A team of Australian Christians will walk 41km (the length of Gaza) from Dreamworld to Palm Beach on the Gold Coast this Thursday, 21 December, to pray for peace throughout the Holy Land.
The team at NAYBA Australia – which helps churches transform neighbourhoods – is leading the Prayer Walk for Peace in the Holy Land, as a way of lamenting the scale of the conflict and the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Nic Mackay, executive director of NAYBA Australia, said the walk would begin very early in the morning (4.30am) at Dreamworld, stopping halfway for a short prayer service at Southport Uniting Church at 9.30am.
“All who can make it are warmly invited to attend. We hope to be joined by members of the Palestinian Christian community in Australia, as well as Jewish and other faith leaders from across the Gold Coast and beyond. Thereafter, we will continue our walk south to Palm Beach (about 20 km). Again, all are welcome to join.”
“There has to be a way for us, particularly as Christians and as followers of Jesus, to be able to express our lament at the suffering that both sides are experiencing.” – Nic Mackay
Mackay said the NAYBA team saw the walk as a great opportunity to do something collectively that was physical and symbolic “but also deeply rooted in a desire to pray for all those affected communities across the Holy Land.”
“So we thought, ‘Let’s do it as a team,’ but we also wanted to open it up to others who might be feeling a similar way and not knowing how to respond. That was some of the motivation behind organising this peace walk along the Gold Coast,” he said, adding that some Palestinian Christians had already indicated they would join the walk.
Mackay said his team had been speaking to other faith leaders here and overseas, including a UK group that has mounted a campaign called Christians Against Anti-Semitism and Palestinian Christians in Australia who have been offering nightly prayer gatherings over Zoom.
“They have direct connections to family members and loved ones in Gaza at the moment. And a member of our team, James Harris, has spent a lot of time in the Middle East and has a number of friends and connections in Gaza.”
The walk will also aim to raise funds for Palestinian Christians in Australia to help them provide material assistance for the 800 Palestinian refugees who have been given visas to enter Australia under the humanitarian program.
“We’re called as Christians to be peacemakers, and so we need to try and advocate for the cause of peace in whatever way we can.”
While the situation in the Middle East was complex, Mackay said, it was important to advocate for peace during this season of Advent, as Christians await the coming of Jesus – the Prince of Peace.
“It’s very hard to comprehend the extent of the grief that everybody across the region has experienced, but there has to be a way for us, particularly as Christians and as followers of Jesus, to be able to express our lament at the suffering that both sides are experiencing and to be able to speak out our desire and the call for peace that comes at the core of our faith,” he said.
“Jesus’ demand is not just to love our neighbours but even to love our enemies. And so, as Christians, but even as the world, we need to find ways of being able to hold the tension of the situation and understand that we can speak clearly about the need, for example, for Jewish people to be free and safe and not to have the fear of the massacre that they endured in October. And for the hostages to be released.
“But equally, we need to be able to talk about the suffering of millions of innocent Palestinians in Gaza – thousands of people have lost their lives and have absolutely nothing to do with Hamas and would like nothing more than to see the end of Hamas in the region, but they can’t be the collateral damage for bringing an end to this conflict. We’re not pretending to have the answers, but we’re called as Christians to be peacemakers, and so we need to try and advocate for the cause of peace in whatever way we can.”
“There’s no better time for us to stand in prayerful solidarity and do whatever we can to join the global call for peace across the Holy Land.”
Mackay said NAYBA got to know the Jewish and Muslim communities on the Gold Coast quite well during an audit of faith communities in the area at the end of last year. He said relationships built up over many years between different faith groups had endured despite the recent conflict.
“There’s a wonderful organisation called Multi-Faith Advisory Action Group, a collective run by a wonderful woman, Ree Ali. I was chatting with Ree the other day, and she was saying that because of the work that they have done to build a sense of strong interfaith relationship and connection, the friendships and the love that they have for one another have managed to endure, even amid the previous few months,” Mackay said.
“She went to a service that was held at one of the Jewish synagogues, and there’s just this sense of recognising that first and foremost, we are people, and we have a love for one another. There is that desire, even at a local level on the Gold Coast, to be part of advocating for and modelling what it looks like for us to all be able to live in peace with one another, regardless of any differences we might have in terms of our backgrounds or beliefs.
“So we thought it was also a nice environment in which to do this walk for peace and a lovely example of what it looks like to be peacemakers, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas. There’s no better time for us to stand in prayerful solidarity and do whatever we can to join the global call for peace across the Holy Land.”
“Our prayer is that it would have some impact, whether small or large, for the people living both locally and obviously for the global Jewish and Palestinian community.”
Mackay said even if the impact of the prayer walk was very small, it still mattered.
“There are ways that rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia play out at a local level. That’s the nature of the world now. These conflicts can happen in other parts of the world, but they have real consequences in our national and local contexts. And we need to be aware of that. What we do locally and in places like Australia also matters. We’re part of the global community. We’re part of the global Christian community. And so even though what we are doing might seem small, I don’t think it’s very small. I think it still matters. And, our prayer is that it would have some impact, whether small or large, for the people living both locally and obviously for the global Jewish and Palestinian community.”
If you live on or near the Gold Coast and would like to join the short prayer service at 9.30am at Southport Uniting Church, or if you are interested in joining the walk, contact James Harris at [email protected]. Otherwise, NAYBA asks that you pray wherever you are on Thursday morning.
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