I feel disoriented as I sit in Jerusalem and
watch on television the military actions and fighting in Lebanon and
Gaza and the West Bank. I don’t know where I am. I’m not sure if I’m in
a state of shock, stunned by surprise, or simply overwhelmed by the
enormity of what is going on.
I ask myself why this is happening. What will be achieved at the end of the day, beyond the obvious? More destruction, more fear, more hatred, more anger and more retaliation on every side. There is no easy answer.
We see the people of Haifa and the Galilee fleeing their homes in search of refuge and burying their dead. We see the funerals in Gaza and hungry children sleeping in the streets. We see a Lebanon which was beginning to stand on its own feet after years of civil war and conflict, once again reduced to rubble with a flood of refugees and displaced people.
I’m not looking for analytical answers as my heart cries out. I’m looking for moral and spiritual answers. Is it not time to move away from the logic of war, self-justifying violence and acts of terror?
Is it not time for world leaders to repent—to admit they have failed to bring a just peace and then to humbly change course? Instead of life-giving repentance we hear deadly lip service to a false peace: We are battered by initiative after initiative that die unfulfilled. Where is the repentance that will allow justice to stand and which will liberate all nations from hatred and fear?
I fear the only “winner” will be political and religious extremism. If we don’t allow ourselves to take the path of justice, we will hand over our future to extremists who seek death-laden solutions.
I’m with the psalmist crying “out of the depths.” I sit in Jerusalem and my heart is torn to shreds. I feel powerless.
But in those depths, the question persists: Is there no way that justice can roll like a mighty river in the Holy Land? Can we not know righteousness like an ever-flowing stream?
Knowing the presence of the God of life in all things, calling us to abundant life, I can only cry out that this war must serve to unite all parties to think differently, to act differently—to stop all military operations, to overcome hatred, to end the vicious cycle of retaliation, to ensure that no more human life is taken.
This war judges the international community: in the lowering of the standard of justice, human rights and dignity; in affirming violence as the path to resolving differences; in creating the conditions that have pushed the Arab Christian community to the brink. The international community is accountable to justice for all people, nothing less. The shed blood is a judgment on their failure and is an opportunity to repent and do what is right.
It’s time to negotiate around the unsolved and urgent core issue: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Justice will be served and the conflict ended when we achieve a shared Jerusalem, the respect of the rights of the refugees, two states living side-by-side in peace and security according to international law. Now is the time to serve justice with action, not words or plans or maps. Such is the path to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.
In confronting overwhelming violence and injustice, churches are called, to paraphrase German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to act boldly to be the guardians of humanity. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., writing from a jail cell, reminded the religious leaders of his day that the time was always ripe to do what is right.
This is a moral, spiritual and political crisis of global proportions.
My plea is for all Christians to commit themselves to prayer and fasting to seek God’s empowerment in addressing the call to repent and seek justice. Christians must go beyond relief and emergency work to secure a just peace. I call on all people of conscience and faith to join in this spiritual act of prayerful fasting so we can change our hearts and minds and act for an enduring peace.
We must reject the idea that we can fight our way to peace and security. We cannot.
The Scriptures insist there is a “time for every season under heaven.” Is this not the time, the “kairos moment” for Israel, Palestine, the U.S., Europe, the Arab countries and all others to repent and say we didn’t hear the Lord’s voice lifting up “justice and only justice”? Instead we see a world where we allow injustice to prevail at a gut-wrenching cost of human life, freedom and dignity.
In the depths of despair of unremitting destruction and bloodshed, we hear God’s promise: “Behold I am making all things new.” We and world leaders can “do a new thing”—repent and seek justice and only justice so all can live … and live abundantly.
This week's front page features:
|Erin Hemme Froslie|
|Ann Arbor Miller|
|Bishop Philip Hougen|
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers