Michael McRay will discuss and read excerpts from his book, Letters from Apartheid Street: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine, at 7 pm on Tuesday 26 March at St Oliver Plunkett in Lenadoon, Belfast. The event is titled, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers,’ and will include a question and response session. Letters from Apartheid Street will be published in May by Cascade Books.
McRay travelled to Palestine for three months last year as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), and the book is based on his observations and reflections on that experience. McRay, who grew up in Tennessee, is currently a student on the Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at the Belfast campus of the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin (where I work).
In the interview below, I ask Michael a few questions about his time with CPT, and what prompted him to write the book. The interview also includes Michael reading two stories from the book, both of which detail encounters with Israeli soldiers.
Both of these stories are compelling, and certainly whet the appetite to read the entire book. While Michael explains in the interview that the book was written largely for an American Christian audience, the themes explored certainly resonate in our corner of this island. I also think that the examples of active, creative non-violence that the book promises to report can serve as an inspiration and hope that there really are alternatives to violent, militarized responses.
I’ve seen some of the pre-publication materials related to the book, and it comes highly endorsed, with kudos from John Paul Lederach and Brian McLaren, among others. The back cover synopsis reads as follows:
In 1984, Ron Sider challenged that until Christians are ready to risk everything in pursuit of peace, “we dare never whisper another word about pacifism…Unless we are ready to die developing new nonviolent attempts to reduce conflict, we should confess that we never really meant that the cross was an alternative to the sword.” From this challenge, Christian Peacemaker Teams was born. Nearly 30 years later, Michael McRay too explored Sider’s challenge, interning with CPT in the West Bank city of Hebron. Alongside local and international peacemakers, McRay learned how to resist the violence of occupation, sharing in the stories of a suffering people as he struggled to embody the peaceable spirit of the rabbi from Nazareth. This book tells those stories.
Drawing on his personal experience with the land and its history, McRay’s raw letters home tackle critical issues relevant to peacemakers everywhere: What is really happening in Palestine that mainstream media fails to report? How are Palestinians’ lives being affected? How can one be peaceable amidst such violence and oppression? How should Christian discipleship influence one’s pursuits of peacemaking and reconciliation? McRay’s letters illustrate both the challenge and promise of the cross in today’s world.