ONE PEACE AT A TIME – Reflection by Bishop John Pritchard


Just south west of Bethlehem is a remarkable farm run by a Christian family, the Nassars. It’s called the Tent of Nations. They’ve owned the land for 100 years and unusually they have the original papers to prove it. Over the years they’ve produced olives, grapes, almonds, wheat and other crops, but they’ve also been involved in legal battles over ownership for 25 of those years.

The farm is surrounded by five Israeli settlements, illegal under international law.

In recent years the Nassars have had hundreds of mature fruit trees bulldozed by Israeli military forces, 250 olive trees uprooted by settlers, roads blocked with rocks and concrete slabs, water tanks damaged and regular harassment. They’ve been denied access to electricity and water or permits to build on their land - so they renovate caves underground.

What impresses me every time I go there is the beautifully simple slogan of the Tent of Nations: ‘We refuse to be enemies.’ The family embodies the gospel invitation to be peacemakers. They have chosen the way of active, non-violent resistance and peace-making. They hold summer camps for local children. They seek to empower local women through classes in English and computing, farming and art workshops. And they welcome international volunteers to help them.

They seek to build hope one peace at a time.

As I write Ukraine is suffering an unimaginable bombardment from Russian forces. The conflict embodies humankind’s characteristic binary approach to disagreement – violence. That has been the sorry story of the Holy Land as well. And the result has been what it always is – violence begets violence, repression begets response, fear and distrust begets fear and distrust.

The breakthrough in this cycle of violence is precisely what the Tent of Nations exemplifies as it gently and confidently proclaims, ‘We refuse to be enemies.’ It’s the authentically Christian voice in this divided land, a voice of reconciliation and peace based on the teaching of Jesus. It’s what Christians bring, vastly outnumbered and apparently powerless, but holding out the most powerful gift in the world, the gift of hope.

Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic, once said, ‘Hope is a state of the mind, not a state of the world. It’s a dimension of the soul, an orientation of the heart. Hope isn’t the conviction that things will turn out well but the certainty that that something will make sense regardless of how it turns out.’

And that means that hope is indestructible.

This is one of the gifts the small Christian community brings to the land of the Holy One. Jesus gave hope one peace at a time. He didn’t major on big, barn-storming events. He talked with individuals, listened, responded, offered parables of hope. The gospels are said to show Jesus asking individuals and small groups of people 307 questions (overlapping in the four gospels of course). He wasn’t always in transmit mode, teaching and preaching and commanding the stage. He did the small thing, talked with individuals, met people at their point of need, healed them. He built the Kingdom from the bottom up.

It's like planting an olive tree, they say at the Tent of Nations. ‘A tree is a sign of hope. Planting a tree is believing in the future. You learn that peace should grow from the bottom up.’

As we pray for Christians in the Holy Land we can pray that individuals, families and organisations will be able to build hope one peace at a time, one small action of love and reconciliation following another, building the Kingdom steadily in the place where the Kingdom was first proclaimed and lived out.

And, by the way, isn’t that the way we’re all supposed to act as people of faith, wherever we live, building hope one peace at a time?

We can all get on with that today.


+John Pritchard

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