An advocate for peace, Andrew Larsen puts the spotlight on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with his documentary “Make Hummus Not Walls.” Larsen came to Gordon College in October to share the documentary with aspiring advocates and filmmakers.
Larsen is a photographer, as well as an ordained minister. He is currently working at Serve Globally with Evangelical Covenant Church where he serves to facilitate peacemaking between Christians and Muslims in North America, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Larsen wants his documentary “Make Hummus Not Walls” to spark the possibility of peace and friendships across barriers.
The documentary tells stories of Larsen, his wife Cari Conklin, and the various people that they met in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. Conklin is the board vice-president and acting director at OneRefuge, an organization that supports resettlement agencies alongside the families and communities they help.
In the documentary, Judy Bamberger, an activist for peace in Palestine and Israel, shares her experiences at peaceful protests. She says the police are the ones that initiate the violence at the protests. She explains that the police are mostly 18-20 years old, with no training, and they don’t speak Arabic, making it difficult to communicate.
Conklin also shares a story of the damaged relationships of Palestinians and Israelis. She speaks with a boy selling t-shirts with an image of a crane lifting the Dome of the Rock off the Temple Mount. “This is not shalom. This is not peace,” She says to the boy.
Conklin shared another story about a Muslim woman she meets on the bus. Despite not being able to communicate well, they strike up a friendship over Facebook. The Muslim woman says she is overwhelmed by how kind Conklin had been to her, as she is the first American foreigner she had met. The Muslim woman gives Conklin her wedding ring as a gift, which Conklin accepts, so as not to offend the woman.
At the screening of “Make Hummus Not Walls,” Larsen said that his job as a peacemaker is to identify the lack of peace and help amend these situations. He aspires to be as neutral as possible, but at the same time, to make sure justice is emphasized.
“There are arsonists, people who throw accelerants on tense situations, and it exacerbates. And there are firefighters, people who come in and try to solve the problem,” Larsen said. “I realized that we need to be out ahead of that and just try and create places where we can occupy from different traditions.”
Bryn Wicklas ‘
On the evening of Sept. 26, in the auditorium of Ken Olsen Science Center, the first Dear Neighbor event of the year was launched. It focused on facilitating better dialogue between Muslim and Christian faith traditions.
The event consisted of three ten minute intervals of individual speaker lectures followed by a panel discussion led by Kevin Singer, the co-director of Neighborly Faith.
Neighborly Faith is a non-profit program dedicated to bringing Muslims and Evangelicals together by equipping Christians to overcome fear, speak the truth, and build relationships. The guest speakers included in the panel discussion were John Inazu, Meira Neggaz, and Daniel Morad.
John Inazu is the author of Confident Pluralism, and is a professor of law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis. He stressed the importance of humility, defined as the recognition that an individual is not always right; patience, which is waiting and staying for the long haul, and kindness, or empathizing in the face of disagreement when engaging in interfaith dialogues. In addition, John Inazu advises students to begin with taking small steps before diving into discussions on deep difference, allowing the American dream rather than the American nightmare to be within grasp.
Meira Neggaz is the executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). She highlighted truths and injustices surrounding the Muslim American community through various statistics on Muslim American life. Meira Neggaz’s survey and facts broke down possible stereotypes present in the audience’s point of view.
The final speaker was Daniel Morad, a senior biology student at Gordon College. He shared a personal testimony of his experience building relationships with Muslims in his home country, Iraq. Daniel described Iraq as a hostile environment for Christian faith traditions. However, he experienced numerous instances of hope and joy amidst brokenness in his home country.
The event continued by launching into a panel discussion followed by audience questions. The panel facilitator, Kevin Singer, was very vocal and included many of his own thoughts in response to student questions. At one point, Kevin turned to the audience and passionately stated, “Some of you are hiding your good works because you don’t know or befriend any non-Christians.” The other speakers focused on direct applications, like correcting misinformation in casual conversations, which can be done by visiting sites like ispu.org to learn from published research studies.
Overall, the event held a long and fruitful discussion on interfaith dialogues between Muslims and Christians. A large crowd formed in room 104, Ken Olsen Science Center’s auditorium, to the point of nearly every seat being filled.