Overcoming Violence in the Middle East Inter-Regional Training

Eric C. Jackson, WSCF Representative to the U.N.

Report on the World Student Christian Federation’s
May 1, 2014
One of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had was attending the “Overcoming Violence in the Middle East” Inter-Regional training program of the WSCF. I’ve lived in the United States of America all of my life and only been able to hear “bits and pieces” of what goes on in the Middle East. The U.S. and pro-western media has painted a perspective that I’ve only been able to get a small glimpse of through reading, alternative media, and social media. This includes the frame of the discussion and language used in the wider global conversation on the struggle taking place in the Middle East.
Upon arriving to the airport, I was offered a ride by a Jordanian version of a livery taxi. Most livery drivers in the United States are simply people who are struggling trying to survive in the midst of economic challenges. The airport had signs on how to identify “authorized” vehicles. However, we began a three minute walk to a car that was not in the immediate vicinity of the airport. They didn’t speak any English, only Arabic. I thought out journey should have only taken twenty-minutes. Instead, the trip was approximately forty-five. I became nervous and every stereotype filled my brain. Once I arrived safely to my destination this set the tone for my journey. Me as an individual who is a proud progressive unaware of my own prejudices and biases. This gave great space in my heart and soul for a wide net of openness during this trip.
What I normally do on my trips away for conferences and other ministry/business related travel is to get to know the locals. I made it a form of spiritual practice to talk to three locals on a daily basis. I believe in order for us to work together for justice we have to first have to not only recognize, but know the humanity of our sisters and brothers in all its prisms.
A prism that was also discovered during this program was extremely harsh realities, brutalities, and oppression that our Palestinian friends suffer overseas. Hearing about how Palestinian people don’t know if they’ll have a job or a chance to attend school on a monthly basis was horrifying. Hearing our Iraqi brother show pictures of his neighborhood and country pre and post U.S. invasion was despicable and heart breaking. How a young girls friends and hear family were shot to death because they were mistaken for terrorists were painful to hear.
What impressed upon me most was the resilience to be, the resilience to smile, and have joy in the midst of this uncertainty and violence. The same people who I have laughed with one day was sharing the harsh everyday realities of their existence during presentations and I wondered “how”?
As a Pastor in a local church and not only a Pastor, but also an organizer I believe this conference gave me the tools to articulate what I experienced to people, to create awareness in communities, and to challenge this systemic violent oppression from a faith perspective. There is much to be grateful for through this experience. Through the joys and through the sorrows, through the sunshine and through the storms, and through it all lies the opportunity to create a unified act of resistance and develop a culture of unity to make a difference. Upon my return on Sunday, I began with a message about my experience and the need for awareness on focusing our attention towards violence in the Middle East and the plight of Palestinian sisters and brothers.
Lastly, as the U.N. Representative for the World Student Christian Federation, this has given me the resources needed to be an advocate and voice for the unheard voices in the Middle East. As Mother Theresa once said “God doesn’t want us to succeed, but God does want us to try.” I believe if we all “try” together, change will come.