It’s 9:30 am and people are meandering into the chapel building at Bethlehem Bible College. Soon enough, there are some announcements made and singing begins, all in Arabic. For a foreigner and one who doesn’t speak the language, it is refreshing and beautiful to hear heartfelt songs of praise being offered to God in a language that – at least in the West – is often associated with fanaticism and fear.

A few minutes after Michael, the college chaplain, begins to speak, you are reminded again of exactly where you are. Bethlehem, after all, is not all that far away from Syria, Iraq and all that is currently going on there. It is perhaps a timely reminder that we are all living for something, and if we’re not aware of what that thing is, then that’s probably not a good sign. There is a marked difference, we are told, between those under the influence of darkness and those in whom God’s spirit dwells, where one is governed by violence and destruction, and the other by forgiveness and compassion. This simple theology is perhaps poignant in a place where Christian forgiveness and love are paramount if one is to live a truly Christ-like life in the midst of conflict and constant tension.

And with that, chapel ends and people return to their daily lives. But now comes the real part – living that commission of being a light in the darkness, insha’Allah.