By Kelsey Adams, Contributing Writer
Allelon, the Intercultural Program’s Student Leadership Council at Asbury, sponsored a Diversity Dialogue with the hope that students would gain a more informed perspective and a desire to learn about a question that has occupied the thoughts of Christian scholars for centuries: How should Christians interpret the phrase “God’s chosen people?”
If you passed through the student center last Thursday evening, you saw students settling into their seats with coffee and donuts in hand. Meanwhile, a panel of professors, students and community members huddled together in prayer.
“This issue is important for a number of reasons,” said Allelon student leader Nathan Sharp. “It raises the question, ‘What is the Christian’s role towards Israel today?’ [And] not only to Israel, but to the Middle East as a whole: towards the Jew, the Muslim, the Arab or Kurdish believer?”
Throughout the conversation, the panel discussed the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the relationships between various ethnic and religious groups and the Christian response to tension in the Middle East. The panel featured Dr. David Bosch, Dr. Kevin Anderson, Dr. Owen Dickens, Pastor Aaron Ames of Centenary United Methodist Church, sophomore Judah Robinson and senior Sarah Pearson. Robinson, who first traveled to Israel in the summer 2005, has established and maintained a relationship with an Israeli Messianic Jewish congregation. Because of his experiences in Israel, he has thought deeply about topics discussed at the Diversity Dialogue. Each panel member had a direct connection to the topic, whether through extensive studies, previous travel to the Middle East or personal interest.
“All of these issues discussed have to do with people and places that are currently experiencing or have recently experienced conflict due to political, cultural and religious differences,” said Robinson. “As Christians, we must remain informed if we hope to see these people, along with the entire world, ministered to for the glory of God and for their salvation.”
Bosch also recognized the importance of the panel’s discussion and continues to advocate for global awareness. Because he lived in Iraq for six years, Bosch had the opportunity to travel throughout the Middle East. There he witnessed the tension between various ethnic groups. He now encourages students to follow news stories, take classes and research these issues to learn more about the situation in the Middle East.
“God is a global God and His heart is for the people of the world,” said Bosch. “Therefore, we need to be aware of what is going on in the global community.”
Despite the wisdom and experience of the panel members, the issues are far too complex to be covered adequately with one event. However, Bosch was encouraged by the number of students in attendance and hopes that the dialogue will serve as a starting point for further conversation. If Bosch is right, then Allelon will have met its goal for the Diversity Dialogue.
“Tonight’s event was never intended to solve the problem at large, for this issue is broader than we could have ever hoped to cover in 90 minutes,” said Sharp. “We were not searching for political answers, but rather a Godly approach to cultural issues and tensions.”