Imagine a future that is different

Left: Destruction in Gaza, as seen through binoculars from a hill north of Gaza.
Right: Mae Elise Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), speaking at Bethlehem Bible College.
Photos by Nathan Hosler

An article by Nathan Hosler, director of the Peacebuilding and Policy Office, concerning a recent delegation to Israel/Palestine

Over the last eight months, it has felt, at least to me, difficult to imagine constructively and hopefully. While the work of the Peacebuilding and Policy Office continues to cover a range of topics and organizational partners, we have spent considerably more time than usual in relation to Israel and Palestine. Much of this has been in collaboration with and in support of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) and a range of other coalitions such as the Arms Trade Accountability Project and the big-tent Ceasefire Now Coalition.

Much of this joint work has been aimed at bringing an end to what the International Court of Justice has determined is a “plausible case of genocide.” As a US-based organization, our greatest focus is on the actions of the US government and its ongoing insistence on sending more weapons to support mass destruction and death of Palestinian civilians. This work has also focused on the release of hostages and political detainees as well as adequate humanitarian aid.

The lectionary passages for a recent week included 1 Samuel 3:1-20 and the calling of Samuel. The passage opens with setting the context: “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.”

In a time when much action and little progress is made on stopping violence, it is often hard to imagine or envision a future that is different.

Speaking in Bethlehem last month, Lamma Mansour, a Palestinian Christian, powerfully addressed this from a position of vulnerability and grief. She stated, “Hope gives the power to imagine…. We are hope-shaped creatures…. If we fail to imagine, others will fill the gap.” Her words, spoken at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference at Bethlehem Bible College, were met with great affirmation by both the international attendees as well as Palestinian Christians.

I joined part of this conference and about a week of meetings on behalf of the Church of the Brethren and as part of CMEP. While the Church of the Brethren opposes all war and supports the wellbeing of and peace for all people, we have specifically committed to supporting Christian communities at risk and those that are religious minorities (“Christian Minority Communities: 2015 Church of the Brethren Resolution,” In working to fulfill this mandate and in response to Palestinian Christians’ plea for solidarity and support, I traveled to visit, hear from, and advocate with them and on behalf of all victims of violence and injustice.

While in Jerusalem, I met with Yusef Daher, who leads the World Council of Churches liaison office. In our brief meeting, he expressed his distress that representatives of the global church—particularly the churches in the West—have not visited and that some have been silent about the international support for this unfolding unprecedented catastrophe for the Palestinian people—or have even supported the violence.

The week, as such trips go, was full of meetings, and ranged from high-level diplomatic and church leaders to grass-roots activists and survivors. Traveling with CMEP executive director Mae Elise Cannon and the Middle East Partnerships and Communication coordinator Lauren Draper, we met with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Combatants for Peace, the US Ambassador to Israel and the head of the US Office of Palestinian Affairs, local priests, rabbis, Catholic Relief Services, parents of wrongfully detained and abused children such as Shadi Khoury, and others.

In addition to spending considerable time being with and hearing from Palestinians, we also visited three sites of the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks by Hamas. Cannon noted that as followers of Christ working for peace, we can attend to and care for the hurt and trauma on all sides. This does not make all experiences or power the same or equal but acknowledges the real pain and fear.

On Sunday we traveled with a guide to the “Gaza envelope” and visited several of the sites of Oct. 7 attacks. We could also hear Israeli artillery, bombs, and drones, and machine gun fire from Israeli helicopters not far away—and at one point needed to take cover when a “red alert” sounded for an incoming rocket from Hamas. We could see destroyed buildings in Gaza and plumes of smoke and dust caused by the unprecedented bombing and destruction there.

After visiting homes destroyed by Hamas and hearing of those killed, the resident we were meeting said (her remarks here are paraphrased): Hamas keeps developing weapons and Israel keeps developing weapons, and where are we? I know that my safety and wellbeing and my children need them [Palestinians] to also have safety and wellbeing as well.

This did not start on Oct. 7 and will not be over when the bombing stops. The work of justice, peace, rebuilding, and healing will continue for a long time. Despite this, Palestinian pastor Munther Isaac asserted, “In Gaza they have taken almost everything. But they cannot get inside and take our faith in a just and good God.”

The work and ministries of our sisters and brothers in Palestine and Israel are characterized by strength and hope but are severely strained. Families continue to leave due to the hardships. People continue to live in fear and in dire circumstances. Our call and vocation is to proclaim, in word and deed, the Gospel of Peace.

“We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, always carrying around in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, NRSVue).

This article was originally featured in Newsline. Learn more about the ministry of the Peacebuilding and Policy Office at or support its work today at

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

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