Archives For Conflict


Called to be Compassionate Listeners

A Brief Review of

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Tough Questions, Direct Answers
Dale Hanson Bourke

Paperback: IVP Books, 2013.
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Ellen Painter Dollar.
Until recently, most of my knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came from stories. As a child, I was captivated by my father’s Time-Life books on World War II, especially the one about the Holocaust. I sat looking at the photos of doomed Jews, struggling to absorb the stories they told, their horror far too vast for my child’s heart (for anyone’s heart) to fully comprehend. For my religion major in college, I took an entire course on the Holocaust, which gave me a wider historical lens through which to view the horrific events of 1930s and 40s Europe. I learned how Jews had been denied citizenship even in countries where they had lived for centuries. I began to understand how a people without the protection of a state that claims them are uniquely vulnerable to persecution. For the first time, I understood why the state of Israel was so necessary.
I started hearing stories of Palestinian life when a friend started traveling regularly to the West Bank for her work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). She met Palestinian shepherds who were unable to easily get to their land—land that has been in their families for generations—to care for their sheep because of a checkpoint or other barrier. She and her team accompanied Palestinian children to school, and held conversations with both Palestinians and Israelis. Some of my friend’s most poignant stories are of conversations with young Israeli soldiers, in which they let down their guard and say that they sometimes struggle with the moral questions raised by their job.

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“Deep Below the Surface
of the Tragic Violence

A Review of
When God Took Sides:
Religion and Identity in Ireland — Unfinished History.

by Marianne Elliott.

Reviewed by Mike Bowling.

When God Took Sides:
Religion and Identity in Ireland — Unfinished History.

Marianne Elliott.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

WHEN GOD TOOK SIDES - Marianne ElliottPersonal identity dictates who our friends are in most cases, and who we think we are contributes in a powerful way to who we list as enemies. Our friends always seem better than they really are and our enemies are never as bad as we think them to be. Apply this rationale to the last 500 years of Ireland’s history and you have the essential premise of the recently released book written by Marianne Elliott entitled When God Took Sides. Elliott, who was born and raised in Northern Ireland, teaches Irish Studies at Liverpool University. As co-author of the report from the Opsahl Peace Commission in Northern Ireland (1993), she brings a wealth of experience and understanding of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Although the foundation of the book is lectures she delivered at Oxford University in 2005, Elliott’s work flows more like detailed (and well-documented) storytelling than academic analysis. She ventures deep below the surface of the tragic violence which has appeared as an ugly scar on the face of an otherwise beautiful people and place. Elliott does not settle for a simple recounting of the seemingly endless story of action and reaction, murder and revenge or blame and defend; she offers the reader an explanation of how this cycle began in Ireland, how it was perpetuated and how it continues to this day. The results are not only important for those who hope to understand existing tensions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or the more subtle tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the Republic of Ireland, Elliott’s work provides a model for understanding other conflicts throughout the world, especially those rooted in religion.

Elliott follows a thematic format instead of the typical chronological order. For those unfamiliar with Irish history and for those with only a cursory knowledge of “the Troubles” in Ireland, the book may be hard to follow. However, if the reader keeps in mind that the purpose is not a history of religion in Ireland, “Rather it is about politicized religion and how it came to shape the identities of people in Ireland.”, then the thematic plan makes much more sense. Again, the order of the chapters could provide a model for analysis of other critical historic conflicts (i.e. India and Pakistan, the civil war in Nigeria or the tensions between Burmese and Thais).

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With St. Patrick’s Day coming up next week, we a presented with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the history of Ireland and the Irish people.

There are a number of striking issues that come to mind, when I think about the Church and Ireland.  For instance:

  • The lives and work of saints like Patrick and Brendan.
  • Celtic Christianity and its distinction from Roman Christianity.
  • Celtic Monasticism.
  • Irish Immigration to the United States.
  • The deep conflict between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
  • And more…

So, we want to know what interests you most (of the above issues or others) about Irish Christianity, and what books have you read in reflecting on these issues?

Please use the comments below to discuss.  Note: We do get hit with a good deal of spam, so we have to moderate your comments.  We ask your patience, as we try to get your comments moderated as quickly as possible.


“The Present Crisis”
James Russell Lowell

A Poem for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

[Editor’s Note:  John Howard Yoder mentions this poem in THE WAR OF THE LAMB (reviewed above) as significant in the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. ]

WHEN a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
Nation wildly looks at a nation, standing with mute lips apart,
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart.

So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;-
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.

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