MCC Photo/Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Beside a section of the wall that divides Israeli and Palestinian communities in Bethlehem, J. Daryl Byler, right, talks with members of a 2011 MCC learning tour from Ontario. Byler will pull from his experience of serving with MCC in Palestine and Israel and surrounding countries as he leads monthly conversations at various U.S. churches in 2014. Learning tour members, l-r, are Elisa Klassen, Alymer; Leon Kehl, Floradale; Abram Dyck, Alymer; Henry Teichroeb, Leamington; Tim Schmucker, Toronto; and Eunice Valenzuela, Kitchener.

AKRON, Pa. – To encourage the pursuit of peace in Palestine and Israel, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. will launch monthly gatherings in the U.S. this year for people who want to explore their beliefs, concerns and understanding of this conflict.

“The main idea and core value of the ‘Conversations for Peace in Palestine and Israel’ initiative is our strong belief that Christ’s love is available for all people, all the time, and it is not assigned exclusively to a particular people or group,” said J Ron Byler, executive director of MCC U.S. “Focusing this effort on the conflict in Palestine and Israel gives participants an opportunity to explore how Christ’s love leads us to respond to this conflict.”

J. Daryl Byler, former MCC representative with his wife, Cindy Lehman Byler, in Palestine and Israel, Iran, Iraq and Jordan, will facilitate the monthly conversations with churches and groups who invite him. Byler is now executive director for Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Harrisonburg, Va.

Topics of conversation will include:

  • Paths to peace for everyone in the region
  • Theological understandings about the state of Israel
  • Fundamental justice issues in the region
  • Stories of Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians

“Agreeing on ways to love and encourage peace in the context of the Middle East is a challenge for Christians in the U.S., including MCC supporters, because many have different theological perspectives about the modern-day state of Israel,” Daryl Byler said. “As we explore these topics together, I hope our understanding of others’ perspectives and the needs of Palestinians and Israelis will grow.”

In addition, MCC U.S. is working closely with Mennonite Church USA on learning tours for church leaders to Palestine and Israel during the next five years, and welcomes the opportunity to develop similar plans with other supporting denominations.

Participants will visit historical sites and observe how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict affects the people who live there today. Visits with MCC partners – Palestinian and Jewish organizations that work for peace and justice – will challenge participants to consider what role they play in the conflict and its resolution.

In addition, MCC continues its work in the region, where it has been a partner with local organizations for more than 60 years, and in the U.S. to provide ways for Christians to take action to support peace.

Ultimately, MCC hopes that as more people explore and understand this situation, Ron Byler said, they will be inspired to act for peace, through such things as prayer, service, examining their investments, or Christian advocacy with the U.S. government.

For more information about participating in “Conversations for Peace” or learning tours, contact, 717-859-1151.