I’ve been thinking, feeling and praying “coexistence” these most recent days…my personal response to so much ignorance, fear and hate surrounding me. Faithful followers, please pray for peace… pray for peace that MUST begin with each and every one of us! Politicians do not make peace… we do.
I had the opportunity last evening to attend the opening of the Annual Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival. Eleven award-winning films over two weeks; a warm welcoming Jewish community of fellowship and acceptance even though I am not Jewish and complimentary tickets from new friends…it doesn’t take much to keep this interfaith minister happy. I am honored and thrilled to participate and listen to the kind of thoughtful discussion that most definitely makes film festivals excellent adventures.
The opening film viewed by more than 300 in attendance was Jerusalem, a National Geographic Entertainment move filmed in 3D IMAX.
I guess I knew this going into the theater… but like so much of learning… I didn’t fully realize its implications.
So here’s the deal: Jerusalem is one of the world’s oldest and most enigmatic cities. Literally, this tiny place is geographically situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and The East. It’s been been destroyed and rebuilt countless times over more than 5,000 years. It’s enduring will to live and its message of hope is extraordinary. Other than having its own pure source of underground water in a barren desert, what keeps this place alive?
Literally within the confines of just 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi), the Old City thrives within the bustling modern city of Jerusalem. Indeed, it’s an absolutely central city to all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jerusalem surrounds hugely important religious sites: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Christians.
Added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981, traditionally, the Old City is roughly divided into four uneven quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Largest populations are found in the Islamic and Christian quarters – all surrounded by Jews.
What’s so extraordinary is that within the City of Jerusalem three separate and distinct religious cultures with complicated and volatile histories coexist.
From the film’s commentary:
“It is easy to understand why Jerusalem has so often been the site of armed conflicts over the centuries. Temples have been torn down only to be rebuilt as pagan shrines or churches. Churches have been burnt down. Mosques have been converted into churches. There have been 118 conflicts in and for Jerusalem over the past 4,000 years. Jerusalem has been conquered 44 times. It has been besieged 23 times, completely destroyed twice and has seen 11 transfers from one religion to another. It has only changed hands peacefully twice.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims have plenty to be angry about. We could hold grudges across the centuries. Yet, our calling is toward love, to be neighbors. Muslim rulers like Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent permitted worship of all religions in Jerusalem. They were good neighbors. The city has seen periods of reigns marked by intolerance and injustice followed by periods of peace and prosperity. Diversity has distinguished Jerusalem across the centuries and even today. The four major quarters of the Old City — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian — reflect the rich history and the deep love that each community feels for Jerusalem.”
The film strengthen my commitment to hope, (the fundamental mission of my ministry) and my resolve to live and study in Jerusalem soon. I have much to learn there.
Jerusalem is a stunningly beautiful film that delivers a profound message of religious tolerance and coexistence. Consider taking the opportunity to see it.