(Thursday 12th February 2015)

Valentine’s Day is here again. You know what that means, right? Talk of love. The giving and receiving of sentimental gifts. All around you, the presence of heart-shaped balloons and constant reminders of the fact that I forgot all about it, again!

All the usual, right? Well, yes and no. At Bethlehem Bible College this year, Valentine’s Day took a slightly different turn. Love – real, practical, God-centred love – was at the heart of the college’s Open Day.

What started with a chapel service on cross-religious cooperation ended with workshops on conflict resolution and self-examination. However, it wasn’t all heavy stuff. There was also some time for students and staff to engage in fun, games and crafts, and a much-needed celebratory lunch. Morning chapel saw Father Faysal Hijazen – the General Director of Schools for the Catholic Church in Palestine – speak to the community about…well…community. We were encouraged to build our society on true love, a love that is sacrificial, which seeks to replicate that same self-giving love shown to us by Jesus. Only when we base our society on this – whether that be our school, home or city and country – will we have a culture which seeks to love the other, irrespective of differences and deficiencies.

This theme was very much carried on into the afternoon, when guests Daniel and Sharon gave an intensely practical workshop on hope, justice and conflict resolution. International speakers who have worked on peace, justice and community building for decades, they drew out from staff and students the emotions, perspectives and tools necessary for realising our differences with the ‘other’ – both near and far – and then for overcoming them with the love and hope found in Christ.

With Valentine’s Day so close, what better way to spend it than by sharing and encouraging others in the way of love, hope and restoration? Sounds good to me.Post by Bethlehem Bible College.