Today I received an email from my buddy Keas Keasler, who is currently on a study trip in the Middle East with Princeton Seminary. The email directed me to a post he wrote entitled “A Pilgrimage (of many sorts) to Israel.” Reading through Keas’s post, as he was exposed to the stories and lives of Palestinians, reminded me of my time spent in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour in the summer of 2005. It seems like such a long time ago and I’m realizing how easy it is to forget. I made friends there. Lived with a family (I recently found out the husband of the couple I lived with passed away a few months ago). I hung out with youth who are probably in their late teens now.
My life went back to normal upon returning to the US. I certainly thought a lot about them…for the first few months. I did a few events on campus at Princeton Seminary…but it was too easy to just let my life slip back into my regular routine and not remember and think about my friends who continued to experience suffering and politically-backed (by both the Israeli and US governments) oppression.
I think there are many readers who have probably experienced similar situations. Perhaps it was a trip to Africa, a mission trip to an extremely impoverished area of Central America, a trip to the Middle East, a trip to Ireland and learning about the conflict there…so often we have these profound experiences where our worldviews our shifted, our “eyes are opened” to suffering around the world and then we struggle with what to do with that newfound information.
Most recently we watch CNN and read the news reports about the massive destruction and rising death tolls in Haiti. It seems that so many folks knew people affected by this tragic earthquake…I spent an hour or so reading news stories today that were simply devastating. So much death – so many people still missing. But what do we do? Sure we text HAITI to 90999 but then we do just go back to our regularly scheduled programming?
Keas’s post – and reading similar things from other friends still more intimately connected to peace and justice work within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – help ground me. They help remind me about my experience and help me remember. If you’re not familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis (and even if you are), I’d recommend giving Keas’s post a read here. I’d also commend the Kairos Palestine Document to you as well. This document comes out of desperation from the Palestinian people. It’s a cry of urgency for a situation that has gone unnoticed by too many in the West:
We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land. Inspired by the mystery of God’s love for all, the mystery of God’s divine presence in the history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.
Why now? Because today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people. The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it. The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and with questioning: What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing? The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church.
We address ourselves to our brothers and sisters, members of our Churches in this land. We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Churches around the world.
For me and my call in this world – I need to remember this story. I need to continue to talk about this issue with people I come into contact with. I need to do what I can to continue to bring awareness to this issue…what do you need to remember?