Initiative. “Personally, I think it’s the resolution from the NCC. Everybody knows that resolutions from church councils are extremely effective. I don’t know why we didn’t try this sooner.”

The NCC hopes its next effort will be just as successful. At the next General Assembly, the Council will tackle an even tougher challenge. It hopes to alleviate tensions between Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fans with a resolution entitled “If You Can’t Cheer, Don’t Say Anything at All.”

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Man Asks for Fish, Gets Snake Instead

Gerald Calvin, Staff Writer

Jeremy Lamont went fishing and nearly lost his faith in God. It was not that the Big One got away. In fact, he never even got his line into the water. Instead, Lamont ended up in the emergency room at a local hospital, his right arm looking like a giant sausage.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, Lamont decided to take a break from preparing his adult Bible study lesson by going fishing. The text for the lesson had been Luke 11:9, “Ask, and it will be given you.”

“I figured,” said Lamont, “that I would put the scripture into practice.”

He had seen a fat trout beneath an overhang along the river, and for weeks had been trying to catch it. “I tried everything: worms, grasshoppers, lures, even flies. Nothing worked. Then, as I was approaching the river, I remembered a few more verses, particularly, ‘Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?’

“It seemed like the perfect situation,” continued Lamont. “The Bible spoke about asking for a fish, and here I was, fishing. I prayed, over and over, ‘God, let me catch that fish.’”

At that very moment, Lamont stumbled. As he fell, he tried to protect his valuable fishing rod from damage, and stuck out a hand to catch his balance against a rock. His hand instead slipped between two rocks, where a rattlesnake, hiding in the crevasse, bit Lamont.

“Fortunately, I wasn’t that far from the car, but it hurt like Hades all the way to the hospital. It felt like my hand was in a lake of fire,” he said.

Despite suffering intense pain and severe swelling in his hand and arm, Lamont’s doctors expect him to recover fully. In the meantime, Lamont has given over his Sunday School duties to his assistant for the next several weeks, and he is not sure whether he will ever return.

“My faith has been shaken somewhat. I asked for a fish and got bit by a rattler. Either God has a sense or humor, or He doesn’t exist.”

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