The Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Salvador, Brazil, was an inspiring experience. People from various cultures from around the world gathered together to explore in depth the relationship between gospel and culture. Through worship events, study, discussion and dialogue, we experienced the diversity of the group and discovered the differences of opinion regarding issues of culture and interpreting the scriptures.
The conference itself was an experience of differences of opinions and cultures and understanding the nature of the church in the twenty-first century. Through conference discussions, we could see how the gospel challenges cultures, and there was a genuine attempt to listen and to share ways, understandings and wisdoms across the diverse cultures. These differences showed the richness of the church experience worldwide. This experience emphasized that cultures must be respected, and that the church needs to learn how to deal with people from different cultures when presenting the gospel to them.
Still there is need to study how the gospel challenges cultures and how cultures enlighten the gospel, making it more understandable. In Salvador we had a chance to see places that carry a history of slavery, and there we could feel the misery of people, while the rich and those who live a better life care little or nothing about the poor. From this situation, we could see that certain aspects of cultures need to be transformed to liberate people and introduce them to life in its fullness.
It is impossible to summarize the experience in Salvador in a few lines, but the Holy Spirit was helping us to see the relationship that exists between gospel and culture and to discern where the gospel transforms cultures. This article will present reflections from Salvador on the Middle East situation.
A major issue in the Middle East today is the peace settlement. Will the peoples of the Middle East experience peace after long struggle through wars? The Palestinian war lasted over forty years; the civil war of Lebanon more than seventeen, and both situations left misery, problems and suffering. The Palestinian issue is still being negotiated through dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The Iraq situation is not yet solved.
Since 1948, the Palestinian issue has been the one cause that has joined the Arab nations together. Today a peace process has begun, but the road is thorny. Peace negotiations are not easy, but entering into peace between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations is a major issue as we enter the twenty-fist century. There are still dialogues that need to take place between Israel on one side, Syria and Lebanon on the other. However, dialogue is better than war, considering that land for peace is a difficult issue to tackle. A peace settlement has been accepted in principle, but implementation is not easy. Both Palestinians and Israelis want to be a resident on their land, which represents a part of their heritage.
The Jerusalem issue seems to be the heart of the problem in the area. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all consider Jerusalem to be a holy city, with sites sacred to the three religions. Already, tensions are higher in Jerusalem than for years as negotiations and agreements come closer to directly addressing this issue. Once a peace settlement is decided, the situation in the Middle East will certainly improve.
However, we are concerned about violence in the Middle East. There are certain nations that support violence and export violence worldwide, even to other nations in the Middle East. This is one concern that needs to find some solution. Yet the solution for violence cannot be a local solution -- it has to be an international one.
To bring the cultures of the different Arab nations together with Israel in the area, to experience peace and to live together, is an important issue for the coming century. …