An unlikely pair has teamed up to show that Jesus can unite anyone
“In 1948 my grandfather fled his home in Jaffa,” begins Tanas Alqassis. The 150 or so people gathered in a church in Glasgow listen attentively as he describes the difficulties of living in the Palestinian territories.
“It’s very easy to become bitter and hateful,” he says, “but Jesus has made me a man of peace.”
“Now I’d like to invite my brother Joseph to come up here,” he concludes.
The man who gets up and gives Tanas a hug looks nothing like Tanas physically. And as he begins to speak, those listening realise that his background could scarcely be more different: Jewish and American.
“I grew up hating Jesus,” he says. “And I really didn’t trust Arabs. But today I can tell you that by God’s grace, I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and this man next to me is one of my best friends.”
When we first reported on Tanas Alqassis (the CMS Middle East regional manager) and Joseph Steinberg (a CMS director) in August 2007, the idea for a ‘Tour of Reconciliation’ was just beginning. This autumn the unlikely duo have been speaking in churches, bringing a message of unity and peace.
“I think some people are surprised to discover we don’t have a political agenda,” says Joseph, adding: “But for us, Jesus comes first.”
Tanas agrees: “Through our friendship and our stories, hopefully, we can show others that Jesus can unite anyone.”
So do they have to ignore the thorny issues to keep their friendship intact? “No,” says Joseph, “Tanas and I have disagreements – there are real issues on both sides – but at the same time we’re committed to praying together and listening to one another.”
Believing that “the only hope for peace in the Middle East is found in the Prince of Peace”, Joseph and Tanas are keen to support evangelism and reconciliation work in the region. So next autumn, the two will co-lead the CMS Sinai Desert Challenge, a 10-day journey to raise funds for mission in the Middle East.
“We’ll trek the desert, climb Mt Sinai, visit the pyramids and go down the Nile,” explains Tanas, who is no stranger to desert encounters.
Tanas sits on the board of Musalaha (Arabic for “reconciliation”), a ministry that takes young Israelis and Palestinians into the desert together. “In the desert they have no choice but to rely on one other and get to know each other, to see beyond stereotypes,” he says. “There’s space for us to talk about how Jesus is the Prince of Peace.”
Musalaha is an example of the type of projects that will be supported through the sponsored desert trek next autumn. “Everyone is invited,” says Joseph. “Tanas may call it salaam: I call it shalom, but we’re trekking for peace, so please pray about joining us.”
To go beyond the headlines and help bring hope to the Middle East, contact Sarah about the Sinai Desert Challenge on 01865 787 518 or e-mail: email@example.com
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