Peace in our country; Peace in our hearts

Simon Smart speaks to Roma Nakhleh about the unrest in Palestine and Jerusalem while the world celebrates the birth of the 'Prince of Peace'

I’ve been speaking with Palestinian Christians in Israel about what Christmas will be like for them this year. What does it mean to talk about the birth of the “Prince of Peace” when all around you is violence, anxiety, and loss?  

Rima Nakhleh is in the finance team at World Vision, working among the poorest children in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. She grew up in the Old City.  

She told me her childhood home was a minute’s walk from the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion of Christ and his empty tomb. When she sat in that church she felt there were angels surrounding her. 

Today she is feeling the strain of recent events that she admits have broken her heart. Each night her 12-year-old daughter asks her to pray in her room because she is scared—scared for herself, and also scared for other children who are being harmed.  

Rima’s prayers, understandably, are for peace: “We pray to have peace in our hearts”, she says, and adds that the softening of hard hearts is a crucial change needed in her country. “There are many people whose hearts are full with hatred and inhumanity”.  

Despite the circumstances Rima says she never loses hope. She has a deep sense that the baby born down the road in Bethlehem 2000 years ago provides answers both to individual pain and our communal life together.  

“He can make new beginnings and he can heal the wounds of the people … who have been suffering,” she says.  

Meanwhile Rima sees her role as caring for those suffering people; finding ways to ease their pain. In that way she is reflecting the new life she feels she has received—a life of joy and, yes, a life of peace. 

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