Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pray for Peace.

My heart and mind are heavy for the Middle East right now. If you're the praying type, please talk to God about the Middle East Peace Conference being held in Maryland this week. More than a dozen Arab countries will have delegates present for the dialogue aimed at ending the seven year impasse between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Some are skeptical about any progress that can come from this kick-off meeting, but I’m floundering to find any alternative to latch onto for hope in this region.

To help bring some perspective to one aspect of this cripplingly complex situation, I want to pass on some words to you from the "inside." My friend Philip, an Egyptian-German who was my suitemate in the dorm during our freshman year at Wheaton, maintains a blog titled Tabula Gaza. Over the past couple years, Phil has been residing in the heart of the Gaza Strip in an effort to reach out to the Palestinian people who are suffering and often misrepresented by popular media outlets. Since returning to Cairo for graduate school, Phil’s most recent post is a letter that he received from a friend back in Gaza, which describes the current state of affairs. While I encourage you to read the entire letter, I’m going to present the final paragraph here:

"It's hard to not feel like we're in a large concentration camp as I see Gaza's empty streets, and the hopeless feeling in the air…and just the gloominess that has covered Gaza. I think most people feel abandoned as we are literally locked up in this small, concentrated space and we don't know what the world plans for us, or what to expect next. It's hard to imagine what being in Gaza does to someone's will until you've come here. You no longer feel alive, in fact, you're not living; you're just killing time until some sort of change happens. Sadly, Gaza has become desensitized to the rest of the world, as it feels like the international community has turned a blind eye to the reality that is Gaza, and as long as Israel is allowing some food in and hasn't completely cut off electricity or gas... and as long as we are kept alive, no one will ask about us.

But just because we are breathing, that doesn't mean we're alive."

God wants us to ache for this woman and her people because this is not what He intended for His creation. (For another glimpse of this woman’s bloody reality, read this story.) It doesn't matter where you come down on these issues politically... the current state of this region of the world is something that we are obligated to grieve as human beings… as children of God. In America, where uncensored information about the rest of the globe is so readily available to us, I have a hard time stomaching the fact that our dominant culture is far more interested in the cover of Us Weekly or Sports Illustrated than in having a basic understanding of what’s happening outside of our insulated lifestyle (especially within the Church). How can we expect to learn to be a voice for the voiceless if we don’t even care to learn about their plight, be it outside America or within?

Just as I did not choose to be born in Denver, Colorado, USA, these children of Gaza pictured here do not choose to wake each morning in fear of Israeli raids and airstrikes. And they still have no say in the matter.

Tara and I watched the film A Mighty Heart this afternoon, which details the events surrounding the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and how his pregnant widow, Mariane, coped with the aftermath. It’s a difficult and raw movie, yet it does an artful job of portraying the powerful subtleties inherent not only to Pearl’s story, but to the regional strife in general. The simple lesson that this movie drives home for me is that it is quite nearly impossible for violence to solve anything. This is a lesson I have repeatedly encountered from various mediums over the past year, and one that has really challenged my instincts (I plan to flesh this out in coming posts).

So, to bring this back to my original intent, please seek out peace... pray for reconciliation… long for warring tribes to embrace humility and healing. Kingdom come…


Nardrod said...

Brilliant post Adam. Thanks for the effort herein and I look forward to what is ahead. Will you be writing on non-violence in future posts?

What role do you think that Hamas will play in thwarting or incorporating any agreement/potential agreement that can come from this conference? I don't know much about the Palestinian infighting, but such circumstances surely can't help the situation.

AdamBam said...

Thanks, Justin. Yes, I'm thinking of getting into maybe 2 or 3 posts describing my journey with the concepts of non-violence... we'll see.

You raise a strong question about the Fatah vs. Hamas situation. While I'm certainly no expert on the matter, I sense a lot of tension surrounding the fact that Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, will be the figurehead of Palestinian interests at this conference, while he certainly does not bear a commensurate influence among the Palestinian parliament or a large faction of the citizenry. I suppose Hamas's reaction to the conference will largely depend on whether any substantive compromises are agreed to (which seems unlikely) and how these compromises mesh with Hamas ideology. Time will tell... but Hamas seems easily irritated (and, in principle, somewhat justifiably, in my mind...)