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Words of Wisdom from Palestine - Sabeel Solidarity

The Sabeel Solidarity Visit Opening Worship Service
Friday, March 4, 2005


By Samia Khoury

"Peace, Peace, they say, when there is no peace"

Indeed this verse from Jeremiah 6:14 is very pertinent these days.

Don't we all want peace?

Peace of mind, peace of heart, and peace with the neighbors are normally what every person yearns for. How often does a mother give in to her children, to have some peace of mind. How often do we say or do unpleasant things that hurt others, and we cannot have peace of heart until we apologize or clear the misunderstanding. And how often the neighbors do abhorring things to which we turn a blind eye, in order to keep peace with our neighbors. Unfortunately in most cases people do not have the magnanimity to apologize or to forgive their neighbors and end up with no peace at all. Even a nasty thought can deprive us of the peace of heart.

I remember that the most meaningful verse of the many prayers that I learnt to say while I was growing up, was verse 14 from Psalm 19 "May the words of my mouth and the meditation( or thoughts) of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. " It was an older cousin who wrote beautiful poetry about faith, love and nature as he was growing up, who urged me to memorize this short and meaningful prayer, before I even realized that it was said before the sermon on Sundays. So every time I have one of those nasty thoughts that are not very difficult to come along, when you live under a military occupation, I cannot help but think of Kamal- that dear cousin who lost his life for daring to speak out the truth.

Indeed as we seek peace, truth is a basic element that needs to be exposed. That is why challenging myths that obliterate the truth can be costly. No wonder Christ found it necessary to articulate a special blessing in his sermon on the mount to those who seek peace. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God" Matthew 5:8

In this land of ours; this paradoxical land; this holy land where the first message of peace was proclaimed, there is no peace of mind, no peace of heart, and no peace with our neighbors. We are caught into a situation that no matter what we do or what we say, we find ourselves angry at everything and at everybody and basically at our neighbors who have been the cause of our dispossession and suffering for more than half a century. Those neighbors with whom we lived peacefully until 1948, have turned into our oppressors. But in our quest for peace we offered them so many concessions, because we know we are destined to live side by side. But unfortunately they reciprocated to our stretched hand for peace by more dispossession , by more land grab, and by more control of our every day life.

What seems to start as a normal day for a family with children getting ready to go to school could end up with disaster, either because the children are held up at a check point, or because they wake up to find the wall encircling their home, or the father's car got confiscated for not having paid his municipal taxes. How often children come back from school to find a pile of rubble, where their home once stood, or where their olive trees had grown.. The scenarios that can disrupt the peace of any family are endless, and there is not one Palestinian family that has been spared the brutality of this military occupation.

Verses 1-2 of Micah 2 could easily relate to Palestinian voices in these times: "Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance."?

Does power really have to be used in an evil way? Does power give the powerful the right to oppress and dispossess others? It is obvious that maintaining an occupation, and oppressing people against their will for over 37 years would not be possible without power. And waging a war against the will of the nations around the world, and devastating a whole country in the name of democracy would not have been possible without power. But let us for a minute imagine what the world would look like, and especially this region, if power were to be utilized for the welfare of the human being and the environment. If the resolve for so much evil can be turned into a resolve for mercy, for justice, and peace. After all "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8)

Maybe while we are reflecting on this possibility we could look at some basic prerequisites for a peace process. First of all when there is need for peace it means there are two parties involved and one of them must have hurt the other. That is why the admission to the harm done, or to the injustice must be a first step in any effort to bring about peace. The next step would be an apology. Once the apology has been recognized, then the process of redressing the injustice follows. Isn't this what parents do when their children have a fight, or isn't this what a teacher does when two of her students hurt each other. And isn't this what the judge does when two people bring their case to the court. Why can't this apply to a conflict between two peoples?

Dare we hope that the power could be energized for peace and this could be a reality and not simply an imaginary exercise? But hoping is almost like faith. If not translated into action, it will be dead. We cannot sit and hope or have faith that the Middle East conflict will come to an end with a magic wand. To bring about peace to this region, there needs to be a commitment to seek the truth, and work for justice.

On the other hand, hope is so vital for the survival of the oppressed, the sick and the poor. Hope for a better future, hope for liberation. Hope for getting well and having enough food to feed the family, and to educate the children. So how do we kindle the hope in people's hearts, when nothing seems to be moving in the right direction? How do we fight despair which is very contagious? When parents, or teachers or community leaders lose hope, then the whole family or community is broken with desperation. But when they are hopeful they will usually seek ways to achieve their aspiration.

But how can we derive hope out of what seems a hopeless situation? I am an optimist in general, and would want to continue being that way. But sometimes I refer to the magic wand because very often I feel that nothing beyond a magic wand will enable us to have peace in this region. Unless of course the magic wand is used by the USA administration to force Israel to end its military occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Or it could be used by the United Nations to impose sanctions on Israel unless it abides by UN resolutions, just like the UN and the USA treat other countries who do not abide by UN resolutions.

Your visit with us during this week is one of those hopeful signs that continue to help us in our quest for peace. We know that we are not alone in our struggle for justice and peace. Because you care to come, despite all the difficulties, we know we can count on your support. The world is getting too small so that any trouble in one region can cause instability in another region. Peace is not anymore the concern of one people only. And is certainly not a one man or a one woman show. Peace needs a concerted effort to put an end to the suffering of all human beings. But neither peace, nor security or stability can be achieved without Justice. And if the world leaders could lead this world in accordance to the Golden rule "do unto others as you would want them do to you" I am sure peace will be within reach in no time. God bless you for being with us, and on behalf of Sabeel and the Palestinian people I wish you a safe stay and a safe journey back home.

- Samia Khoury


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