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When Your College Campus Becomes a War Zone

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By Allison Lind, YWA Ambassador at Marymount Manhattan

On Tuesday night, April 30, the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested over 100 pro-Palestinian protestors who had occupied Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall. These are not the first arrests the NYPD has made on the campus in the past couple of weeks. The college has been overtaken by an encampment for Palestine since April 17, persisting through Passover and effectively shutting the campus and all of its in-person classes down. The publicity of this protest has incited a movement of similar demonstrations at college campuses, not just in New York City but across the entire nation.

I’m a college student in New York City (NYC). I’ve seen the fights and the protests up close. I’ve visited Columbia since the encampment went up, and I’ve walked through the protests at my own school on my way to class. As I write this now, the police are barricading the streets around my small campus on the Upper East Side in response to a demonstration turned hostile earlier today. I’ve heard both the shouts, “Israel, go to Hell,” and the pleas, “Let my people go.” I’m aware that there has been a spiritual and ideological turmoil building up amongst our nation’s educational institutions for over a decade now. But this historical boiling point we’re reaching has made me realize that there isn’t much of a guidebook for what Christians are supposed to do when our college campus becomes a war zone.

Ultimately, that is what we’re entering when we go to college. Charlie Kirk was right when he said that we are playing “Russian roulette” with our next generation’s beliefs.

So, what can we do? As a college student, it feels helpless and hopeless – like we’re up against Goliath with nothing but a pebble to toss.

But God.

But God, my friends! Yahweh, the Rock of Ages. He’s always seated on His throne!

And in the midst of the darkness looming over my city, I’ve tasted and seen His goodness. My intention with this article is not to bring a dismal report but rather to boast in the joy and hope that the Lord has given me.

You see, it’s no coincidence that the inciting incidents are coming out of the top NYC universities. C.S. Lewis says that everything on the earth “is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan,” and, boy, does that stand true for our campuses. The Lord has already been here. He’s present, and He’s working. I’ve seen with my own eyes a new generation of college students pursuing the Lord at NYU, at Fordham, and even at Columbia. I’ve seen revival break out on my own campus and a new surge of people proclaiming the name of Jesus at schools like Pace. There is a new hunger for truth and a plea for a fresh outpouring of the Lord’s presence among our college students.

The air of New York City is charged with a new Spirit. There is a constant chatter of all the Lord is doing. Word on the streets is that Jesus is King. New York City, the secular, post-Christian, cultural, consumer capital of the world, is sitting, “groaning as in the pains of childbirth,” in expectation of what the Lord is about to do here.

There are three things He has placed on my heart in the midst of all this:

Firstly, Satan is about to overplay his hand. The pendulum is always swinging, but victory belongs to the Lord, and He tells us that “vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” The book of Habakkuk shows us that when we feel like “the law is powerless and justice never goes forth,” the Lord is doing a good work behind the scenes, one that we “would not believe, though it were told” to us.

Secondly, the spotlight is on the Church right now to see what we will do next. Typically, when things go awry in our culture, it means that it’s time for the Church to look inward at itself and ask what’s happening in the body. Where are we falling short? Where have we failed to be a voice for the voiceless? Where is there dysfunction? The state of the free world is a constant reminder of how desperately the Western Church needs a surgeon. 

Lastly, we have a call to intercede for the Jewish community, for our campuses, and for our nation. I never understood the weight of intercession until I went to pray at Columbia on April 25. I felt like the Lord struck me with a holy sorrow in those moments. I realized how much we need His mercy. The story of Abraham in Genesis 18 shows us that when we seek the Lord’s mercy for those whom we love, it does not fall on deaf ears. And for our Jewish brothers and sisters who feel like the entire world has turned on them, our support will echo just as loud.

The prayers of the prophets have been ringing in my ears. In Joel 2, the Lord says, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning … return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.” He calls for us to “blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast … gather the people, sanctify the congregation … let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.” And after all this, He says, “My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.”

Christians, do not be cast down by fear but be brought up by the hope that is in Jesus Christ! What the prophets saw in part, we have now seen in full. The bridegroom has gone out of His chamber, and it is our time to return to our first love: Jesus Christ, who covered our sin on the cross.

The war for the Holy Land is a scary thing. The tension on our campuses is scary, too. But when Hosea says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” Jesus responds on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We don’t have to be afraid because the false king of this world has been defeated. We have a King who is greater, seated on the throne of Heaven, and perfectly sovereign over the Holy Land and over the world. Expanseless and ever-increasing is the government of the Lord. We need not be conquered by anything less than our High King in Heaven.

So, what do we do when our college campus turns into a war zone?

Well, we can confidently enter the fight because we know where the victory lies. Psalm 149 says, “Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud in their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand.” Ephesians 6 says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” In Isaiah 45, the Lord says, “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” We don’t have to be afraid when the Holy Savior of Israel is on our side, effectively equipping us to battle for His kingdom.

But what does that practically look like? Here is what the college students in NYC have been doing: we seek the face of the Lord before we seek His hand, we stand in the gap of intercession for our city, and we pray the Habakkuk 3 prayer, “O Lord, revive your work in the midst of our years! In the midst of our years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” We learn the love language of the Lord.

Through this, the Lord breaks our hearts and convicts us. He calls us to action. For some, it has looked like hosting intercessory prayer on campus. For others, it has looked like celebratory worship in the streets. We stand with our Jewish friends for whom this battle hits closer to home, and we pray for them. We increase in the knowledge of who the Lord is and what His justice looks like. We do this all because the Lord has said, “Gather the people.” He’s rallying the troops. It’s only a matter of time before the enemy goes too far, and the window opens for Yahweh to provide a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit on our land. Hope is not lost for us, nor is it lost for the Holy Land. And we know that now is a pivotal time to be part of the work that He’s doing.

So, on behalf of the Christians of New York City, I invite you to join us as we stand in intercession and seek the Lord in the midst of the tension in our educational institutions. Keep us and the prominent Jewish community in NYC in your prayers, just as we will do the same for you.

Welcome to the fight.