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Hope for the Holy Land

Lynne Hybels, wife of Bill Hybels, the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, has spoken out in support of the new groundbreaking documentary movie, “Little Town of Bethlehem,” a film that follows the story of three men of three different faiths and their lives in Israel and Palestine. The story explores each man’s choice of nonviolent action amidst a culture of overwhelming violence.

Poster for the new documentary movie

The film shows the struggle to promote equality through nonviolent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides. Sami’s story begins as a young boy living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank; Yonatan’s starts on an Israeli military base; and Ahmad’s begins in a Palestinian refugee camp.

In her latest blog (, Mrs. Hybels wrote: “Two years ago, as I listened to the escalating rhetoric of hate in the international media, I became haunted by the thought that Christians, Muslims and Jews are going to blow up the world. I was passionately engaged in AIDS-related ministry in sub-Saharan Africa, yet I couldn’t shake a growing concern about the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that ripples in waves of hostility throughout the world.

“After six trips in eighteen months to the Middle East my concern has become personal, connected to individual names and faces, to specific places and heartbreaking stories. My heart has been broken by the pain suffered by both Jews and Arabs. I’ve been overwhelmed by the complex politics of the region, and disheartened to see theology used to fuel the conflict. I’ve read and studied and pondered. I’ve spent sleepless nights praying for peace.

“And I have wondered: After decades marked by cycles of brutal violence, is peace between Israelis and Palestinians possible? Is there any hope that Christians, Muslims and Jews can work together for peace?”

Lynne Hybels

She then spoke about the documentary, saying, “A new film called ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ tells the true stories of three young men—a Palestinian Christian, a Palestinian Muslim, and an Israeli Jew—who have committed their lives to pursuing a nonviolent solution to this conflict.

“The film isn’t about taking sides or assessing blame; at premier screenings, Israeli and Palestinian audiences expressed appreciation for its lack of bias. Filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, the film is about equality, courage and hope.

“During my recent travels I’ve been blessed to become friends with one of the men featured in the film, Palestinian Christian Sami Awad. A committed follower of Jesus, Sami has been a leader in the growing nonviolent movement in the Middle East. Though the movement rarely, if ever, makes international headlines, I am convinced that it pleases the heart of God. I think every American—certainly every Christian—should watch this film!

“Little Town of Bethlehem will be screened on major college campuses this fall. The three men featured in the film—Sami, Ahmad, and Yonatan—along with the film producer and director, will tour with the film, interacting with audiences after each showing. In the Chicago area, the film will be shown on Monday, September 27, 6-9pm, at DePaul University, Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont St., Chicago Lincoln Park Campus. The evening is open to the public at no charge. Check for additional information, the film trailer, and a complete list of screenings in the US and UK.”

She added: “For anyone who seeks a greater understanding of the Middle East conflict, for anyone who appreciates true stories of living heroes, or for anyone who cares about peace, this is a ‘don’t miss’ event!”

About Lynne Hybels: In 1974 Lynne married Bill Hybels, a youth pastor. A year later they started Willow Creek Community Church. Though Lynne had intended to become a social worker, she did not hesitate to commit her life to church ministry, convinced that God has given the local church a clear mandate to address the needs of “the whole person in the whole world.” For years she has been involved in Willow Creek’s ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America and Africa. She collaborated with the Willow Creek Association to develop Hope and Action—a DVD and participants guide that helps churches and small groups begin to address the AIDS pandemic. She is the author of “Nice Girls Don’t Change the World,” and co-author of “Rediscovering Church” and “Fit to be Tied.”

Lynne currently serves in a voluntary role as Advocate for Global Engagement at Willow Creek. In recent years she has traveled extensively in Africa and the Middle East. Her current areas of focus are Casa de Luz, Willow’s Spanish-speaking congregation, a movement of support for Congolese women called Ten for Congo, and advocacy for peace with justice in the Holy land. Lynne and Bill live in Barrington, IL, and have two adult children, Todd and Shauna, one son-in-law, Aaron Niequist, and one grandson, Henry, who basically runs the family.

Dan Wooding, Assist News

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