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November 2, 2023

College Students Struggle as Israel-Hamas War Continues

By erin conner


"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -John 13:35

Many of our nation’s colleges and universities have been in a state of turmoil since the October 7 attacks against Israel. Christianity Today’s recent article by Emily Belz, “As Campus Threats Rise, College Ministries Look for Ways to Help,” takes a closer look at how Christian Union and other ministries are responding. 

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In the article, Belz captures the context for many students’ sadness, fear, and anger in the past month by writing, “At Columbia University, an Israeli student was assaulted, and afterward the school closed its campus to the public to manage protests for both sides. A Columbia professor had called Hama’s terror attacks on October 7 'awesome' and a 'major achievement.'  Yale professor Zareena Grewal wrote on X (formerly Twitter), in response to the attacks, 'Settlers are not civilians.' A Cornell professor called the Hamas terror attack 'exhilarating.'" In addition, a Cornell student was arrested and charged this week in federal court with making violent threats. 


In a climate such as this, students connected to the war’s fallout– especially Jewish students who are facing more threats on campus– are afraid. In response, Cory Lotspeich, the Ministry Director for Christian Union Martus at the University of Pennsylvania, reached out to the Jewish group Hillel, following the October 7 attacks to offer condolences and support. 


In a time when many leaders are making polarizing statements that incite more anger and fear, Lotspeich wrote his students on October 13, telling them, “Many on our campus are hurting and in need of our care and love.” Lotspeich continued to encourage Christian Union Martus students to stand firm against violence while offering dignity to all students on their campus. “God is not a God of partiality, and we will not be a people of partiality, as every person is created in God’s image and inherently worthy of respect.”    

The director of operations for Penn Hillel,  Rachel Saifer Goldman, told Christianity Today that she and Lotspeich talked and that she invited him to bring the Christian Union Martus students over for a dinner on a Thursday evening "just to be with our students and hang out... we're incredibly grateful... the students are coming together and supporting each other in really wonderful ways." 

In response to the upheaval over current events, Matt Bennett, Founder and CEO of Christian Union, advises his ministry directors and fellows to "Focus on the Lord. And offer encouragement and support and understanding," which they are prayerfully doing at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale– all the schools where Christian Union serves.   

Bennett calls all Christians, not just campus ministers, to pray: “as we are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, so we encourage Christian students and all Christians everywhere to seek God in fervent and concerted prayer.” 


Read Christianity Today’s full article here.