In March, I was on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee at the site of a modern, 8-sided church surrounded by a garden, on the spot where Jesus may have preached his famous Sermon on the Mount. Dotting the landscape were low monuments with raised letters quoting the succinct and salient blessings that Jesus shared at the start of this famous sermon.
My eyes were drawn to one of my favorite Beatitudes:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
I had come to the Holy Land to share with 30 other travelers how Forman is working for peace in our world today. We need to build better relationships between Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Jews. Too often in our ignorance we write off people as “enemies” or even “terrorists.” It takes work to break down prejudice and internal barriers we have silently constructed inside our heads. Peacemaking happens when we come out of our comfort zone and build relational bridges between divergent cultures and religious divisions in our world. Peacemaking takes more than wishes, it takes concrete actions. People from churches who support Forman came with me to meet Muslims, like our bus drivers Sala in Jordan or Ashraf in Israel, and Christians like our guides James and Mark, and Jews who are all sharing the Holy sites of Israel and Jordan as they strive to live together.
We were in the Arab Christian cities of Madaba in Jordan and Nazareth in Israel. We walked the well-worn streets of the Muslim and Christian quarters in the walled city of ancient Jerusalem. Yes, there were armed guards strategically situated like those pictured on the Via Delarosa – the traditional path of suffering Christ took as he was driven by his captors towards the cross. Sometimes the rule of law and armed guards are needed to keep the peace. Why? Because the reality is that there are “peace breakers” at work in the world today too. When I was in Pakistan in February, I was impressed with the challenge of being a “peacemaker” in a society where violence threatens to break out without warning. All the churches we visited, and even many of the Christian schools, have 8-foot walls, locked gates, and armed guards to “keep the peace.” The government requires churches and schools to provide such measures to ensure the safety of their members.
During the Sunday service at the Lahore Cathedral I was struck when we prayed for their guards who were working that day to keep us safe. Peacemaking and peacekeeping are serious business in certain neighborhoods of the world. Those who live in such neighborhoods appreciate the support our donors have given to us as we do the work of peacemaking at Forman Christian College. Forman has a perimeter wall, biometric security measures, and 140 armed guards to allow our campus to be an oasis of peace and harmony in a divided and sometimes dangerous country.
We also applaud our rector, Dr. Jim Tebbe and his wife Beth for making the personal sacrifices they have made to work for peace and interfaith harmony which is modeled so well at Forman.
Finally, we rejoice that now Jim has been nationally recognized by the highest level of government for the work he and all of Forman have done to bring peace through education. Far from the quiet hillside in Galilee, Jim Tebbe and all of the staff at Forman Christian College have heard the Master’s words. They are ushering the blessings of peace through the good works they are doing to be true peacemakers and children of God.
Working together for God’s Shalom,
Rev. Samuel A. Schreiner III
Friends of Forman Christian College
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