Some stories from the city of David
Do I believe that words have power?
Do I believe that information can solve a conflict?
It can certainly help.
Can I then stay silent about what I am hearing, and the people I am meeting?
Rather than spewing my own emotion and opinion, let me open a window for you, to the people I have met and the stories I have heard.
A shopkeeper tells me that he made no money from his shop for four years after the first Intifada. He is proud of the beautiful country in which he lives, where there is desert, snow, mountains, plains, beaches, and great biodiversity. For 17 years, however, he has not been able to travel much beyond his immediate environs -- has has not most of the above. He has no hope for himself. Yet he is not bitter. There is no rancour in his talk, though he cannot speak of hope, and the faith of his childhood has departed. But how does he describe a politician whose inequitable policies have greatly damaged his and his family's ability to make a livelihood?
"He is a bad man, but he is not my enemy."
A professor was forced out of his family home as a child, and denied re-entry to his place of refuge after leaving it to study abroad. Nevertheless, he found a way to return to the near prison-like atmosphere of the place his family lives, and has begun a school which tends to both the spiritual and physical needs of the community. He works to build bridges with those who would call him enemy. He has hope. But he also has one great sadness: His people is largely forgotten by the church in the rest of the world.
Another man dedicates himself to helping others resolve conflicts, and to teaching children, youth, and women to solve conflicts nonviolently. On top of violence, instability, and demoralization inflicted by the ruling state, his people are bleeding their youth, intelligence, and financial assets to places with opportunity and freedom. Yet he has hope. And when asked what we as North American Christians could do to help, he asked most of all for solidarity. "Come visit us; see where we live, hear our stories."
Solutions are complicated and far away, but as we try to work toward them, let's become familiar with the faces involved -- not the politicians and power-brokers, but the every-day people who live with the policies inflicted on them. Maybe we don't have enemies, only people who don't understand or who don't understand us.
Build a bridge to understanding.